Stephen S. Schwartz

President, CEO, and Chairman
Asyst Technologies Inc.
BSEE ’81, MSEE ’82, PhD ’85

For his outstanding technical and operations management skills, business acumen, leadership, and service to Purdue University, the College of Engineering is proud to present the Distinguished Engineering Alumnus Award to Stephen S. Schwartz.

Romanticizing the Future

“Technology drives everything that we do,” Steve Schwartz says. “The foundations, the fundamentals are critical for every engineer, but the adaptation to other fields of diverse experience and education is just as critical.”

Schwartz should know. After receiving his bachelor’s, master’s, and PhD in electrical engineering from Purdue and an MBA from the University of Chicago, Schwartz’s combination of business acumen and technological know-how has taken him to the top of two Silicon Valley companies.

“I’d always imagined I’d go to Silicon Valley,” he says, “and I can’t tell you why, because I’d never been to California. But as I read, as I explored, as graduates would come back to recruit, there was always this allure of exciting things going on in Silicon Valley. Maybe it was a romantic view, but I always wanted to go there.”

Schwartz, the son of former Purdue engineering dean Dick Schwartz, could afford to romanticize a future which he was almost born into. “My dad was an electrical engineer, so that probably had some influence,” Schwartz says. “It was just a natural thing for me to do.”

But Schwartz was also interested in exploring the business of technology. “I realized the technical work was something I could do,” Schwartz says, “but it wasn’t the be-all-and-end-all for me. I thought, if there was some way for me to combine technology and business, that would be really interesting. When I graduated in the ’80s, the semiconductor industry was starting to be really challenged by Japan, so there were issues beyond simply technology.”

Rising to the Top in Silicon Valley

After receiving his MBA, Schwartz joined Applied Materials, based in Santa Clara, California, in 1987 as a marketing engineer. Now a Fortune 500 global company, Applied Materials is the largest producer of wafer fabrication systems for the worldwide semiconductor industry. By his departure in 2001, he had been named president of Consilium, a subsidiary of Applied Materials.

“It was a lucky match for me,” Schwartz says modestly of his time with Applied Materials, “because I joined a company that was a $150 million-a-year-revenue company, and when I left we were at a run rate of almost $10 billion.”

After leaving Applied Technologies, Schwartz stepped into a senior vice president position with Asyst Technologies in Fremont, California. He had come into the company at a pivotal time. Asyst, Schwartz says, had “slipped behind its market opportunity.” An electronics manufacturer of semiconductor systems, Asyst was in need of an overhaul. An influx of competitors, and changes in semiconductor technology, had eroded Ayst’s market share. It became Schwartz’s job to upgrade their market presence.

Within a year, Schwartz had been promoted to Executive Vice President of the company. By 2002, he had once again received another promotion to President and Chief Executive Officer. In 2003 he replaced the company founder as Chairman of the Board. A $260 million company with 880 employees in the U.S., Europe, and Asia, Asyst markets its products to both the world’s top 20 chipmakers and the world’s top 20 semiconductor equipment companies—companies such as Intel and Toshiba—and is the top manufacturer of its kind in the world.

“More than anything, my training as an engineer has helped me,” Schwartz says. “It was interesting to go to business school, but that was a broadening experience; even today, while I’m a long way from the technologies, I trade on the skills that I received at Purdue every day.”


And Schwartz has made the effort to pay back his alma mater.

While he was at Applied Technologies, he was a Purdue University Campus Champion, through a program that recruits new engineering graduates into the industry. “We had eight top universities that we targeted for new college engineering graduates,” Schwartz says. “It was great because Purdue was one of a pretty select group of places that we went to get new college grads.”

Schwartz is also the lead donor for the Silicon Valley Professorship, and he is a sponsor of the school’s Silicon Valley Technical Exchange Program.

2003- Chairman, Asyst Technologies
2002- President, CEO, and Member of the Board of Directors, Asyst Technologies
2001- Executive Vice President, Asyst Technologies
2001- Senior Vice President, Product Groups and Operations, Asyst Technologies
1999- President, Consilium, an Applied Materials Company;
Outstanding Electrical and Computer Engineer Award, Purdue
1998- Vice President and General Manager, Service Business, Applied Materials
1997- General Manager, Installed Base Support Services Division, Applied Materials
1992-97 General Manager, High-Temperature Films Division, Applied Materials
1989-92 Product Manager, Applied Materials
1987-89 Marketing Engineer, Epitaxial Products Division, Applied Materials

BSEE ’81, MSEE ’82, PhD ’85, Purdue University
MBA ’87, University of Chicago