Pictured above, Levy at Birthplace of Silicon Valley, Mountain View, CA
On Sunday, 24 September 2023, Levy Gerzberg woke up early to make the trip from his home in Los Altos, California, to San Francisco’s Aquatic Park on the bay. It was a trip he had made ninety-nine times before, and today would be his 100th open-water swim from the infamous Alcatraz Island. More often than not, he has completed the 1.5 to 2-mile swim to benefit a charitable cause. His 100th swim was in loving memory of his late father. On 18 November 2023, Levy did his 101st swim with 48 other swimmers to support 13 universities in their collaborative research coordinated by Stanford in pediatric oncology, known as POETIC (Pediatric Oncology Experimental Therapeutics Investigators’ Consortium).
Levy (pronounced “leh-VEE”) took up open-water swimming in 2011 after he retired from an illustrious scientific engineering and business career. His dedication to completing one of the most challenging open-water swims – many times over and for charity – during his “leisure” years perfectly encapsulates his character. Levy, now 78 years old, loves a challenge, especially one that, when completed, can have a “return on impact” and make the world a better place.
His desire to have a “return on impact” was one of the driving factors around his initiation of and contribution to support the IEEE SSCS-James D. Meindl Memorial Educational Fund. The other driving force was his respect for his mentor, Professor, and colleague, James D. Meindl.
“I can single out Jim Meindl as being one of those very special individuals, who made an enduring impression on many people,” shared Levy. “I think he really needs to be recognized for his achievements and long-lasting impact that reverberates even now.”
Levy was born in Israel and attended the Technion, Israel’s Institute of Technology. After earning his bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering and a master’s in bioengineering, he moved to the United States in 1972 to work on his Ph.D. at Stanford University.
“I looked for universities in the United States. I didn’t really know anything about Stanford but heard and read about the integrated circuits lab. I learned the lab was looking to integrate disciplines and other systems like medicine, and I knew I had to be there,” recalls Levy.
While at Stanford, he overlapped with several fellow Meindl Memorial Educational Fund donors, James Plummer, T.J. Rodgers, Krishna Saraswat, Richard Swanson, Nicky Lu, Roger Melen, and other Ph.D. students of the groundbreaking Professor Meindl. The relationship that Levy began with Professor Meindl in 1972 lasted five decades until Meindl’s passing in 2020. Levy and other Meindl students and partners have stayed in touch over the years, with the Meindl family, who have supported and encouraged the IEEE Meindl Memorial Educational Fund.
“I started as Jim’s Ph.D. student, and then eventually became his Associate Director of the Stanford Electronics Lab, and later, for nearly three decades continued to collaborate with Jim Meindl as one of the board members in the company Zoran, which I co-founded out of Stanford in late 1981” recollects Levy. “Working alongside him at Stanford over a decade, Jim instilled in me that everything you do – even very basic research – must have a useful purpose and need.”
Professor Meindl, as described by Levy, could excite and inspire students in a unique way. He had a way of creating space for collaborative work and enticing his students to pursue promising new ideas. He often worked with his students in groups, encouraging cross-sharing and exploration. Levy recalls a time when Meindl challenged his then-Ph.D. students to spend a week coming up with three new ideas to share in his research group meeting. The most promising, Meindl stated, would be included in a multi-million-dollar NIH grant proposal.
This tendency to challenge and nurture while encouraging teamwork often resulted in Meindl’s students taking their ideas to the industry and launching successful companies. Levy was one of many Meindl students who followed this path.
During the 1980s, Levy co-founded Zoran Corporation, which Jim Meindl joined as a board director in 1985 for nearly three decades. The company began working on integrating the digital signal processing components of electronic systems onto a single silicon chip. Levy quickly realized the broader applications this technology might have beyond the company’s initial medical, industrial, and government markets. This idea led to Zoran’s design of single silicon chips for the world’s first fully digital camera and the market permeation of the company’s Camera-On-A-Chip (COACH).
Levy oversaw the expansion of the company’s technology to use in the fledgling DVD player market. The late Ray Dolby of Dolby Digital was looking for a way to bring surround sound to a consumer’s home and integrate it into the developing standards of DVD technology. Levy publicly said Zoran could develop the technology within a year. One year and one day later, the Zoran-Dolby Chip was successfully launched and went on to be embedded in most of the DVD players and TV processors that have Dolby Digital surround sound capability. Zoran has pioneered directly and via acquisitions of other popular consumer electronics markets Systems On A Chip (SOCs). Together, Levy and the Zoran Corporation have won numerous industry awards, and he acknowledges Meindl’s contributions leading to such groundbreaking achievements.
“Jim Meindl deserves to be remembered for many generations to come,” explains Levy. “I learned from Jim that innovation can be both proactive and mentored. By supporting the IEEE Foundation and Meindl Fund, we are keeping Jim’s memory alive – encouraging future leaders and educators to adopt Jim’s collaborative, interdisciplinary model for education and invention of new ideas.”-Levy Gerzberg
The Meindl Memorial Educational Fund was established to honor his integrative approach to the education and inclusion of young students. The Fund recognizes and encourages the future leaders of the IEEE Solid-State Circuits Society and seeks to increase excitement about the solid-state circuits’ profession amongst young people.
Currently, Levy serves on several charity boards including the Consumer Technology Association Foundation, the Rambam Healthcare Hospital, and his own, the Gerzberg Family Foundation. He has 10 issued patents and has authored nearly 50 publications (many with Meindl). He encourages individuals who share Meindl’s values of innovation and collaboration like he does to donate to this fund and enjoy the “return on impact” their generosity creates.
Utilizing his Family Foundation and IRA funds to give to the IEEE Foundation was an excellent way to honor his mentor and keep his goals alive. Learn how to make the same impact! Give Today!