Strong History of Generosity Has Helped the Marconi Society Flourish

By Hatti Hamlin

As the Marconi Society approaches its 44thAwards Ceremony this fall in Bologna, we want to honor the long history of generous donations that has sustained and grown our organization’s mission.

The Marconi Society, originally called the Marconi International Federation Council, was first endowed with funds from our founder, Gioia Marconi Braga, and from a wide range of companies that inherited and/or enlarged upon the wireless technology her father created. Motorola, Sony, RCA, Raytheon, IBM, AT&T, Ericsson, Westinghouse, General Electric and GTE were among the companies that initially contributed to the foundation. Many of these companies’ top executives sat on the Marconi board.

Over the years, many other generous donors have helped sustain and grow the Marconi Society. We’re particularly grateful to Paul Baran, who was a longtime board member, officer and generous contributor. In fact, without his support we would undoubtedly have lost most of our endowment during the Great Recession. Dr. Baran, who died in 2011, was an extraordinarily modest individual who did not want his contributions to be publicly acknowledged during his lifetime.

Another key donation came from Dr. Ronald L. Rivest, awarded the 2007 Marconi Prize. He donated a significant portion of his prize to help the society reestablish a program honoring promising young researchers (many years earlier, a Young Scientist program had been discontinued.) The first Marconi Society Young Scholars were selected in 2008 and the program has continued each year since then, honoring three or four Young Scholars each year for a total of 34 so far. These promising researchers are now in academic and research institutions around the world, in leadership roles at major technology companies and starting their own entrepreneurial ventures. Yet they still retain a strong affiliation with the Society, evidenced by their continuing participation in our activities, and their Celestini Program initiative.

Dr. Federico Faggin generously supported the Young Scholar program when he made a major donation to the program in honor of Baran, in 2011. That year, the program was renamed the Paul Baran Young Scholar Award.

In 2014, Arogyaswami Paulraj donated his entire Marconi Prize to the Young Scholar program, helping fund a new Young Scholar initiative, the previously mentioned Celestini Program. This program empowers undergraduate students in developing countries to use technology to solve local problems. Students have built prototypes to reduce maternal mortality in Uganda, to decrease pedestrian traffic fatalities in Delhi, and much more. Since then, key donations by the Samueli Foundation, Google Foundation, Tides Foundation and most recently, Martin Cooper and Arlene Harris, have been used to support several Celestini projects, including fully equipping a research lab at Makarere University in Uganda, providing prizes and internship stipends for students in India, and expanding the program to three new countries: Colombia, Ghana and Rwanda. Over 60 students have had a unique, hands-on experience through this program with many more engaging this summer. Because Young Scholars volunteer their time, this program has been extraordinarily cost-effective.

Over the years, many other Fellows have contributed. We are truly indebted to these donors and to others listed on our website. They are part of a long history of generosity that has allowed the Marconi Society to continue to fulfill and grow its mission of promoting awareness of major innovations in communication theory, technology and applications and how they change and benefit society.