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UC San Diego Alumnus, Qualcomm Co-Founder and Philanthropist, Franklin Antonio, Has Died

The university’s Franklin Antonio Hall was named in honor of the alumnus’ $30 million donation


  • Jade Griffin

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  • Jade Griffin

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Franklin Antonio, a University of California San Diego alumnus from 1974, co-founder of Qualcomm and generous philanthropist, has died.

Antonio gave $30 million to UC San Diego in 2017 to support the programmatic expansion of the UC San Diego Jacobs School of Engineering. In recognition of the gift, UC San Diego named Franklin Antonio Hall – a new building for collaborative engineering research and education which recently opened – in his honor. He was the first member of UC San Diego’s alumni to have a building bear his name.

“We are deeply saddened to learn of the passing of Franklin Antonio,” said Chancellor Pradeep K. Khosla. “Franklin’s dedication and involvement with UC San Diego went far beyond his generous financial support. He was a good friend who provided wise counsel and an excellent mentor to many of our students and community members. He will be greatly missed, but his impact on UC San Diego and the world will continue through the collaborative research and innovation that will happen at Franklin Antonio Hall.”

Last year, Antonio was honored by UC San Diego as the 2021 Outstanding Alumni, one of the highest UC San Diego honors celebrating alumni who, through their distinguished work, have demonstrated Triton spirit and brought honor to the university.

"I will miss Franklin greatly. He was a true visionary and a brilliant engineer," said Albert P. Pisano, dean of the UC San Diego Jacobs School of Engineering. "His generosity and collaboration were remarkable. Franklin and I connected on a deep understanding of the importance of creating an engineering building that puts the student experience first by baking the circulation of people and ideas into the design of the building."

Antonio was a co-founder of Qualcomm, where he served as the company’s chief scientist. He graduated from UC San Diego with a bachelor’s degree in Applied Physics and Information Science in 1974. After college, he worked at Linkabit for 12 years before joining Irwin Jacobs, Andrew Viterbi and four others to create Qualcomm in 1985.

Antonio led the growth of Qualcomm’s engineering departments, served as project engineer for its OmniTRACS satellite communication system and contributed to Qualcomm’s code division multiple access (CDMA) technology and Globalstar low-Earth-orbit satellite system. He provided strategic technical guidance and engineering mentoring across all of Qualcomm’s engineering programs. He held 378 granted and pending patents worldwide.

“Franklin's intelligence, curiosity, drive, energy and determination will always be with us,” said Pisano. “I'm humbled by Franklin's generosity, and I'm determined to carry forward his vision by making sure the research ecosystem we create in the building with his name on it truly changes the world for the better.”

This vision will be carried forward in UC San Diego's new building, Franklin Antonio Hall, named for the generous alumnus. It is approximately 200,000-square-feet, designed from the ground up to facilitate cross-discipline collaborations that are critical for solving the toughest health, wireless communications, energy and computing challenges.

Thirteen collaborative research spaces, or “collaboratories,” make up the heart of Franklin Antonio Hall. Each collaboratory will house multiple professors, and their respective research groups. The building was designed with the idea that co-locating diverse yet complementary research groups will encourage the interdisciplinary systems-level collaborations necessary for solving the toughest challenges facing humanity.

In addition to supporting the Jacobs School of Engineering, Antonio provided ongoing support to the UC San Diego School of Physical Sciences focused on the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI). Associate professor and astrophysicist Shelley Wright is building the Pulsed All-sky Near-infrared Optical SETI (PANOSETI), an observatory with a unique optical design that uses hundreds of Fresnel lens similar to mirrors found in a lighthouse to search for lasers, or light. An expert in technology and project management on a large scale, Antonio also provided guidance on the project, in addition to financial support.

"Franklin Antonio will be deeply missed by our UC San Diego lab and PANOSETI team members,” said Wright. “His intellectual contributions to the PANOSETI program have been pivotal, and his deep thinking and engineering capabilities were unmatched. It was our team’s honor to be able to work with him directly.”

Dean of the School of Physical Sciences Steven E. Boggs added: “Franklin Antonio had a deep passion for fundamental science, especially the forefront of experimental astrophysics. I was moved by his commitment to volunteer his time and experience in engineering to directly participate in astrophysics research on campus. I enjoyed our conversations about the universe, especially the frontiers we have yet to explore. His friendship and partnership will be missed by our physical sciences community.”

“It’s been fun to watch the incredible growth and evolution of UC San Diego since my graduation,” said Antonio in 2017. “I’m privileged to be a small part of it.”

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