Engineering Distinguished Alumni Award

The Cornell Engineering Distinguished Alumni Award proudly recognizes an alumnus/ae whose extraordinary leadership and vision have broken the rules to push traditional boundaries and transform the world, and whose professional accomplishments brings pride and distinction to the College.

The Engineering Distinguished Alumni Award this year goes to...Irwin Jacobs

Engineer, entrepreneur, innovator and philanthropist Irwin Jacobs ’54, BEE ’56, will speak at Cornell and be presented with the second Cornell Engineering Distinguished Alumni Award on Monday, April 22, at 4 p.m. in 101 Phillips Hall Auditorium. President Martha E. Pollack will introduce the event, and Lance Collins, the Joseph Silbert Dean of Engineering, will serve as moderator. The event is open to the Cornell community.

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 the talk, Jacobs will reflect 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 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 is being 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, health care, the arts and other causes. The Jacobses have been especially generous to Cornell, giving $133 million for the Jacobs Technion-Cornell Institute at Cornell Tech; $30 million for the Jacobs Scholarships in Engineering and Jacobs Fellowships in Electrical and Computer Engineering; and $10 million to establish the Jacobs Professorship and Fellowship in Human Ecology as well as sponsor the Jacobs Challenge to raise additional endowed professorships.


More information on the Award process