Oregon State University alum Jen-Hsun Huang has been named Fortune Magazine’s Businessperson of the Year. Huang, who received his undergraduate degree in electrical engineering from Oregon State in 1984, is the founder, president and chief executive officer of NVIDIA, the world leader in visual, mobile and parallel computing.
Fortune has given Huang the honor due to his leadership taking NVIDIA to a market value of $125 billion, as well as the company’s key role in developing artificial intelligence technologies. NVIDIA’s chips power gaming devices and artificial intelligence devices that run self-driving cars, among other things.
Huang immigrated with his family from Taiwan as a child.
“I loved going to school (in Kentucky) and it’s where I first learned about America,” he said. “I didn’t speak much English at first, but I caught up, worked hard and learned that sometimes, you have to keep your eyes open and be willing to do more than act tough.”
Once he and his brother rejoined their family in Oregon, he became a nationally ranked junior table tennis champion and completed high school in Beaverton. As a freshman at Oregon State University, his lab partner in electrical engineering fundamentals was Lori Mills; they were married five years later. After receiving a bachelor’s of science from OSU in 1984, he earned a master’s degree in electrical engineering from Stanford in 1992, which he completed while working full time.
“I enjoyed computers growing up, but OSU opened up my eyes to the magic behind them,” he said. “This is where I really fell in love with technology, thanks to a few great professors and some classes that set my mind on fire. Everything I have learned over the past decades is built on the strong foundation I gained here.”
After initial jobs at LSI Logic and Advanced Micro Devices, Huang co-founded NVIDIA on his 30th birthday with Chris Malachowsky and Curtis Priem. The company’s best known innovation is the graphics processing unit or GPU, which was initially used in computer gaming, where it enabled the creation of spectacularly immersive worlds.
“I’m deeply proud of how NVIDIA has transformed the visual, mobile and supercomputing fields,” he said. “But what makes me most proud is the culture of relentless innovation we’ve created. It allows us to attract and inspire some of the world’s greatest engineers. And it keeps us focused on finding solutions to really difficult challenges so that we can contribute to society as a whole.”
In addition to his honorary doctorate from OSU, Huang has received the Dr. Morris Chang Exemplary Leadership Award from the Global Semiconductor Association; and the Daniel J. Epstein engineering Management Award from the University of South California. He was one of the first inductees in the U.S. Immigrant Hall of Fame on its establishment in 2012.