Michael J. Birck

For his outstanding vision and leadership as an engineer and entrepreneur, the Schools of Engineering are proud to present, for Distinguished Engineering Alumnus Award, Michael J. Birck.

President and Chief Executive Officer
Tellabs, Inc.
BSEE `60

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After graduation Mr.Birck joined the technical staff of AT&T Bell Laboratories, and later worked for Continental Telephone Laboratories and Wescom, Inc., before founding Tellabs, Inc., in 1975. He has been its president and chief executive officer since then. The company began as a manufacturer of voice frequency modules and has become a world leader in the production of voice and data networking products. Some of the company's major products include software-controlled digital cross-connect systems, network management systems, and comprehensive digital multiplexers used in networks incorporating voice, data, and video transmission. The firm's corporate headquarters and research and development facilities are located in Lisle, Illinois, with manufacturing sites in Lisle as well as Puerto Rico, Texas, and Ireland.


  • "There's no question that Purdue provided a sound technical foundation," says Mr. Birck. "But the school also gave me a real sense of confidence."


  • "I grew up in a small farming community and there were only 11 people in my high school graduating class. I remember I wasn't pressed to excel instantly at Purdue. The environment was competitive bet we were encouraged to be creative and not narrow in our approach to problem solving. That kind of educational environment encourages independent thinking."

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His advice for the freshman engineer:

"It's important to get a thorough grounding in more than your technical areas. Think about what interests you in addition to these areas, and use the opportunity of your time at Purdue to pursue them. Learn how to express yourself both in writing and orally."