Cornell University

Alumni Affairs and Development

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Visiting Fellow Profile

Irwin & Joan Jacobs

Joan K. Jacobs, ’52

Irwin and Joan Jacobs

Joan Klein Jacobs was born in New York City. Joan graduated from the Barnard School for Girls in New York City and received a Bachelor of Science degree from Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y., in 1952. She was trained as a dietician and worked for the Groton Central Schools outside of Ithaca and at Boston Lying-in Hospital (now Brigham and Women’s Hospital), one of the nation’s first maternity hospitals.

In 1956, she moved to Boston, where she was extensively involved with the Boston Chapter of the League of Women Voters. She moved to La Jolla, California, in 1966 and has since played an integral part in shaping the community through her activism and perseverance.

As a leading member of the San Diego community, Joan has focused her energies on numerous community groups and committees. Among these were support organizations at the University of California-San Diego (UCSD). In 1970, Joan co-founded “Friends of the International Center,” a UCSD support group. She also was a founding partner of Gallery 8, which began at the International Center. From 1992 to 2000, she served on the UCSD Board of Overseers. In June 2000, Joan was elected to the Board of the UCSD Foundation, where she now serves as a member of the Nominating Committee and is Chairwoman of the Art Committee. She co-founded “Friends of the Stuart Collection,” a support group for the body of 14 world-class contemporary sculptures on the UCSD campus.

Joan has played a vital role in her contributions to the San Diego arts community. Since 1996, Joan has served on the Board of the La Jolla Playhouse and currently serves on the Building Advisory Committee for the “Joan and Irwin Jacobs Center” for the La Jolla Playhouse. She also served as chair of the Search Committee for a new artistic director and presently serves on the Nominating Committee. She has chaired several committees for the San Diego Symphony, including the inaugural gala event in 1994 and the “2001 New Year’s Eve Gala at Symphony Hall.” Joan founded and chaired the San Diego Symphony Gold Ribbon Patrons, a group of more than 150 women who contribute $150,000 annually to the Symphony. Currently, she is the Chairwoman of the Board of the San Diego Symphony Endowment Foundation, which was founded in 2003 manage endowment contributions to ensure the future of the Symphony.

Joan also sits on the Accession’s Committee of the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego. From the mid-1980s to 1997, Joan chaired the Contemporary Collectors group for the Museum. In 2001, she founded and now chairs the International Collectors – the museum’s highest support group. Joan is a member of the City of San Diego Commission for Arts and Culture’s Public Art Committee, and she continues to support public art within the region, which includes serving on the Commission for Art for the Federal Courthouse in San Diego.

Joan is a dedicated member of a number of community boards and organizations as well, including the University Club, City National Bank, the President’s Advisory Council at San Diego Hospice, the San Diego Opera and the Globe Theatre. In August 2003 and 2004, Joan chaired the La Jolla Chamber Music Society’s “SummerFest Gala.” The 2004 Gala was the most successful in the history of the Society.

In July 1995, she was the recipient of the David K. Kroll Leadership Award for exemplary service, dedication and commitment to the Lawrence Family Jewish Community Center of San Diego County. She was co-chair of the capital campaign for the renovation and expansion of the Jewish Community Center, where she raised $13.2 million. The building was completed in May 2000. Joan also is Vice President of the Executive Committee of the Jewish Community Foundation of San Diego County. In December 2003, Joan was appointed to the California Council for the Humanities and will serve on this state affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities until March 2007.

Joan’s many interests include traveling, collecting contemporary art and politics. She belongs to a book club and The Dow Divas Investment Club of the San Diego Opera. She is the mother of four sons – all of whom reside in San Diego with their wives – and she has 11 grandchildren. Joan is married to Irwin Mark Jacobs, chairman of the board and CEO of QUALCOMM Incorporated, pioneer and world leader of Code Division Multiple Access (CDMA) digital wireless technology.

Irwin M. Jacobs ’56

Dr. Irwin Mark Jacobs is co-founder and chairman of QUALCOMM Incorporated, pioneer and world leader of Code Division Multiple Access (CDMA) digital wireless technology. Dr. Jacobs has led the commercialization of CDMA technology and its success as the world’s fastest-growing, most advanced voice and data wireless communications technology. Now used by tens of millions of consumers worldwide, CDMA is the technology of choice for third-generation wireless communications services.

Dr. Jacobs holds several CDMA patents, contributing to QUALCOMM’s extensive portfolio of more than 3,000 issued and pending U.S. patent applications. More than 115 companies have licensed CDMA for the manufacturing of wireless devices and network infrastructure equipment, integrated circuits and test equipment.

