Simple, Solid Advice from 78-year-old: Keep Learning
Born Aug. 16, 1930, Kishen Kapur received his undergraduate and master’s degrees from Bombay University in India in 1952 and 1954. He came to the United States in 1956 and earned a master’s degree in mathematics at Kent State University. In July 1958, Kapur accepted a job with IBM, where he worked as a physicist and senior engineer for more than 30 years.
He married wife Marie in 1961, and together they raised four children: Rani, Kristna (a dentist in Ithaca who also graduated from Binghamton University), David (an attorney in Endicott) and Karin Walsh (a retired educator).
In the 1990s, following his retirement, the self-described “addict for electronics” decided to explore the field at Binghamton University. But getting a PhD was not the motivation to take classes.
“I wanted access to the library and to play with electronics,” he said. “Those were my two desires. So I thought, ‘They won’t let me just go and play, so I’d better sign up for something.’ … I liked the privilege of getting any number of books from the library. That was nice. And working in the lab, I had full freedom to work on projects.”
And what was the family’s reaction when Kapur announced he was going back to school? “They told me, ‘You’re nuts,’ Kapur said. “’You’re in retirement. Why do you need this?’ I didn’t have an answer, other than that I am addicted to this.”
The “addiction” of electronic assembly and repair goes back to India, Kapur said.
“One of my professors went to MIT and came back with instruments for doing experiments in nuclear physics,” Kapur said. “I told him that I could make (the instruments) for him. He didn’t believe me! I gave him an offer: if it works, you keep it, you pay me. If it doesn’t work, you throw it away and we’re done.
“He placed an order; I delivered it. Since then, I’ve been making electronic equipment on the side - instrumentation for all kinds of custom electronic equipment.”
At Binghamton, Kapur worked with his adviser, electrical and computer engineering Professor James Constable. He credits Constable with allowing him to work at his own pace and with appropriate “grandpa duty” interspersed between classes.
“It’s nice that he hung in there and finished,” Constable said. “It’s the kind of thing you like to see as a faculty member.”
Never having attended his other commencement ceremonies, Kapur’s family urged him to make Binghamton University’s Commencement his first – and it was. He attended, admitting it was nice to be honored, but reiterated that it was his love of learning and electronics that brought him to this point.
Despite modesty and a terrific sense of humor (“I just want it to be over with,” he said with a laugh about the ceremony.), “I’m not going to go and get a job,” he said. “If there’s an electronics job I like, I’ll do it for nothing!”