Qualcomm co-founder donates $50m to Technion

 Prof. Andrew Viterbi and his late wife Erna

The donation by Prof. Andrew Viterbi to the Faculty of Electrical Engineering is the Technion's largest ever by a US citizen.

Qualcomm cofounder Prof. Andrew Viterbi has announced that he is donating $50 million to the Faculty of Electrical Engineering at the Technion Israel Institute of Technology in Haifa, the largest single donation ever by a US individual to the Technion. This is not Viterbi's first donation to the Technion, but it is his largest.

Viterbi, an Italian-born Jew, has lived in the US for most of his life. He studied at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), and received a doctorate from the University of Southern California (USC). He is currently a professor of electrical engineering at the University of California in Los Angeles (UCLA) and the University of California in San Diego (UCSD).

In addition to founding chip company Qualcomm, currently traded on Nasdaq at a $109 billion market cap, Viterbi, 80, also invented the Viterbi Algorithm for decoding signals. The code is used to this day to correct errors in cellular communications transmission, speech identification, and even newer applications, such as DNA analysis. Viterbi helped develop the CDMA standard for cellular telephone communications networks.

"(His) algorithm provides the basis for much of the communication and information technologies being developed today," said Technion Prof. Jacob Ziv.

Prof. Viterbis roots at the Technion date back to 1967, when he gave a series of lectures there while on sabbatical from UCLA. He has since visited the Technion many times, and was granted a Technion Honorary Doctorate and named a Technion Distinguished Visiting Professor of Electrical Engineering in 2000.

Technion President Prof. Peretz Lavie said, "This is the greatest honor for a professor at the Technion, and has been granted up until now to only six people, three of whom were Nobel Prize winners. The degree enables Viterbi to come to the Technion whenever he wants, and there was a period when he visited here every year."

Viterbi's donations, together with his wife, Erna Vinci Viterbi helped found the Andrew J. and Erna F. Viterbi Chair in Information Systems/Computer Science, held by Prof. Oded Shmueli; the Andrew and Erna Finci Viterbi Center for Advanced Studies in Computer Technology ;and the Andrew and Erna Finci Viterbi Fellowship Program.

"I am extremely proud to have my name associated with the Technion, Israels leading science and technology university, and one of the top institutions of its kind in the world, Prof. Viterbi said. Technion electrical engineering graduates are in large part responsible for creating and sustaining Israels high-tech industry, which has been essential for Israels economic success.

1, 602 high-tech companies

Lavie explained that according to a recent survey, in recent decades, Technion graduates from all its faculties have been responsible for founding and managing 1,602 high-tech companies. 35% of these companies were founded by graduates of the Faculty of Electrical Engineering, and 22% by graduates of the Faculty Computer Science, meaning that half of the companies were founded by two the Technion's two leading faculties.

Now, Lavie says, "We want to enlarge the Faculty of Electrical Engineering, and it's costing a huge amount. In 2000, there were 640 staff members at the Technion. In 2010, we were only 540. Since then, we've been trying to enrich the staff with senior researchers we attract from all over the world. We are really managing to recruit 30 new staff members each year, but 20-25 retire, so that today we have 557 active staff members and available positions for recruiting another 40. In order to attract senior researchers from around the world, even if they are willing to forego high-tech salaries and overseas academic salaries, we must at least offer them laboratories, equipment, and competitive research budgets. All this costs $780,000 a year per staff member, and the budget we get from the research council is $3.5 million a year, which is far from enough. We have to pay for the rest from donations, so a donation like that by Viterbi is essential for enabling the faculty to move forward. We're grateful to him."

Published by Globes [online], Israel business news - www.globes-online.com - on June 14, 2015

Copyright of Globes Publisher Itonut (1983) Ltd. 2015

 Prof. Andrew Viterbi and his late wife Erna
Prof. Andrew Viterbi and his late wife Erna
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