James K. George, Jr.
Class of 1964, BS
Jim George was inducted into three honor societies while an electrical engineering (EE) student at Virginia Tech. But the stellar student had more than studies on his mind, as he also enjoyed his summer job as “doorman and money collector” for a rock and roll band.
In addition, the Tau Beta Pi, Eta Kappa Nu, and Phi Kappa Phi member also presided over Virginia Tech’s Amateur Radio Association (his call letters are N3BB), and hosted one of the most popular campus radio programs on the student-operated WUVT. His show, on “Wacky WUVT” as he refers to the station, aired 4:00 to 5:00 p.m., a prime time since classes ended at 4:00 p.m. and dinner started at 5:00 p.m. in the 1960s.
He knew he had a rather large listening audience when one snowy day, while announcing his Top 40 rock and roll program, he encouraged a snowball fight on the Drillfield. Some 3,000 students got involved, and the DJ recalls he received one of his three probations. His other two probation-causing pranks were equally silly as he reflects — “locking some guys in their room, and dropping a water balloon on someone.” The problem was the “someone” was a town police officer coming to investigate a dormitory disturbance.
Mr. George had his share of fun as an undergraduate but he also recalls his years at Virginia Tech as leaving “a stark imprint” on his personality. “I really respected the honor code at Virginia Tech ... and I think I graduated with a strong sense of integrity. I am sure I have made my share of mistakes but I have remained totally honest, and have valued the integrity at Tech a great, great deal.”
When Mr. George received his bachelor’s degree in 1964, he felt he had obtained a “tremendous grounding” in the engineering basics. “Life is a murky business and engineering is quantitative and precise. You always get an answer. I needed that structure.”
During his undergraduate days, he also was provided with a valuable lesson for his upcoming career. Following his junior year, he had taken a summer job at one of Dupont’s plants in West Virginia. “I designed and oversaw the installation of lights on a coal conveyor belt. I came home looking like a coal miner. I realized the chemical engineers were the kings and the EEs were the service providers at this company location. I needed to find a job where EE was a main focus.”
That he did. He spent 38 years with the semiconductor industry. The bulk of that time, Mr. George worked for Motorola’s Semiconductor Products business in positions of increasing responsibilities. His first job with Motorola landed him in Phoenix, Arizona, where he also attended graduate school at Arizona State University’s EE Department. He earned his master’s degree while learning the various aspects of Motorola’s culture. “I realized my interest was in operations and with customer contact.”
After a stint away from Motorola, Mr. George returned in 1984 as the Manager of Reliability and Quality Assurance for its semiconductor business in Austin. Afterwards, his promotions came in regular intervals. He moved to the General Manager of the MOS Memory Products Division, to General Manager of the Digital Signal Processor Division, to General Manager of the Imaging and Storage Division, and to the Director of Strategy for the Wireless Systems Group. He served as a Corporate Vice President of Motorola for the last 15 years of his career until he retired in 2002.
“It was thrilling to be in a cutting edge industry ... One needed to understand circuit design, device physics, materials engineering, and the end applications for increasingly complex devices which required a lot of software to enable them to do great things. I liked the multi-disciplinary requirement and the continuous learning. The field was wide open and there was no template to follow,” Mr. George reflects. His travels have taken him to 53 countries, logging well over three million flying miles.
Mr. George continually has taken time for his alma mater. Since 1991 he and his wife, Diana, have held season football tickets even though they lived in Austin, Texas. “We are certified lunatics,” he laughs. And they are avid members of the Committee of 100 and the Ut Prosim Society. He has served on both the Electrical and Computer Engineering Advisory Board and the College Advisory Board, and has chaired both. He also has chaired the College’s Microelectronics Committee.
Jim and Diana, a clinical social worker who specializes in substance abuse and emotional trauma, have three children: Juliet, Jimmy, and Chris. They return to their home town of Princeton, West Virginia often, and have started hiking portions of the Appalachian Trail. Mr. George also has started to write a book after being inspired by another engineering alumnus, Homer Hickam, who wrote October Skies. “I might title my book ‘American Graffiti Meets Homer Hickam,’” he jokes. His book does share some aspects of American Graffiti but deals with growing up in a special time and in a special place with tremendous social upheaval underway.
Class of: 1964
Year Inducted into Academy: 2004