2007 Horatio Alger Award Winner
"Success is doing what you love to do and being the very best at it."
Craig Barrett was born in 1939 in San Francisco, where his father worked for Shell Oil Company in their research labs. His mother worked as a nursing assistant. By the time he was seven, Barrett's parents divorced. Three years later, his father died of cancer. "My father introduced me to fishing and instilled in me a great love of the outdoors," says Barrett. "He also triggered my interest in science and technology. Losing him and seeing him so ill in the end was very tough for me."
Barrett's mother remarried when he was 10 and the family moved to a small town near Stanford University. At the time, his step-father worked in the garment industry as a cutter, but later became a hair stylist. During his youth, Barrett worked at several jobs including delivering papers, cutting lawns, and as a stock boy at Macy's. He also worked as a laborer in construction during his summer vacations.
An able student, Barrett did well academically and enjoyed school and sports. He earned a scholarship to Stanford, where he majored in metallurgical engineering. From 1957 to 1964, Barrett earned his Bachelor of Science and Master of Science degrees, as well as a Ph.D. in materials science-a field that allowed him to combine his interests in physics and engineering. As an undergraduate, Barrett worked as a lab assistant.
After graduation, he was awarded a NATO Postdoctoral Fellowship at the National Physical Laboratory in England from 1964 to 1965. When he returned, he joined the faculty of Stanford University in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering, and remained there until 1974, rising to the rank of associate professor.
In 1973, Barrett took a leave of absence from Stanford to work at Intel. He did decide to go back to Stanford as a senior engineer in research in 1974, but almost immediately realized it was a mistake. "That short misstep taught me to be unafraid of opportunity," he says. "I stretched myself and went in a new direction. It was exciting to think I was working for a company on the leading edge of technology. We were bringing products to the marketplace that would change lives and I was happy to be a part of that."
Barrett successfully helped the company become the industry's leader in microprocessor development. He steadily rose through the ranks of Intel, where discoveries in computer chips laid the foundation for modern personal computing. "Technology has changed just about everything-the way we are educated, the way we do commerce, the way we access information, the way we communicate, the way governments interact with their citizens, even the way we work and play has all changed. I'm glad I was in a position to help make that happen."
Barrett is acknowledged by the semiconductor industry as having perfected the process of manufacturing Intel's powerful microprocessors. He served as the company's vice president in 1984 and was promoted to senior vice president in 1987. In 1990, he became executive vice president. He was elected to the Intel Corporation Board of Directors in 1992 and was named the company's chief operating officer in 1993. He became Intel's fourth president in 1997, chief executive officer in 1998, and chairman of the board in 2005. Today, Intel is the largest company of its kind in the world.
Looking back over the options and opportunities that came his way in life, Barrett says, "Education is perhaps the greatest option that you are ever given. It opens more doors than anything else you can do. Once you have that as your foundation, you can build on it for the rest of your life."
For Barrett, who says success is doing what you love to do and being the very best at it, it's important to have balance in life. "My philosophy," he says, "is work hard, play hard." He and his wife, Barbara Barrett, a Horatio Alger member from the class of 1999, enjoy their ranch in Montana as often as possible. He is still a lover of the outdoors.
Honored by his Horatio Alger Award, Barrett says, "America is the land of opportunity. It's the land where if you work hard, you can be successful. The Horatio Alger Association recognizes that. There is no greater task for society than to educate its young people and give them opportunity. That's what this Association stands for and I'm proud to be a part of it. Technology has made this a much smaller, more competitive world. Today, our young people have to compete with peers not only in the United States, but worldwide. It's important to America's success in the future for our young people to be prepared to work hard, to get a good education, and to compete. I'm looking forward to serving as a mentor to help make that happen."