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Peggy Aycinena
Peggy Aycinena
Peggy Aycinena is a freelance journalist and Editor of EDA Confidential at She can be reached at peggy at aycinena dot com.

Kaufman Award Dinner: The Equality of Kindness

January 26th, 2017 by Peggy Aycinena

If you were to attend only one Kaufman Award dinner
throughout your career, tonight’s might have been the right choice: a lovely meal in downtown Silicon Valley, and presentations full of warmth, respect, humor and clear-eyed admissions, all in honor of CMU’s Dr. Andrzej Strojwas, long-time CTO at PDF Solutions.

Having interviewed Prof. Strojwas some months ago when he was first named the 2016 Kaufman Award winner, and knowing the event was in the capable hands of the ESD Alliance, this evening’s ambiance was not a complete surprise. But the display of emotion and palpable affection with which Dr. Strojwas is held by colleagues and family was almost mesmerizing.

In fact, as PDF CEO John Kibarian hit his stride at the podium, detailing the lifetime of achievements and leadership at the core of Dr. Strojwas’ award commendation, there could be no looking away.

Kibarian had to regain his composure repeatedly as he spoke of his youth studying at CMU under Prof. Strojwas, where the older gentleman evolved from intellectual mentor espousing a passion for DFM to “almost a father figure” – particularly when Kibarian suffered severe injuries in a bike accident and the Professor insisted the young man push through to restored health.

“Over the decades our friendship has taken on many forms,” Kibarian said, “particularly at PDF Solutions, where it was crucial. He has been a trusted mentor, a friend, a spiritual leader to our engineers, and often as it turns out, he was helping me even before I knew I needed help.”

Kibarian invoked the breadth and depth of Strojwas’ technical innovations – algorithms for lithography, advancements that morphed optical inspection into design for inspection, and most importantly, the establishment of a “bright line between design and manufacturing.”

“First with Prof. Wojciech Maly in Poland and then with Steve Director at CMU, Andrzej showed us how to ride this boundary between design and manufacturing,” Kibarian said. “His pioneering concepts are at [the core] of all leading foundries today.

“Engineers break problems down into smaller ones, hoping to divide and conquer, but DFM runs counter to the way engineers think. It requires thinking about someone else’s problems. Andrzej has always seen bridges where others have seen barriers, and proposed out-of-the-box solutions.”

This is Strojwas’ greatest strength, Kibarian said, his ability to “put forth ideas that seem counter to conventional wisdom. Espousing solutions that combine the elegance of science and math with the messiness of engineering.”

Kibarian said such solutions require persistence – “some might say stubbornness” – which Prof. Strojwas has always had in spades, as well as a “genuine personal touch.”

“Andrzej has often believed in people even more than they believed in themselves,” Kibarian noted.

“He has always puts the good of the collective ahead of the individual engineer. The impact of his work has been a direct result of this collaborative approach – his pursuit of research without borders, in amazing contrast to his having grown up behind the iron curtain.”

As Prof. Strojwas sat at the head of the room, surrounded by his wife, children, grandchildren, and multiple tables full of former PhD students, Kibarian concluded his remarks by addressing the guest of honor directly.

“Andrzej, I am grateful for everything you’ve done for me personally over the last 30 years, and everything you have done for our industry. You have inspired us with your vision for a borderless world, and an astonishing model of how to create it!”

With that, Kibarian surrendered the stage to Cadence CEO Lip-Bu Tan and CEDA Chair Shishpal Rawat, who together presented the Kaufman Award, a clear crystal obelisk, to Dr. Strojwas.

Then it was the Professor’s turn at the podium, where he predicted difficulty in getting through his speech.

“I am in pieces after all of this,” he said.

He succeeded, nonetheless, and spared no praise in thanking CEDA, the ESD Alliance, his wife and family, students, colleagues and friends for their kindness over the course of the evening.

“It is difficult to follow all of the wonderful things that have been said here,” he noted with emotion, while adding to the delight of his audience, “I only wish they were all true!”

“Really, I am amazed by the people in this room. The history of our entire industry is here, the most powerful players, and I am so happy to see so many of my former PhD students. In addition, I admire the towering leadership represented by past recipients of the Kaufman Award. It is an honor to join this club of luminaries.

“But as much as I’ve been really blessed by all of this, I have to recognize the reality that this is a team award recognizing many individuals who contributed to my success over the years.”

Strojwas then recounted at length the details of his professional journey, and the colleagues with whom he has collaborated with over the years – many of whom were in the audience – noting their multiple achievements with pride. He also held nothing back in praising his accomplished wife, their children and spouses.

In concluding, however, Dr. Strojwas returned to his larger audience: “Most of all, I am grateful to this industry and the individuals who have built it.

“The openness with which you have created this industry changed my career forever. I have felt humbled by the love and kindness shown to me.”


Engineering without Borders …

Also mesmerizing this evening at the annual Kaufman Award dinner was the Cavalcade of Nations represented in the honoring of Dr. Strojwas.

Strojwas is Polish born, having come to the U.S. decades ago to teach at CMU. Presenting the Kaufman Award, CEDA Chairman Shishpal Rawat, originally from India, and Cadence CEO Lip-Bu Tan, originally from Malaysia.

The Chairman of the Board of PDF Solutions, Lucio Lanza, was very visible at one of the front tables, Lanza originally from northern Italy. Synopsys CEO Aart de Geus made a cameo appearance during the late-evening magic show, this EDA titan being a son of the Netherlands.

And of course, the central presentation by PDF Solutions CEO John Kibarian, was from a man linked to the Armenian American community.

In witnessing this lovely celebration of engineering, collaboration, and life, imagining there are no countries was not hard to do. Imagining people living in peace was not hard to do. And seeing that all of these people are dreamers, it was easy to believe they are not the only ones.


Editor’s Note …

Skeptics might have felt a magician’s act was not needed to round out this evening’s dinner, but given that Prof. Strojwas had two grandchildren in attendance, the performance was perfect. Magic, actually.


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One Response to “Kaufman Award Dinner: The Equality of Kindness”

  1. […] Kibarian: My talk about Andrzej Strojwas at the Kaufman dinner last fall addressed that issue, and is why I wanted Andrzej to win the award. He is someone who […]

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