Silicon Valley giant to keynote UH Hilo Spring Commencement

University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo
Alyson Kakugawa-Leong, (808) 974-7642
University of Hawaii at Hilo
Posted: Apr 30, 2007

HILO, Hawaii - A Silicon Valley executive and one of the "founding fathers" of the analog microchip industry highlights the University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo‘s Spring Commencement. John F. "Jack" Gifford, founder and former CEO of Maxim Integrated Products and Advanced Micro Devices, deliver the keynote on Saturday, May 12, at 9:00 a.m. at Edith Kanakaʻole Stadium.

A total of 470 students representing the College of Arts and Sciences (375), College of Business and Economics (57), College of Agriculture, Forestry & Natural Resource Management (27) and Ka Haka ʻUla O Keʻelikolani College of Hawaiian Language (11) are eligible for various degrees or certificates.

The 66-year-old Gifford earned a bachelors degree in electrical engineering in 1963 from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), which he attended on a baseball scholarship, and maintains close ties. He was elected to UCLA‘s baseball hall of fame in 1990, taking his place alongside the likes of Jackie Robinson, Dr. Bobby Brown, Kenny Washington, Mike Gallego, Tim Leary, Eric Karros, Todd Zeile and Don Slaught. He was also named 1991 Alumnus of the Year for the school‘s College of Engineering, which he addressed as commencement speaker in 1992.

Gifford entered the semiconductor industry in 1964 when he went to work for Fairchild Semiconductor and became the company‘s first director of analog products. He co-founded Advanced Micro Devices in 1969 and remained as vice president of marketing and planning until leaving the company to become senior vice president, then president and CEO of Intersil, Inc., which was later acquired by General Electric (GE). As senior vice president, he was instrumental in the company‘s pioneering development of low-power CMOS for analog applications.

Gifford founded Maxim Integrated Products in 1983 with a vision of providing high-quality analog and mixed-signal engineering solutions for the technology industry. From its inception, he promoted a culture of high expectations and the concept that innovative product development could be scheduled and was not a random event. Gifford‘s product proliferation strategy challenged his team to develop at least 15 new products in its first year. In 2006, Maxim boasted a product portfolio in excess of 5,000 analog and mixed-signal integrated products, and now develops over 600 new products each year.

A worldwide leader in the design, development, and manufacture of analog, mixed signal, high frequency, and digital circuits, Maxim today serves approximately 35,000 customers, employs over 9,000 and earns $1.86 billion in revenues. Gifford retired from the company this year due to health reasons, but consults on product planning and business direction.

His industry achievements earned him numerous awards, including CEO of the Year by Electronic Business Magazine in 2001 and America‘s Best Semiconductor Industry CEO by Institutional Investor Magazine in 2005. Gifford‘s agricultural upbringing and avid interest in technology meanwhile, led him to establish other businesses outside the semiconductor industry.

He embarked on a farming career in 1973 and in 10 years became one of the larger tomato growers in Northern California. The founder and president of businesses that include J. Leal Farms and Enslie Industries, Gifford was nominated for National Entrepreneur of the Year by Arthur Young in 1988.

Active in numerous scholastic and charitable activities involving children and education, he has contributed to the University of California Hall of Science Lower Education Program, The Betty Kanuha Foundation and is a co-founder of the East Palo Alto Education and Tennis Foundation (EPATT). His background in science and athletics has convinced him that youth exposed to athletics will succeed in life if education is properly emphasized. That led him five years ago to establish Hawaiʻi‘s Kalaeiki Baseball Youth Clinic. Some 350 Hawaiʻi youth, free of charge, attend the four-day clinic annually, featuring volunteer coaches from the major leagues and eight Division I universities, including UCLA, Stanford and Hawaiʻi. The overall aim of these efforts is to focus youth on the value of math and English education in lower income area schools here and in California.

Officials will honor Gifford during the commencement ceremony with an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree. The award will recognize his distinguished reputation as a pioneer in the electronics industry and his public service in support of education programs for youth.

Linda Voong, an English and political science major, is student speaker. Born in San Jose, California, Voong moved to Hawaiʻi at the age of four. Voong's academic achievements have earned her numerous awards, including Presidential and Kiwanis Scholarships. She spent four months in Washington D.C. as an intern at the office of U.S. Senator Daniel K. Akaka, and is active in campus events. She spent two years with the Model United Nations as a member, served as secretary and president of the Political Science Association, and was a Junior Kiwanis member.

When Voong and her sister Elaine receive their degrees, it will mark an important family milestone. The daughters of Chinese immigrants who fled their homeland to escape the war in Indochina, they represent their family's first generation to attend and graduate from college.

For more information, contact Commencement Coordinator Justina Mattos at 936-1193 or email For special accommodations, contact Susan Shirachi at 933-0816 (V) or 974-7335 (TTY). Requests for special accommodations should be made at least 10 business days prior to the event.