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USC Salutes Andrew J. Viterbi

by Diane Ainsworth
USC Salutes Andrew J. Viterbi
USC's three national medal winners, from left: Morten Lauridsen (arts, 2007), Andrew J. Viterbi (science, 2007) and Kevin Starr (humanities, 2006)

USC President Steven B. Sample and Executive Vice President and Provost C. L. Max Nikias saluted Andrew J. Viterbi, USC trustee, fellow engineer and winner of the 2007 National Medal of Science for his recent award – the highest honor given by the United States for science and technology – at a Doheny Library courtyard celebration on Oct. 30.

Sample praised Viterbi for his pioneering research in digital wireless communications and his faithful service to USC.

Viterbi is the third USC scholar in the last three years to be recognized by the White House with a national medal. In 2006, University Professor Kevin Starr earned the National Humanities Award, and last year Distinguished Professor Morten Lauridsen of the USC Thornton School of Music was awarded the National Medal of Arts.

Sample, who presented Viterbi with a framed commendation, said, “I don’t know of any other university that can lay claim to three consecutive national awards – one each in the arts, the humanities and now, thanks to Andy Viterbi, the sciences.”

Viterbi, who gave his name to the USC School of Engineering in 2004 with a generous $52 million gift, also holds the USC Presidential Chair within the USC Viterbi School. He is known worldwide for his development of an algorithm (the Viterbi algorithm) and his contributions to Code Division Multiple Access wireless technology, which transformed the theory and practice of digital communications.

In accepting his commendation, Viterbi explained the “high five” photo of himself and President George W. Bush, taken when he was awarded the national medal at a White House ceremony.

“President Bush was very affable, very friendly, and I asked him if he would give me a high five for my grandson, because I had promised him I would do something special like that,” Viterbi said. “I will probably never live that down,” he added, laughing with the audience.

Viterbi co-founded QUALCOMM Inc., a developer and manufacturer of mobile satellite communications and digital wireless telephony. Prior to co-founding QUALCOMM, Viterbi co-founded LINKABIT Corp., a digital communications company.

He served as a professor at the UCLA School of Engineering and Applied Science until 1973 and continued teaching on a part-time basis at the University of California, San Diego until 1994, where he is currently a professor emeritus.

Prior to that, Viterbi was a member of the communications research section of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory at the California Institute of Technology, where he was one of the first communication engineers to recognize the potential of digital transmission techniques for space and satellite telecommunication systems.

Today all four international standards for digital cellular telephony utilize the Viterbi algorithm for interference suppression, as do most digital satellite communication systems.

USC Salutes Andrew J. Viterbi

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