Andrew Viterbi and his wife Erna, benefactors of the USC Viterbi School of Engineering and of the USC Shoah Foundation. Photo courtesy USC

Qualcomm co-founder Andrew Viterbi and his wife, Erna, have given the University of Southern California $15 million to boost scholarship in engineering and genocide studies.

The namesakes of the Viterbi School of Engineering, the Viterbis will support two areas of the university especially important to them, designating $10 million for the engineering school and $5 million to the Shoah Foundation.

Nearly ten years ago the couple gave $52 million to the engineering school, which was renamed in their honor. The Shoah Foundation is dedicated to producing audio-visual interviews with survivors and witnesses of the Holocaust and other genocides to build a compelling voice for education and action.

“Andrew and Erna Viterbi stand among USC’s most ardent champions, and this generous gift reflects their longstanding commitment to investing in people,” said USC President C. L. Max Nikias. “Through these endowments, the Viterbi School and Shoah Foundation can support transformative faculty and talented students, helping them to advance research that will benefit our world for generations to come. We remain deeply grateful for the Viterbis’ continued confidence.”

Andrew Viterbi co-founded Qualcomm and created the now-legendary Viterbi algorithm, which has applications in a large number of fields, including wireless and satellite communications, data recording, speech recognition and search engines.

“Over the years, my wife and I have seen the university taking enormous strides, and we want to help increase that momentum by supporting research and other academic initiatives at USC,” Viterbi said about the couple’s most recent gift.

While still children, both Erna and Andrew fled Europe to the United States with their families before World War II due to growing anti-Semitism. Viterbi won a scholarship to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he studied communications and coding theory. In 1962, he earned his Ph.D. in digital communications from USC, and later served as a professor at UCLA.

The Viterbis’ gift puts the Shoah Foundation’s fundraising initiative over $72 million—nearly half of its $150 million goal. This latest contribution is the largest gift the foundation has received since becoming part of USC in 2006.

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Chris Jennewein

Chris Jennewein is Editor & Publisher of Times of San Diego.