Semiconductor Research Corporation
President and Chief Executive Officer
CLASS OF 1962
Larry Sumney remembers when cell phones were the “size of a shoebox and the electronics that accompanied them were the size of an automobile.” Fascinated by this technology, in 1982, he helped create the Semiconductor Research Corporation (SRC), which he has managed for nearly 30 years. As its president and chief executive officer, Sumney has led research resulting in tremendous advances in integrated circuit technology.
SRC has played a significant role in the creation of the complex technology that enables the improvement of products from cell phones and iPods to an array of sophisticated, more efficient military defense systems. For these achievements, President George W. Bush awarded SRC with the National Medal of Technology, an award that previously has been given to Xerox, Bill Gates, and Steve Jobs.
Sumney always was drawn to the sciences in a quest to understand how the world works. As a student at Washington & Jefferson College, he majored in and excelled at physics, even though his favorite professor was Dr. Mitchell in the history department. He spent most of his time studying or working at the local supermarket, but Sumney also found time to join Lambda Chi Alpha fraternity and the W&J band, playing the clarinet.
After graduating from W&J in 1962, Sumney began a 20-year career in the federal government, starting as a research physicist at the Naval Research Laboratory. While there, he was selected as an Edison scholar and went on to attend George Washington University, earning a master’s degree in engineering administration and completing doctoral course work in systems engineering and applied mathematics. His last major assignment was at the Pentagon, where he helped create and manage the multi-million dollar very-high-speed integrated circuit (VHSIC) program.
Sumney advises students just starting their careers in the sciences to follow their interests. “Students tend to think that they have to plan their careers from beginning to end,” he says. “But the key is to do what you enjoy, look for promising opportunities, and your career will evolve from there.” For those not engaged in technology, Sumney encourages them to be curious about how things work. He explains, “That curiosity could be rewarded with fascinating results.”