ESM alumnus Howard Witham receives 2016 Outstanding Engineering Alumni Award
Howard Witham (Electrical Engineering, B.S. 1985; Engineering Science, M.S. 1988; Engineering Science and Mechanics, Ph.D. 1993), Vice President of Texas Operations, Qorvo, is one of 12 Penn State alumni to receive a 2016 Outstanding Engineering Alumni Award.
“Computers were all the rage when I came to Penn State,” recalls Howard Witham. “My dream job was to work at IBM.”
Howard was bitten by the “microchip bug” and progressed through his educational career at the University doing research in microelectronics, device physics, and materials science.
By the time he graduated with his doctoral degree, Howard realized that IBM would not be a good fit after all. “They were starting to downsize their chip and hardware business and moving toward software,” he explains.
Instead, Howard accepted a position at STMicroelectronics near Dallas, TX, as a process and development engineer. One of his first assignments was to help with the process development and manufacturing transfer of the inkjet chip for HP.
Howard spent the next 17 years at STMicroelectronics in various engineering and operations management positions, including plant manager of the company’s manufacturing facilities in Ottawa, Canada, and Phoenix, AZ. “At age 36, I was the youngest plant manager in the company. No one wanted to go freeze in Canada,” he jokes.
During those years he was also responsible for the facilities operations of eight STMicroelectronics factories in the United States, Europe, and Asia.
In 2009, STMicroelectronics decided to transfer its chip manufacturing business to Europe and Howard decided it was time to move on. That year, he joined TriQuint Semiconductor (now Qorvo), a global leader in scalable and dynamic RF solutions for mobile, infrastructure, and defense applications, as Vice President for Texas Operations. In this capacity, Howard is responsible for the safety, quality, and financial performance of the company’s wafer fabrication facility in Richardson, TX, which specializes in building chips for major smartphone and defense systems manufacturers and employs more than 1,200 people.
A native of State College, PA, Howard says he is a “poster child” for the way Penn State prepares students for success in their careers. “The engineering science and mechanics department was small enough that the professors knew me and cared about me. That meant a lot and gave me the confidence to go out and succeed in the technical world.”
He lives in Coppell, TX, with his wife, Barbara. They have two kids, Tim and Leah.
For a full list of Outstanding Engineering Alumni Award winners, click here.