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October 16, 2012

James and Anna Marie Spilker pledge $28 million to Stanford University

The gift from the GPS pioneer and his wife, a real estate investor, will name The James and Anna Marie Spilker Engineering and Applied Sciences Building in the Science and Engineering Quad and endow a professorship in the School of Engineering.

By Andrew Myers

Anna Marie Spilker and James J. Spilker Jr. (Photo: Steve Castillo / Courtesy of Stanford University)

James J. Spilker Jr., a Stanford School of Engineering alumnus and consulting professor, and his wife, Anna Marie Spilker, a real estate broker and investor, have pledged $28 million to Stanford University, the university announced today.

The gift will name The James and Anna Marie Spilker Engineering and Applied Sciences Building and endow a professorship in the School of Engineering. The building is one of four new structures in the Science and Engineering Quad.

"The James and Anna Marie Spilker Engineering and Applied Sciences Building will be among the top technical facilities in the nation, if not the world. This shared facility is a focal point of interdisciplinary research at Stanford and key to the future of technology development here," said James Plummer, the John M. Fluke Professor of Electrical Engineering and the Frederick Emmons Terman Dean of the School of Engineering.

The 100,000-square-foot James and Anna Marie Spilker Engineering and Applied Sciences Building houses research at the atomic scale with applications that range from new drugs to novel semiconductors to improved communications networks to water purification.

"Anna Marie and I believe strongly that America’s ability to compete in the 21st century – even more so than the 20th – will depend critically on our ability to innovate and excel in science and engineering," James Spilker said. "Many jobs of the past century are gone. This gift is an effort to ensure that one of America’s great research institutions retains the leadership it has enjoyed for decades."

Before joining the Stanford faculty in 2001 as consulting professor of electrical engineering and aeronautical/astronautical engineering, James Spilker was co-founder, CEO and chairman of Stanford Telecommunications, a company he helped build from three to more than 1,300 employees without aid of venture capital funding.

The company specialized in digital communications and application-specific integrated circuit (ASIC) design. William J. Perry, professor emeritus of management science and engineering, was Spilker’s mentor during much of that time.  The company was acquired in 1999 when a consortium of Intel, Alcatel, Flextronics and ITT Industries purchased Stanford Telecommunications.

In 2005, James Spilker co-founded a company called AOSense in Sunnyvale, Calif., with Brent Young and Mark Kasevich, a Stanford professor of physics and of applied physics. AOSense designs and builds gravity and inertial sensors.

Earlier in his career, James Spilker was a central figure in the development of the Global Positioning System (GPS). In the 1960s, he authored and co-authored papers on signal timing technology that made possible the precision tracking of satellites necessary for GPS.

In the 1970s, working for then-Col. Bradford Parkinson – the driving force behind GPS at the Pentagon and eventually a Stanford professor of aeronautics and astronautics – Spilker contributed to the original GPS architecture and analyses and design of the GPS civil signal structure that now serves almost 2 billion users. In 2005, he co-founded the Stanford University Center for Position, Navigation and Time, continuing to work on satellite navigation.

Anna Marie Spilker received her bachelor’s degree in economics in 1968 at the University of California-Santa Cruz and her MBA from California State University-East Bay in 1977. She is a licensed real estate broker and the founder and president of New Pacific Investments Inc. She has been a highly successful real estate investor and manager in Silicon Valley.

James Spilker has been elected to the National Academy of Engineering, the Air Force GPS Hall of Fame and the Silicon Valley Engineering Hall of Fame, and is a Life Fellow of the IEEE and a Fellow of the Institute of Navigation. As one of the originators of GPS, James Spilker shared in the Goddard Memorial Trophy.

He is the author of Digital Communications by Satellite, published by Prentice Hall and in its ninth printing, and co-author and co-editor with Bradford Parkinson of the two-volume Global Positioning System (GPS)—Theory and Application, published by the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA). That book won the Summerfield Book Award presented by the AIAA.

Taking stock of Stanford’s outstanding facilities and faculty, the Spilkers say that today’s students have many exciting opportunities before them. "They have within their grasp the ability to create technologies that can change the world or to found new companies that can employ thousands," James Spilker said. "Most important, if they truly love what they do, they have the key catalyst for success."

"The Spilker building unites state-of-the-art research technology and cutting-edge laboratory and teaching facilities," Plummer said. "The faculty and students for decades to come will use this facility to drive technology innovation that will change the world. We owe a sincere debt of gratitude to the Spilkers for making this possible."

Andrew Myers is associate director of communications for the Stanford University School of Engineering.



Jamie Beckett, School of Engineering: (650) 736-2241, [email protected]


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