Stelios Patsiokas ’75 helped develop the technology that made satellite radio fly
By Geoff Gehman
Stelios Patsiokas ’75 was tired of his engineers arguing at cross-purposes across the globe. Hoping to improve productivity through unity, he summoned them from Canada, Germany and Italy to his command center in Florida. For the next six weeks he ran a technological boot camp that could have been nicknamed “Stell’s Hell.”
Patsiokas fed his troops gourmet cuisine to boost their efficiency and enthusiasm while they worked around the clock. He kept their passports so they wouldn’t leave before finishing their jobs to his satisfaction. After 40 days they had become a lean, mean fighting machine. After 40 nights they had roughed out a system that would allow satellite radio to fly.
Thirteen years and many patents later, Patsiokas remains a leader of a revolution in audio entertainment. He is the chief innovation officer and corporate vice president of Sirius XM Radio, the nexus of satellite radio. He’s largely responsible for the devices—microchips, radios, receivers, antennae–that enable nearly 25 million subscribers to tune into everything from the Metropolitan Opera to the Grateful Dead, The Catholic Channel to Cosmo Radio. You can thank him for crystal-clear, constant reception of the 24 Hours of Le Mans race while you’re barreling through a small tunnel.
Patsiokas has guided satellite radio through a costly competition, a market-saving merger and a boom in wireless links to smarter phones and cars. “It’s one of those rewarding experiences whereby you take a white sheet and turn it into an industry-changing, life-changing concept,” says the expert in radio-waves propagation. “It’s been a tremendous journey, a beautiful trip.”
Patsiokas grew up in Serres, Greece, where he listened to Top 40 tunes on a leather-covered transistor radio under the bed covers. The salutatorian of his high-school class, he entered Wilkes on a tuition scholarship awarded to top international students to attend American colleges and universities. He arrived in Wilkes-Barre with a “dismal” knowledge of English, a disadvantage he soon turned into an advantage.