May 25, 2004
Regardless of more conservative titles winning out, The Drew Perkins Hot Seat is how Drew D. Perkins (E '86) thinks of the chair in advanced networking and communications he endowed to the university last fall. Perkins has never slowed down for a minute and expects anything bearing his name to live up to the challenge.
Currently chief technology officer at Infinera Corporation, a company he co-founded in 2001, Perkin's career actually started as a freshman in 1981.
"Leveraging my electronics and computer experience from high school, I got a work-study job with Randy Gross in the Computer Center the day I arrived on campus as a freshman," said Perkins. Being in the middle of the campus computer hub gave Perkins exposure to the "latest-and-greatest cutting-edge" networking technologies being developed right here at Carnegie Mellon.
"In my junior year, I was given the opportunity to work full time for Dale Davin and John Leong while I finished my B.S. part-time for free," he recalled. "Though I delayed graduation by a year, I graduated with far more than a year of fantastic and relevant experience."
That experience produced several early Internet technologies. Perkins is the inventor of the PPP (Point-to-Point Protocol) which continues to be the standard that is used to link the Internet together.
"I spent just about 10 years here at CMU and another 15 around CMU. I spent every day and every night and every weekend - many long hours here - and I really do feel that I'm coming home when I come back here," he said at the reception celebrating his chair.
Perkins even started his first company while on campus, a venture that failed but that certainly didn't stop him.
Perkins has remained a very active participant in the development of networking standards throughout his career. He served as vice chairman of the Optical Internet-working Forum Technical Committee at its inception. He participated in the Internet Engineering Task Force and the ARM Forum Technical Committees during their early years in the 1980s and 1990s respectively.