George Perlegos

Atmel Corporation
Alumni Profiles

The Hellenic ethos is characterized by exploration, curiosity, and courage. In 1962, George Perlegos and his family sailed, from the Ancient World's perspective, to the edge of the world and beyond, leaving behind home, Tripolis, Greece. Eventually settling in Lodi, California, Perlegos' father and mother started a grape farm and began a new life with their three sons.

After high school, Perlegos attended San José State, choosing to study medicine. But, after two years, his attention was attracted to something else newly on the horizon: semiconductors. As a young college student, Perlegos' critical instincts sensed that all the "noise" being made about this new field was not to be ignored. So, too, did Perlegos' older brother, Gust, who promptly transferred to San José State and studied Electrical Engineering.

Working in Silicon Valley after graduation only whetted Perlegos' intellectual curiosity, and he returned to school, pursuing his graduate degree in Electrical Engineering at Stanford. Before completing his Ph.D. he returned to industry, working at Intel and then helping found SEEQ Technology.

In pursuit of cutting-edge chip design, Perlegos started Atmel Corporation in 1984. The story of his personal investment of $30,000 into Atmel and its financial success since its inception, earning $1.8 billion in revenue in 2006, have made the company's history legendary.

One of the reasons for the company's strength has been its investment in research and development, designing and manufacturing a wide variety of semiconductors. This strategy, among others, has helped Atmel remain competitive.

Perlegos' entrepreneurial spirit has continually pushed the boundaries of technological ingenuity, taking him to new frontiers. In "Ithaca," the Greek poet Constantinos Cavafy advises the voyager of life to savor the journey, not the destination, for the journey's the goal; it is everything one seeks. Voyagers like Perlegos, who undertake journeys again and again, do so because, in the spirit of Cavafy, they love the process of discovery.

My family realized that to be something we had to succeed in education. We worked on the farm, and it was very difficult. I also worked in my parents' grocery store, but I wanted a change. I wanted to get an education and become something. It was always my dream and my parents' dream that we finish school and go on to do something different, so I left everything behind.