William C. Lindsey

Chairman and CEO, LicCom Corporation
Professor of Electrical Engineering,
University of Southern California
MSEE '59, PhD '62

[William C. Lindsey]

For his entrepreneurial skill, his contributions to the U.S. space program and to wireless communications, and his service to the profession as a professor of electrical engineering, the Schools of Engineering are proud to present the Distinguished Engineering Alumnus Award to William C. Lindsey.

On getting started in electronics

The launching of Sputnik in 1957 really motivated me to study electronic communications. I was a junior at the University of Arkansas at the time, where I helped connect a communication system to track Sputnik and receive its signals. A mentor of mine suggested that I attend graduate school at Purdue, where I had received a Purdue University fellowship. When I discovered that Purdue had courses in communications taught by famous professors, that's where I went.

On his Purdue years

At Purdue, I served as a faculty sponsor in one of the H halls and counseled members of the football team. Dean Smalley had decided that I was tough enough to handle the athletes. In the classroom, Professors George Cooper, John Hancock, and William Hayt had a great influence on me, as did Wilfred Hesselberth and G. E. Happell, who together wrote the famous textbook Engineering Electronics. But throughout my time at Purdue, I kept wondering what I was going to do with this education, which still seemed so abstract to me. I didn't see its relevance to the telecommunications and information technology revolution.

On career highlights

My profession has been an unusual hybrid of academia, entrepreneurship, and technical work. The career highlight that I treasure most was defining the block code used to transmit the first pictures from Mars to Earth. At the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), in 1966, we created algorithms and technology required to establish clock synchronization that allowed us to detect and receive the bits of data that made up the first pictures being transmitted by the Mariner '69 mission. To see images from Mars instilled a feeling of belief in the models and the mathematics of communications science—along with the thrill of being there first. Many innovations were required from many different minds to make that possible.

Founding LinCom Corporation, a telecommunications and information technology company, in 1972 was another highlight. My goal was to convert academic knowledge into practical applications for mankind's use. Other highlights include graduating from Purdue with a PhD at 25, being elected a fellow of the Institute for Electrical and Electronics Engineers early in my career, publishing digital communications textbooks in 1972, 1973, and 1995, being elected to the National Academy of Engineering, being named an Outstanding Electrical Engineer by Purdue, and becoming a full professor at the University of Southern California. Some of my PhD students now hold key positions at JPL and various universities and companies throughout the world, and I'm pleased by that.

These achievements didn’t come for free, by the way. My family sacrificed significantly.

On current concerns

The scientific and technical education of our youth is my biggest concern. American universities are not graduating enough engineers to meet the present and future demand. We need more of our students entering engineering, staying within the field, and getting advanced degrees. From LinCom's perspective, the biggest challenge we face is hiring the people that we need to deliver services and products to our customers. Presently, corporate America is forced to go outside the country to recruit engineering talent. An introduction to engineering concepts should be taught to all students at a very early age. We also need to encourage females to study engineering—possibly by imitating techniques that have been successful in Spain.

IEEE Third Millennium Medal
National Academy of Engineering
Outstanding Electrical Engineer, Purdue University
Navy Award of Recognition
IEEE Certificate for Valued Contributions and Service, L.A. Council
Certificate of Appreciation, DOE/NASA
Fellow, IEEE
Certificate of Appreciation, NASA
1973 & ’74:
Certificates of Recognition, NASA
Outstanding and Dedicated Service Award, International Telemetering Foundation
1972– :
Founder, Chief Executive Officer, and Chairman of the Board, LinCom Corporation
1971 & ’74:
NASA/JPL Paper Awards
Cost Reduction Award, NASA
NASA/JPL Mariner Mars ’69 Project Outstanding Performance Award
1968– :
Professor, Department of Electrical Engineering, University of Southern California
Technical Staff and Research Group Supervisor, Jet Propulsion Laboratory
Phillip Sporn Award
Lecturer, Purdue University
Fellowship, Purdue University
Senior Scholar, University of Arkansas
BSEE '58, University of Arkansas; MSEE '59, PhD '62, Purdue University