UPDATED 14:00 EST / APRIL 19 2019


Alphabet Chairman John Hennessy: still on the front row of innovation

Since his arrival as an assistant professor of electrical engineering on the campus of Stanford University in 1977, John Hennessy has witnessed a lot of technology history.

Hennessy (pictured) went on to become chief architect of Silicon Graphics in the early 1990s, saw the rise of the early packet-switching network ARPANET, which evolved into the internet, and served 20 years as dean of the school of engineering, provost and ultimately president of Stanford during a period when a number of the school’s students founded major tech powerhouses, including Google LLC.

Today, as chairman of Google’s parent company, Alphabet Inc., he’s right there in the front row again.

“We’ve seen wave after wave with Google and Facebook and social media rising,” said Hennessy, co-founder of the Knight-Hennessy Scholars Program. “And now, the rise of artificial intelligence. This is a transformative technology, as big as anything we’ve ever seen in terms of its potential impact.”

Hennessy spoke with Lisa Martin, host of theCUBE, SiliconANGLE Media’s mobile livestreaming studio, during the ACG Silicon Valley GROW! Awards 2019 in Mountain View, California. They discussed the growth and legacy of Silicon Valley innovation and his work to identify and train the leaders of tomorrow (see the full interview with transcript here). (* Disclosure below.)

Yahoo founders’ favorite pizza

It is safe to assume that Hennessy knows transformative technology when he sees it. When Stanford students David Filo and Jerry Yang gave him an early demonstration of a new Web-based services program they had developed called Yahoo, Hennessy came away convinced that it was going to change many lives.

“They showed me that their favorite pizza parlor would now allow orders to-go online,” Hennessy recalled. “When I saw that, I said the World Wide Web was not just about a bunch of scientists and engineers exchanging information, it was going to change our lives. And it did.”

As co-founder, along with Nike Inc. chairman emeritus Phil Knight, of the Knight-Hennessy Scholars Program, Stanford’s former president is seeking to transform the lives of future leaders as well. The program was started in 2016 as an international graduate-level scholarship opportunity that exposed participants to a diverse set of leaders who deal with the world’s complex problems.

“Coming out of an undergraduate experience and often after a few years of work, we can tell a lot more about whether somebody has the potential to be a future leader,” Hennessy said. “Let’s try to recruit and develop a corps of younger people who show that they’re committed to the greater good and who are excellent, innovative and creative. Our investment is in the future.”

Here’s the complete video interview, part of SiliconANGLE’s and theCUBE’s coverage of the ACG Silicon Valley GROW! Awards. (* Disclosure: TheCUBE is a paid media partner for the ACG Silicon Valley GROW! Awards. Neither ACG Silicon Valley, the sponsor for theCUBE’s event coverage, nor other sponsors have editorial control over content on theCUBE or SiliconANGLE.)

Photo: SiliconANGLE

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