A Day of Technion Honors for QUALCOMM Founder Andrew J. Viterbi

December 11, 2015
By: Kevin Hattori

Festivities include dedication of Andrew and Erna Viterbi Faculty of Electrical Engineering, and Erna Finci Viterbi Plaza, and awarding of Technion Medal

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(l to r) Ariel Orda, Dean of Viterbi Faculty of Electrical Engineering; Technion President Peretz Lavie; Andrew J. Viterbi; Caryn and Alan Viterbi, Boaz Golany, Technion VP of External Relations and Public Affairs

HAIFA, ISRAEL (December 10, 2015) – QUALCOMM co-founder and digital luminary Dr. Andrew J. Viterbi was the star of the show during Tuesday’s “Viterbi Day” events at the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology in Haifa, Israel. Among the highlights were a ceremony to name the Andrew and Erna Viterbi Faculty of Electrical Engineering, and one to dedicate the Erna Finci Viterbi Plaza, in honor of Dr. Viterbi’s beloved late wife.

The plaque bearing the faculty’s new name was unveiled during a festive ceremony whose guests included Dr. Viterbi; his son Alan and daughter-in-law Caryn; Technion President Prof. Peretz Lavie; American Technion Society Executive Vice President Jeff Richard; past Technion President Major General (ret.) Amos Horev, and members of the Technion Board of Governors. Also on hand were alumni of the Faculty of Electrical Engineering, many of whom are now senior members of Israel’s hi-tech industry, including Rad founders Bynet Yehuda and Zohar Zisapel; Apple Israel CEO Aharon Aharon; Qualcomm Israel CEO Eric Mimran; former Qualcomm CEO Eyal Bar-David, and others.

Dr. Viterbi’s transformational $50 million gift will help cement the Technion’s status as a world leader in the fields of electrical engineering and computer engineering. It will also enable the university to recruit and retain first-rate faculty and graduate students in those disciplines, and to upgrade the teaching and research infrastructure.

“We are deeply grateful to Andrew Viterbi,” said Technion President Prof. Peretz Lavie. “His and his beloved late wife Erna’s longstanding involvement with the Technion and his understanding of the vital impact of electrical engineering on the State of Israel will help the Technion recruit the best and brightest students and faculty members.”

Dr. Viterbi also received the Technion Medal, the university’s highest honor, in recognition of his decades-long devotion to the Technion as a distinguished visiting professor, his support of graduate students, postdoctoral scholars and new faculty members, and with appreciation of his recent transformational gift to the Faculty of Electrical Engineering that “…will secure and enhance the Technion’s leadership position in electrical and computer engineering in Israel and globally, and … ensure that the high-tech innovation that is vital to Israel’s economy and defense continues for generations to come.”

“I am thrilled to have my name associated with the Technion, one of the world’s leading science and technology institutions,” said Dr. Viterbi. “Graduates of the Technion Faculty of Electrical Engineering are in large part responsible for creating and sustaining Israel’s high-tech industry, which has been essential for Israel’s economic success. To meet the challenges facing us, we must promote the intensive recruitment of new faculty and enter into emerging research fields.”

Dr. Viterbi is the creator of the Viterbi Algorithm, a mathematical formula used in many of today’s mobile devices. The Viterbi Algorithm allows rapid and accurate decoding of overlapping signals, helping to eliminate signal interference. It is used in all four international standards for digital cellular telephones, as well as in data terminals, digital satellite broadcast receivers and deep space telemetry.

Dr. Viterbi’s roots at the Technion date back to 1967, when he gave a series of lectures there while on sabbatical from the University of California, Los Angeles. In 2000, he was named a Technion Distinguished Visiting Professor of Electrical Engineering.

Together with his late wife, Erna Finci Viterbi, he has a long history of support for the university and Israel. He is a Guardian, a designation reserved for those who have reached the highest level of support of the Technion. The Viterbis’ gifts have included the Andrew J. and Erna F. Viterbi Chair in Information Systems/Computer Science, held by Prof. Oded Shmueli, and the Andrew and Erna Finci Viterbi Center for Advanced Studies in Computer Technology and the Andrew and Erna Finci Viterbi Fellowship Program.

“Viterbi and communications are synonyms, and you can’t mention one without the other,” said Distinguished Professor Emeritus Jacob Ziv, who, together with Prof. Avraham Lempel, developed the Lempel-Ziv data compression algorithm, which has played a key role in Internet communications. “Prof. Viterbi is a true pioneer in the fields of electrical engineering and computer engineering.

“The Viterbi family’s gift guarantees that we will be able to continue to be a center of academic excellence and fulfill our rule of advancing the State of Israel’s security and prosperity,” said Prof. Ariel Orda, Dean of the Faculty of Electrical Engineering. “Professor Viterbi gave us another gift, whose value is far greater. It is a rare combination for a Faculty to be affiliated with the name of a scientific and technological giant while teaching his scientific contributions in advanced courses of its curriculum.”

About the Technion Faculty of Electrical Engineering

The Technion Faculty of Electrical Engineering, one of the world’s top ten faculties of electrical and computer engineering, has played a crucial role in the development of Israel’s hi-tech industry and in turning Israel into a start-up nation.” In the early 1970s, the Faculty was a driving force in creating the infrastructure in microelectronics, and the developments that have played a key role in the economic growth of the high-tech industry and the security of the State of Israel. In the following decades, the Faculty paved the way for a series of disciplines, including computer engineering, telecommunications, microelectronics, optoelectronics, nanotechnology and quantum technology.

Over the past twenty years, Technion alumni have been responsible for the establishment and management of more than 1,600 companies that have led to the creation of 100,000 jobs. Approximately 35% of these companies were founded by alumni of the Faculty of Electrical Engineering.

“It’s hard to imagine Israel’s transformation into a leader in science, technology and innovation without Technion and without the researchers, students and alumni of the Faculty of Electrical Engineering in particular,” wrote Minister of Education Naftali Bennett in special letter sent today to Prof. Viterbi. “Your donation will ensure the status of the Faculty as a world-class center for research and education that will cultivate Israel’s engineers and scientists of the future who will lead its economy.”

The Technion-Israel Institute of Technology is a major source of the innovation and brainpower that drives the Israeli economy, and a key to Israel’s renown as the world’s “Start-Up Nation.” Its three Nobel Prize winners exemplify academic excellence. Technion people, ideas and inventions make immeasurable contributions to the world including life-saving medicine, sustainable energy, computer science, water conservation and nanotechnology. The Joan and Irwin Jacobs Technion-Cornell Institute is a vital component of Cornell Tech, and a model for graduate applied science education that is expected to transform New York City’s economy.

American Technion Society (ATS) donors provide critical support for the Technion—more than $2 billion since its inception in 1940. Based in New York City, the ATS and its network of supporters across the U.S. provide funds for scholarships, fellowships, faculty recruitment and chairs, research, buildings, laboratories, classrooms and dormitories, and more.