Erna Viterbi left lasting legacy

first_imgErna Viterbi, wife of USC trustee Andrew Viterbi and joint namesake of the Viterbi School of Engineering, died in San Diego on Feb. 17 at the age of 81.“For well over five decades, Erna was Andy’s beloved wife and trusted partner as they built an extraordinary life together,” said President C. L. Max Nikias in a statement released by USC News. “She earned the affection and admiration of everyone in the Trojan Family, and we take comfort in knowing that her remarkable life story will inspire generations of Trojans to come.”Viterbi was born Erna Finci in 1934 to a Jewish family in Sarajevo in the former Yugoslavia, and her family fled to Montenegro during World War II as the German army advanced. The Finci family eventually found refuge in Parma, Italy, and later resided in Switzerland to wait out the war. They finally immigrated to California in 1950.In 1956, she met her future husband, Andrew Viterbi, who was working at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena at the time.In a 2007 interview at the USC engineering school, Andrew said, “Erna was destined to be my wife.” Two years after meeting, the couple married in 1958.Throughout their marriage, Erna was at Andrew’s side as he navigated through the wireless revolution, eventually going on to co-found San Diego-based Qualcomm, a world leader in wireless telecommunications.In 2004, the Viterbi’s donated the historic naming gift of $52 million to the USC engineering school, where Andrew had received his doctorate degree. The Viterbi School of Engineering debuted its new name on March 2, 2004.The Viterbis’ continued generosity to the school and university over the next 10 years contributed to the creation of various scholarships, graduate student fellowships and endowed chairs.Viterbi will be remembered for her leadership and generous contributions to philanthropies all over the world, including the USC Shoah Foundation.Yannis Yortsos, dean of Viterbi School of Engineering, said Erna Viterbi will always be remembered at the school.“[Erna] was a wonderful human being, with great heart, generous spirit, full of optimism, humility and grace,” Yortsos said in a memorandum to Viterbi colleagues. “Her legacy will live on for generations to come in the Viterbi school. And those future generations who will never have the chance to know her, will keep receiving the gifts of her magnanimity and humanity.”She is survived by her husband; her son, Alan; her daughter, Audrey; and numerous grandchildren.A memorial service was held at 2 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 19 in La Jolla, California, and USC will host a celebration of her life in May.Information courtesy of USC News.last_img read more