TAU Awards Honorary Doctorate to American Telecommunications Pioneer Irwin Jacobs Tuesday, June 1, 2010
Qualcomm co-founder is recognized for professional and philanthropic leadership
Dr. Irwin Mark Jacobs
In a special ceremony at Tel Aviv University's Diaspora Museum, the university granted its most distinguished honor — Doctor Philosophiae Honoris Causa — to communications giant and philanthropist Dr. Irwin Mark Jacobs on May 23, 2010.
Dr. Jacobs is internationally renowned as the co-founder of San Diego-based Qualcomm, the world's leading developer of next-generation wireless technology. Earlier in his career, he co-founded Linkabit Corporation, which provided satellite encryption services for the defense industry. An electrical engineer by training, while an assistant professor at MIT he co-authored Principles of Communication Engineering, a textbook that remains a bible of digital communications today.
Dr. Jacobs and his wife, Joan, are generous contributors to public arts and education, including the University of California – San Diego's Jacobs School of Engineering, which is named for them. Mrs. Jacobs and the couple's grandchildren Adam and Sara Jacobs, and son Gary and his wife, Jerri-Ann Jacobs, attended the conferral. Among the other guests who filled the Diaspora Museum's hall were numerous engineers and high-profile members of Israel's high-tech community, including mega-entrepreneur Yossi Vardi.
A celebration of cerebration
Amos Shapira, Dr. Irwin Mark Jacobs and TAU President Prof. Joseph Klafter
At the ceremony, Tel Aviv University's President Joseph Klafter noted wryly that while many today use YouTube volume to measure accomplishment, TAU's honorary degree recognizes the power of the human mind. "Tonight we celebrate the power of the mind of Irwin Jacobs. We celebrate his resourcefulness and ingenuity," he said.
Prof. Dany Leviatan, Tel Aviv University's outgoing Rector, applauded Dr. Jacobs' generosity to educational institutions in America and Israel. He said that Jacobs' work developed an important nexus between the worlds of computing and communications, setting the global standard for CDMA technology that powers 3G cell phones today. "Irwin's skills are rare in high-tech," said Prof. Leviatan. "He is known for his business ethics and family life."
Amos Shapira, president of Israeli Friends of Tel Aviv University and CEO of Cellcom, called Dr. Jacobs "a giant in the communications industry who personifies a close connection between the laboratory and the marketplace."
Science and profit can be partners
Describing his early years with Linkabit designing a new satellite terminal, Dr. Jacobs said, "It turned out that the business side was quite fun. We designed the first VSAT system for businesses to use (Walmart was one of the first) ... and it was helpful to show that the theory we taught at universities did in fact have commercial payoffs, and that we could create products that could be useful."
Responding to Shapira's statements about the new investment that Israel's academia needs, Jacobs said, "There is no better use of funding than research universities, both in Israel and the United States." He noted that "chips have come a long way" since his Linkabit and Qualcomm days, and explored the wide variety of devices he expects to be developed — based on new wireless applications — for the entertainment, health, security and financial sectors.
The self-made billionaire is known for his modesty and family values, telling a San Diego newspaper that money isn't about gaining status or power or fame: "It's a tool for taking care of your family, your employees, and your community." After his remarks, he graciously fielded questions from the audience.
In excellent company
Dr. Jacobs, who was unable to attend TAU's formal honorary doctorate ceremonyduring the university's annual Board of Governors meeting earlier in the month, joins a prestigious list of recipients — an international Who's Who of the past 60 years.
Statesmen include David Ben Gurion, Bill Clinton, Margaret Thatcher, Golda Meir, Ronald Reagan, Henry Kissinger and Yitzhak Rabin. Recipients in the arts include Leonard Bernstein, Marc Chagall, Eugene Ionesco, Henry Moore, Santiago Calatrava and Franco Zeffirelli. In the world of business and finance, recipients include Armand Hammer, Laurence Tisch, Sheldon Adelson, Martin Whitman and Michael Steinhardt. Scientists and scholars include Bernard Lewis, Eric Lander, Edward Teller, and Elie Wiesel.