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Story in the School of Engineering

Hackworth  photo

Michael Hackworth '63

Engineering major, Chairman of board at Cirrus Logic
At a glance:

Applying ethics to the real world set this engineering graduate up for success.

When Michael Hackworth ’63 received the 2010 Spirit of Silicon Valley Lifetime Achievement Award from the Silicon Valley Leadership Group, it recognized a lifetime of "impeccable ethics, business excellence, and community engagement," including service to Santa Clara University. Mike and his wife Joan (SCU honorary degree ’99), who shared the award, have been major influences at SCU, and, in turn, credit the university for helping to sustain their commitment to ethics.

A co-founder of Cirrus Logic, Hackworth posted the Framework for Ethical Decision Making developed by University’s Markkula Center for Applied Ethics on his office wall. Now chairman of the board at Cirrus, Hackworth remains committed to creating a culture of ethics in organizations. "Unfortunately, very few executives have a structured and formalized ethical decision-making process that is defined as company policy or that is anywhere near the simple but sophisticated model provided by the Ethics Center," he said.
Hackworth, who is chairman of the Advisory Board of the Ethics Center, recently was interviewed by the National Association of Corporate Directors-Silicon Valley for a video about the board’s role in building an ethical culture. The Hackworths support student fellowships and research grants on applied ethics for SCU students and faculty through the Center.
A graduate of SCU’s School of Engineering, Hackworth serves on the school’s Industry Advisory Board. He has had a 45-year career as a high tech senior executive leader, with industry leaders such as Motorola, Fairchild and Philips semiconductor. He helped grow Cirrus Logic into over $1billion in annual revenue in ten years time, earning the company a place in the 1997 Deloitte & Touche /Joint Venture: Silicon Valley Network list of the “Silicon Valley Fast 50.” Special recognition was given to the fourteen companies that placed in the “Fast 50” for three consecutive years. With nearly 600 percent revenue growth over the 1992-96 period, Cirrus Logic ranked tenth in this distinctive group. Ernst & Young also recognized his management acumen in 1990 when he was named Semiconductor Entrepreneur of the Year.
To Hackworth, the responsibility for setting the ethical tone of an organization rests with senior executives. In an article for the Ethics Center’s publication, Issues in Ethics, he wrote, “To encourage employees to act on principle, an organization must be led by a chief executive who actually makes decisions not only within business and legal boundaries but also within ethical boundaries. In other words, the staff must see that the boss is willing to accept ethical behavior as a constraint or a cost. They have to see employees recognized and promoted who have modeled ethical behavior even at a short-term cost to the bottom line. And they have to know that those who have behaved unethically will be fired or otherwise appropriately held accountable for their behavior.”

Silicon Valley is known for its rough and tumble, high performance, innovative culture that sometimes creates pressures and temptations that lead to unethical and illegal business activity. In contrast, Jim Balassone, executive-in-residence at the Ethics Center, says, “Mike has a reputation for striving to ‘do the right thing’ among those who have worked for, with, and around him. No human is perfect, but that is Mike’s goal and he often achieves it.”

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