Alumnus Robert Hartmann believes in the value of education - A story of giving

ROBERT HARTMANN (EE ’65) spent his freshman year of college playing football for Hamline University in St. Paul, Minn. He loved football, but soon realized balancing practices, games, and his course load was difficult. Plus, the expensive private liberal arts college didn’t offer a true engineering degree at the time. He transferred to what was then the University’s Institute of Technology, where he decided to major in electrical engineering.

“I originally thought about civil engineering, but I remember feeling comfortable in a course I took on electrical circuits. I kept thinking, I understand this. I can do this. It’s interesting and intellectually satisfying,” Hartmann said.

After he completed his bachelor’s degree in 1965, Hartmann began his career as a design engineer and design manager at several leading computer chip manufacturers, including North American Rockwell and Fairchild Semiconductor.

Hartmann went on to pioneer the world’s first programmable logic circuit device, providing the technology industry with fast, efficient, high-density applications. He co-founded Altera Corporation, in San Jose, Calif., and holds seven U.S. patents.

“The timing for my degree couldn’t have been better,” said Hartmann. “I feel like I got the right degree at the right time.”

Acknowledging that his college education served him better than he could have ever imagined, Hartmann now gives back to the college that helped to launch his success by creating the Robert F. Hartmann Scholarship Fund and the Robert F. Hartmann Chair in Electrical and Computer Engineering.

“My degree in electrical engineering was life changing, and I wanted to provide an opportunity for others to experience the value of a college education,” Hartmann said. “When I was at the University, tuition was $125 a quarter. I worked my way through college, and I was able to graduate without any debt. That’s impossible today.”

He said funding the scholarship can compensate for some of the tremendous financial burden students experience today.

“Putting money into education is one of the few places where it can have a long-term, perpetual effect,” said Hartmann. “It’s similiar to that quote, ‘teach someone to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime.’ This is the best way I can contribute to society and where it has the most impact.”