Professional Achievement Award
DR. JOHN F. WAKERLY, ENG '70
Dr. John Wakerly’s illustrious career is the product of a brain that never stops. Case in point: He has 30-plus patents in telecommunications and networking technology and has authored eight engineering textbooks and more than 50 other publications. He spent 30 years, mostly part time, on Stanford University’s faculty while also juggling high-profile roles in industry, including as chief technology officer of a division at Cisco Systems and co-founder of three startups, one of which was acquired by Google in 2010.
Though John loves teaching, he says the dual track of his career suits his personality. “After working in a university, I was always pulled back to entrepreneurial, small companies by my need to get a dose of sanity. But then I was always pulled back to the academic environment by my desire to get a dose of respect,” he explains.
John says the engineering fundamentals he learned at Marquette prepared him well for graduate school at Stanford and his later career. Three months after arriving at Stanford, John competed in the Electrical Engineering Department’s doctoral qualifying exam and finished in the top 15 percent, with not much more than his Marquette training as preparation.
But Marquette also influenced his life in other ways. “There’s the aspect of chaos theory — the butterfly flapping its wings affecting seemingly disconnected places and events. I met my first wife, Kate Rostenkowski, as a junior at Marquette. If we hadn’t married, my life would have been completely different and probably less successful,” he says.
While splitting his time between Illinois and California, John stays active with Marquette, ranging from his generous support of a wide range of university initiatives to his service on the College of Engineering’s National Advisory Council to personally helping a Marquette intern find housing in Northern California. In his spare time, John serves as president of the Wakerly Family Foundation, which he and his late wife Kate founded in 1996. “I believe in giving back, and the foundation is a good way to do that and to instill a similar sense of sharing and responsibility in my children,” he says.
He continues to work as an independent consultant in the computer and networking technology field. “I think that work is my biggest hobby,” he says. “On the other hand, with family commitments and the like, I no longer have the 50-plus hours a week it takes to be truly committed to one big thing. Instead, I try to leverage my time by sharing my best advice in an advisory role with new entrepreneurs.”
So what is some of his best advice?
“Work hard and be productive. Stay close to family. Don’t take yourself too seriously, and you won’t disappoint yourself. Strive for the very best, but lower your personal expectations. OK, here’s a formula: Perceived Results = Actual Performance minus Expectations,” John explains.