Transformational Gift from Visionary Leader of Digital Age for the Technion Faculty of Electrical Engineering – Largest Single Gift to Haifa-based University from an American Donor
Dr. Andrew J. Viterbi – a seminal figure in today’s digital society – has announced a gift of $50 million to secure and enhance the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology’s leadership position in electrical and computer engineering in Israel and globally.
This transformational gift will be recognized by the Technion through the naming of the Faculty of Electrical Engineering. The announcement was made on June 13, during the Technion Board of Governors meeting in Haifa, Israel.
“I am extremely proud to have my name associated with the Technion, Israel’s leading science and technology university, and one of the top institutions of its kind in the world,” Dr. Viterbi said. “Technion electrical engineering graduates are in large part responsible for creating and sustaining Israel’s high-tech industry, which has been essential for Israel’s economic success.”
Ranked among the world’s top 10 electrical engineering departments, the Technion Faculty of Electrical Engineering has been instrumental in advancing Israel’s tech industry and transforming the country into the “Start-up Nation.” In the early 1970s, the Faculty was the driving force in developing infrastructure and know-how in microelectronics, and the creation of electronic components that turned out to be crucial for Israel’s security and economic growth in the tech sector. Since then, it has paved the way for Israeli computer engineering, communications, microelectronics, optoelectronics, nanotechnology, and quantum technology.
Over the last 20 years, some 1600 companies were founded and/or are being managed by Technion alumni; a stunning 35% were graduates of the Faculty of Electrical Engineering.
The gift from Dr. Viterbi will enable the Technion to retain and attract outstanding faculty and electrical engineering graduate students, and to upgrade the current teaching and research infrastructure. By helping bring the ratio of undergraduate students to faculty members in line with those at top American universities, this gift will play a critical role in preserving and enhancing the department’s global competitiveness.
“We are deeply grateful to Andrew Viterbi. 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,” said Technion President Professor Peretz Lavie.
“This is a spectacular point in the growth and development of the Technion,” said Jeff Richard, Executive Vice President of the American Technion Society. “This gift will enable the Technion to maintain its place at the forefront of electrical engineering and its wide-ranging applications in industries ranging from medical devices to advanced computing.”
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 a plethora of overlapping signals, helping to eliminate signal interference. The mathematical formula 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. Other applications include voice recognition programs and DNA analysis.
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. Those roots have since grown so strong that Dr. Viterbi’s name is as familiar to Technion engineering students today, as it was nearly 50 years ago. 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.
“Andrew Viterbi is more than a Distinguished Visiting Professor in our Faculty. He is a true pioneer in the field of electrical and computer engineering, whose algorithm, as well as many other pace-setting contributions, provide the basis for much of the communication and information technologies being developed today. We are extremely proud to be part of the Faculty that will bear his name,” said Distinguished Professor Jacob Ziv, who together with Professor Avraham Lempel created the Ziv-Lempel compression algorithm that contributed significantly in making the Internet a global communications medium.
Dr. Viterbi received a Technion Honorary Doctorate in 2000, and the Albert Einstein Award (the American Technion Society’s highest award) in 1993. He is also a member of the Technion Board of Governors, and has been actively involved with the American Technion Society at the national, regional and local levels.
As the co-founder of Qualcomm Corporation, Dr. Viterbi has received numerous awards for his contributions to communications theory and its industrial applications, including the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers’ (IEEE) Alexander Graham Bell Medal, the Marconi International Fellowship Award and the IEEE’s Shannon Award and Lecture, considered the highest honor in communication technology. In 2001, Dr. Viterbi, who was born in Italy, was named a “Grande Ufficiale della Republica” by the President of Italy. He was recognized by former U.S. President George W. Bush in 2008, with the National Medal of Science for developing “the ‘Viterbi Algorithm’, and for his contributions to Code Division Multiple Access (CDMA) wireless technology that transformed the theory and practice of digital communications.”
“It is a great honor to have Professor Viterbi’s name associated with our Faculty,” said Professor Ariel Orda, Electrical Engineering Dean. “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. Professor Viterbi and his wife, the late Erna Finci Viterbi, have been our dear friends and devoted supporters for many years. This extraordinary gift from Professor Viterbi ensures our position as a global center of academic excellence, enabling us to fulfill our vital role in the security and prosperity of the State of Israel. Moreover, this gift paves the way to new horizons and higher attainable levels of scientific and technological achievements.”
Andrew Viterbi is an alumnus of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the University of Southern California. His was one of the first doctorates in electrical engineering granted by USC (’62). In 2004, he and his late wife, Erna Finci Viterbi, provided the naming gift for USC’s Andrew and Erna Viterbi School of Engineering. Other gifts to the university include the Andrew and Erna Viterbi Chair in Communications, the Andrew J. and Erna Finci Viterbi Executive Director Chair at the USC Shoah Foundation, and various scholarships in engineering and genocide studies.
For a video of the announcement, please see: