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In Memoriam—Michael Hackworth

Monday, Apr. 23, 2012

The Ethics Center mourns the death of Silicon Valley entrepreneur and major supporter Michael Hackworth this weekend.  Hackworth, who had been chairman of the board and CEO of Cirrus Logic, was a respected philanthropist.  When he won the Silicon Valley Lifetime Achievement Award from the Silicon Valley Leadership Group in 2010, the citation summed up his many achievements: "impeccable ethics, business excellence and community engagement."

Hackworth was an important contributor to the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics, where he served as chairman of our Advisory Board for 12 years.  Hackworth and his wife Joan endowed several of the programs that are at the heart of the Center's work at Santa Clara University, where Hackworth did his bachelor's in electrical engineering.

The Hackworth Family has suggested that donations in Michael Hackworth's memory can be made to the Michael Hackworth Memorial Fund at the Ethics Center.  Select Michael Hackworth Memorial Fund from the designation drop-down menu.

The Hackworth Fellowships support three SCU seniors annually in providing ethics programming for their peers.  Hackworth Fellows have spearheaded projects to write a code of ethics and values for student government; to hold panels and lectures on ethics in areas from friendship to sports; and to conduct research on topics from immigration to sexuality.  In celebration of that program's tenth anniversary this year, the Center created a Facebook page for former fellows.  Noelle Lopez, a fellow from 2008-09, went on to a Rhodes Scholarship and is now pursuing her Ph.D. in philosophy at Oxford.  She writes, "What really keeps me grounded and motivated in my academic study is reflection on my time at SCU, doing what I like to think of as 'philosophical field work'--exploring timeless questions on the ground and in community, engaging in critical reflection on those forces that shape our lives but too often go unchallenged."

The Hackworth Endowment also supports grants for students and faculty involved in research on applied ethics.  This year, for example, grants went to Communication Department faculty member Jonathan Fung for a film on sex trafficking, and to the School of Law's Kathleen "Cookie" Ridolfi for the creation of a prosecutorial ethics curriculum.

Hackworth was a 40-year veteran of the semiconductor industry, working for Motorola, Fairchild Semiconductor, and Signetics Corp., all of which fostered his spirit of innovation and led him to co-found Cirrus Logic, Inc., where he served as Chairman of the Board, and President and CEO.

Upon his “retirement,” he continued to participate actively on several boards, and he loved to consult and provide advice for entrepreneurs.  He embraced a leadership role at the Tech Museum in San Jose, CA, as interim president in early 2011.   He was the recipient of numerous awards, including the Ernst and Young Semiconductor Entrepreneur of the Year (1990).

A native of San Mateo, CA, he spent his first five years in Atwood, Kansas, where, he fondly remembered, the farm and extended family supported him and his mom while his father served in the military (WWII). His mother raised him with a strong work ethic.

He brought the values of hard work and community service, along with an unerring sense of optimism and commitment to ethics, to a number of local non-profits, including the Tech Museum, San Jose Ballet Silicon Valley, the Symphony, Montalvo Arts Center, the Santa Clara County Children’s Shelter, the Second Harvest Food Bank, and the Silicon Valley Charity Ball.

Hackworth’s board service was equally wide-ranging and diverse. He served on the Board of Fellows at Santa Clara University in addition to the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics at Santa Clara University,

Hackworth is survived by his wife Joan; three siblings, Arthur, Richard, and Diane; two daughters, Lauren and Julie; step-son, Eric; and five grandchildren.