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Education and Inspiration

Peter Su L’94

Peter SuPeter Su L’94 switched career gears when he went from being an engineer to earning a degree from the Syracuse University College of Law. Now a partner in the Silicon Valley office of Dentons law firm, Su has many fond memories of his time on campus, especially his treasured relationship with the remarkable professor who helped him choose the path he would take in his legal career. Through the years, Su has maintained his connections to the University, and serves as co-chair of the University’s San Francisco Regional Council for South Bay. And although his Commencement ceremony was more than two decades ago, he continues to be inspired by the renowned speaker.  

Tell us about your career path and where you are today.
I am a partner in the Silicon Valley office of Dentons, the world's largest law firm. Early in my career, my practice concentrated in intellectual property and patents. Over the years, my practice has broadened, and I now serve as a team leader on a variety of corporate, litigation, intellectual property, and cross-border transactions for technology, life science, and energy clients.

When you look back on your life, what has your Syracuse University experience meant to you?
My SU experience propelled my life toward the path of the legal profession. The superior education that I received from SU provided me with not just a degree but also the confidence to advise a wide range of private and public companies, from startups founded by brilliant entrepreneurs to global businesses with billions of dollars in annual revenues. My father told me when I was young that getting a degree is very important. Even though the road can be challenging, he said, you will see the fruits of your degree for the rest of your life.

What successes in your life (personal/professional) do you attribute to SU?
At the time that I was attending Syracuse, the school had a visionary national program that integrated law, technology, and management. Now known as the Commercialization Law Program, it prepared me well for working with business executives, entrepreneurs, startups, and venture capitalists in Silicon Valley.

How did SU change your life, help you get to where you are today?
Before attending SU, I was an engineer at Advanced Micro Devices, a multinational semiconductor company in Silicon Valley. Attending Syracuse College of Law changed my life, as it enabled me to become a practicing lawyer serving the industry I had grown to love, and to do so in the epicenter of the global tech startup community. What's more, I'm part of a law firm that is itself a believer in the role and importance of technology in the delivery of legal services. Our global CEO also happens to be a Syracuse alumnus—Elliott I. Portnoy ’86.

What is your favorite memory of Syracuse University?
My fondest memory of SU is the mentoring that I received by (the late) Professor Ted Hagelin. His teachings have influenced many aspects of my life. At a time when not too many engineers were pursuing law degrees, he welcomed me to his "Law, Technology and Management" program with open arms. The wisdom that he shared with his students—about the importance of interdisciplinary studies and entrepreneurship—was very progressive at that time. Students in the LTM program collaborated to analyze the various aspects of business entities—a tremendous learning experience. He hosted students at his home during Christmas holidays. Just before graduation, he organized a luncheon with me and the Dean of the Law School, a thoughtful gesture that has stayed with me. After graduation, we kept in touch for many years; on one occasion, he and his wife visited me in San Francisco. We often talked about his inventions in the area of patent analytics, until his passing.  

How did Syracuse University prepare you for life after college?
Senator Joe Biden Jr. (later Vice President Biden) spoke at my commencement. He shared his personal life story of triumphs and setbacks and his message resonated with me greatly and has served as a prism through which I have examined my own life aspirations. In a way, he became a role model after my graduation from SU.  

As an alum in the SF Bay Area region, how have you enjoyed connecting with other alumni in the area?
I
have really enjoyed networking with other SU alumni in the Bay Area. I have met some amazing people over the years, some of whom have become great friends. Some of those friendships have even turned into business relationships in which they have become my clients, or I theirs.

Why do you think it is important to help future students get their start at SU by making SU part of your philanthropic priorities?
College tuitions have increased significantly since my graduation. Giving back to SU is important as alumni donations support grants and scholarships, helping to ease the financial burden on today's students so they can better enjoy the college experience.

Tell us about your co-chair role in the Regional Council and about your vision for growing our outreach and engagement efforts specifically in the South Bay?  
I am flattered to have had the opportunity to serve as a co-chair, with Brian Kreischer, of the San Francisco Regional Council. Brian focuses on the North Bay area and my focus is the South Bay. This has provided an excellent opportunity to more actively engage with SU alumni in the area, many of whom are decision-makers at technology companies, venture capital firms and investment banks, or work in related disciplines. My vision is to create deeper connections among alumni through group gatherings built on our SU ties; events at which we could share our respective expertise for mutual knowledge gains or simply our enjoyment of fun sporting activities, while nurturing our connection to SU and its campus community.