Irwin Jacobs '54 BEE '56 awarded Engineering Distinguished Alumni Award

Irwin Jacobs

Irwin Jacobs receives Distinguished Alumni Award

Engineer, entrepreneur, innovator and philanthropist Irwin Jacobs '54, BEE ’56, was presented with the Cornell Engineering Distinguished Alumni Award on Monday, April 22, 2019. President Martha E. Pollack introduced the event, and Lance Collins, the Joseph Silbert Dean of Engineering, served as moderator. 

Considered one of the world’s foremost communications scientists, Jacobs is the founding chairman and CEO emeritus of Qualcomm Inc. He is the undisputed father of code-division multiple access (CDMA) technology in the field of cellular communications.

During his discussion with Dean Collins, Jacobs reflected on his time at Cornell Engineering and his extraordinary journey from an early career in academia to becoming one of the most influential and impactful innovators and entrepreneurs of the last century. Jacobs also fielded several questions from current Cornell Engineering students on hand to watch.

Jacobs earned his Ph.D. at MIT in 1959, where he also taught for seven years before joining the faculty of the University of California, San Diego, for six years. In 1968 he co-founded Linkabit Corp., and in 1985 he co-founded Qualcomm. In recognition of his many technological achievements and advances, Jacobs has received numerous honors and awards, including the National Medal of Technology and the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) Medal of Honor.

The Cornell Engineering Distinguished Alumni Award was created as the college’s highest alumni honor, intended to recognize individuals who have demonstrated extraordinary leadership and vision – pushing traditional boundaries, transforming the world, and bringing pride and distinction to the college. This is the second time the award has been presented; David Duffield ’62, MBA ’64, was recognized in September 2018.

Jacobs and his wife, Joan Jacobs, a 1954 graduate of Cornell's College of Human Ecology, are also renowned for their philanthropy, having donated hundreds of millions of dollars to support education, healthcare, the arts, and other

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