For Virginia Tech alumnus Steve Mollenkopf, insatiable curiosity has been a catalyst for success. As the CEO of Qualcomm Inc., he is at the helm of a multibillion dollar worldwide corporation that is transforming the digital telecommunications industry.  

In recognition of his extraordinary career accomplishments, Mollenkopf will receive Virginia Tech’s University Distinguished Achievement Award for 2019.

The award, which recognizes nationally distinguished achievements in any field of enduring significance to society, is presented at University Commencement each year.

A native of Baltimore, Maryland, Mollenkopf earned his bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from Virginia Tech in 1992. As an undergraduate student, he participated in a research group, an experience that ultimately led him to pursue graduate studies at the University of Michigan, where he earned a master’s degree in 1994.

That same year, Mollenkopf began his Qualcomm career as an engineer, moving across the country to join the company.

For more than 24 years, Mollenkopf has helped define and implement the strategy and technologies of the San Diego, California-based company, which has grown to be among the Fortune 500.

Since becoming CEO in 2014, Mollenkopf has worked to help Qualcomm expand and diversify its product portfolio and to drive the development and launch of 5G technologies to revolutionize communications.

From 2011 to 2014, Mollenkopf served as Qualcomm’s president and chief operating officer (COO), overseeing investment in technologies that propelled smartphones into the mainstream.

Prior to his roles as president and COO, Mollenkopf led the company’s chipset business, managing the launch of 4G technology. His efforts contributed to Qualcomm’s climb to recognition as the world’s largest mobile chipset supplier and a global leader in LTE (Long Term Evolution) technology.

Mollenkopf also spearheaded the company’s largest acquisition, the $3.1 billion purchase of chipmaker Atheros, a deal that accelerated the adoption of Qualcomm’s technologies and platforms in new segments.

Mollenkopf, a published IEEE author, is an inventor listed on 38 patents in areas that include power estimation and measurement, multi-standard transmitters, and wireless communication transceiver technology. He serves as chairman of the Technology CEO Council, and he is a member of the Business Council, a board member for the Semiconductor Industry Association, and a past chairman of the Global Semiconductor Alliance.

During his time at Virginia Tech, Mollenkopf competed on the lacrosse team. He was also selected for student membership in the electrical engineering honor society.

In 2015, Mollenkopf was named to the university’s Academy for Engineering Excellence.

In 2016 Qualcomm partnered with Virginia Tech to open the Qualcomm Thinkabit Lab at the university’s Northern Virginia Center in Falls Church. The Thinkabit Lab is an engaging learning environment — part lab, makerspace, and classroom — for teachers and students.

Hokie spirit runs in Mollenkopf’s family. His brother, Jim Mollenkopf, of Fairfax, Virginia, graduated in 1987 with a degree in electrical engineering, and his wife, Susan Thurston Mollenkopf, earned a business degree in 1991.

The Mollenkopfs live in San Diego California. They have two daughters.

— Written by Erica Stacy