Dr. Jacobs previously served as co-founder, president, chairman and CEO of LINKABIT Corporation, directing its growth from a few part-time employees in 1969 to over 1,400 employees in 1985, and first introduction of Ku-band Very Small Aperature Earth Terminals (VSATs), commercial TDMA wireless phones, and the VideoCipher® satellite-to-home TV system. LINKABIT merged with M/A-COM in August 1980, at which time Dr. Jacobs served on the company’s board of directors until he resigned from M/A-COM in April 1985. Over 35 San Diego communications companies trace their roots back to LINKABIT.

From 1959 to 1966, Dr. Jacobs was an assistant/associate professor of electrical engineering at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). From 1966 to 1972 he served as a professor of computer science and engineering at the University of California, San Diego (UCSD). At MIT, Dr. Jacobs co-authored a basic textbook in digital communications entitled, Principles of Communication Engineering. First published in 1965, the book remains in use today.

Dr. Jacobs is the recipient of numerous industry, education and business awards, including:

  • 2006 Economic Opportunity Award (for development of CDMA technology), LEAD San Diego, June 2006
  • Honorary Degree Recipient – Doctor of Science (Sc.D.), San Diego State University and the California State University System Board of Trustees, May 2006
  • Lifetime Achievement Award (for 25 years in telecommunications), Financial Times, Dec 2005
  • Honorary Professorship, Beijing University of Posts & Telecom (BUPT), October 2005
  • First Member of the Entrepreneur Technology Hall of Fame, established by the technology business organization Connect, May 2005
  • Woodrow Wilson Award for Corporate Citizenship, Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, May 2004
  • Dorothy I. Height Chair’s Award, Leadership Council on Civil Rights, May 2004
  • IEEE Communications Society 2004 Distinguished Industry Leader Award, for his contribution to and leadership in the development and growth of the Wireless Communications Industry, March 2004
  • Dr. Morris Chang Exemplary Leadership Award, The Fabless Semiconductor Association (FSA), December 2003
  • Eta Kappa Nu Eminent Member Award, Electrical & Computer Engineering Honor Society, November 2003
  • Tau Beta Pi Distinguished Alumnus Award, Tau Beta Pi Engineering Honor Society, October 2003
  • International Engineering Consortium Fellow Award, November 2002
  • Innovation Award in Communication, The Economist, September 18, 2002
  • Honorary Doctorate, University of Pennsylvania, May 13, 2002
  • American Academy of Arts and Sciences Fellow, April 2001
  • Bower Award in Business Leadership, the Franklin Institute, April 2001
  • Honorary Doctorate, Technion University, June 5, 2000
  • Golden State Award, Board of Directors of the California Council for International Trade, May 2000
  • Scientist of the Year Award, Achievement Rewards for College Scientists (ARCS), April 2000
  • Radio Communication Report (RCR) Wireless Hall of Fame Inductee, for his significant contributions to the advancement of the wireless telecommunications industry, March 2000
  • Director of the Year Award for Enhancement of Economic Values, the Corporate Directors Forum, February 2000
  • 1999 Ernst & Young Leadership Award for Global Integration, Computerworld Smithsonian Award Program, 1999
  • Medal of Achievement Award, The American Electronics Association (AEA), 1998
  • Entrepreneur of the Year in the Master Entrepreneur category, RCR, 1996
  • Person of the Year Award, RCR, 1996
  • The Albert Einstein Award, the American Society of Technion, 1996
  • IEEE Alexander Graham Bell Medal, IEEE, 1995
  • Cornell’s Entrepreneur of 1994
  • The National Medal of Technology Award (the highest award bestowed by the President of the United States for extraordinary achievements in the commercialization of technology, or the development of human resources, that foster technology commercialization), 1994
  • Inventing America’s Future Award, AEA, 1993
  • The International Citizens Award, World Affairs Council of San Diego, 1993
  • The San Diego Business Leader of the Year Award, San Diego Venture Group, 1993
  • Entrepreneur of the Year Award, The Institute of American Entrepreneurs, 1992
  • First Annual ExcEL Award, the local AEA, 1989
  • Distinguished Community Service Award, the Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith, 1984
  • Election to the National Academy of Engineering, 1982
  • Biannual award “for an outstanding contribution to aerospace communications,” the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) 1980 (Drs. Jacobs and Andrew Viterbi were jointly honored)

Dr. Jacobs received a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering in 1956 from Cornell University and master of science and doctor of science degrees in electrical engineering from MIT in 1957 and 1959, respectively.

Dr. Jacobs is a member of a number of industry and community boards and committees. He is a Fellow of the IEEE and a member of Sigma XI, Phi Kappa Phi, Eta Kappa Nu, and Tau Beta Pi. Dr. Jacobs also serves on the Council on Competitiveness, the National Academy of Engineering Committee on Public Awareness of Engineering, the board of directors of Building Engineering & Science Talent, the visiting committee of the MIT Laboratory for Information and Decision Systems, California Council on Science and Technology, and is past chairman of the University of California President’s Engineering Advisory Council.

- Irwin & Joan Jacobs