Shalem College
July 3, 2018

Andrew Viterbi Gives $1 Million to Shalem in His First-Ever Gift to Humanities in Jewish State

Andrew Viterbi Gives $1 Million to Shalem in His First-Ever Gift to Humanities in Jewish State
Dr. Andrew James Viterbi.

Shalem has just announced a $1 million gift to the college by Dr. Andrew James Viterbi of San Diego. Viterbi, creator of the Viterbi Algorithm, is the co-founder of Qualcomm Corporation and the presidential chair professor of electrical engineering at the University of Southern California (USC)’s Viterbi School of Engineering.

Viterbi and his late wife, Erna Finci Viterbi, have a long history of supporting Israel, in particular the Technion—Israel’s Institute of Technology. In 2015, the Italian-born Viterbi announced a historic gift to secure the Technion’s leadership position in electrical and computer engineering both in Israel and globally. His donation to Shalem, by contrast, marks his first major gift to the humanities in the Jewish state. Explaining his decision to support Shalem, Viterbi stated, “Technology may be the key to Israel’s survival, but survival alone is not enough. We did not return to Zion simply to survive or even to advance science. Rather, we returned with the goal of putting our unique imprint on the Jewish future, and that of all humanity.”

“Andrew’s decision to become a partner in Shalem’s vision is of enormous significance,” explained Dr. Daniel Gordis, the Koret Distinguished Fellow, executive vice president, and chair of the Core Curriculum Department at Shalem. “For someone of his caliber, known for fostering excellence and innovation primarily in the sciences, to say, ‘The sciences are critical to the development of human beings everywhere, but the humanities are what will ensure the continuation of the Jewish state and people,’ is a huge vote of confidence in Shalem and its vision for Israel.”

Viterbi is widely credited with changing how people around the world communicate. Together with Dr. Irwin Jacobs, he co-founded Linkabit, a telecommunications consulting company, and the cellular-phone giant Qualcomm, of which he served as vice chairman and chief technology officer until his retirement in 2000. He has received honorary doctorates from universities in the United States, Canada, Italy, Cyprus and Israel, and numerous awards for his contributions to communications theory and its industrial applications, including the Alexander Graham Bell Medal and the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers’ Shannon Award. Moreover, he is a Fellow of the IEEE, a Marconi Fellow, and a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, in addition to belonging to a select group of scientists who hold dual memberships in the National Academy of Engineering and the National Academy of Sciences. In 2008, he was awarded the National Medal of Science by President George W. Bush.

Viterbi’s gift to Shalem reflects a little-known side to him, one that connects his passion for Israel with his background and belief in the humanities. After his family’s flight from Italy to Boston in the wake of fascist, anti-Semitic persecution in the years before World War II, Viterbi studied at the renowned Boston Latin School, whose rigorous, humanities-based curriculum focuses on the study of languages, literature, art, music, and history, as well as ancient cultures, science, mathematics. “I know first-hand the power of the humanities to instill in the individual a sense of civic identity and responsibility, regardless of his or her chosen profession. I believe that Shalem College is playing a critical role in cultivating Israeli citizens with the commitment to their history and understanding of their tradition necessary for effective, visionary leadership of the country,” says Viterbi. “It is a privilege to be a partner in the college’s efforts.”