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Wally Rhines of Mentor Graphics Gets Phil Kaufman Award

By Jeff Dorsch, Contributing Editor

There was a celebrity roast on 4th Street in San Jose, Calif., on Thursday night.

The occasion was the presentation of the annual Phil Kaufman Award to Wally Rhines, chairman and chief executive officer of Mentor Graphics, for his contributions in the field of electronic design automation. Dr. Rhines has served as Mentor’s CEO since 1993 and as chairman of the EDA software and services company since 2000.

The Phil Kaufman Award is presented by the Electronic Design Automation Consortium (EDAC) and the IEEE Council on Electronic Design Automation (CEDA). It honors the memory of Philip A. Kaufman, the EDA industry pioneer, electronics engineer, and entrepreneur, who died in 1992.

Rhines received some gentle ribbing from Craig Barrett, the former Intel chairman and CEO, who once was a Stanford University professor and served on the advisory panel for Rhines’ doctoral thesis.

Barrett said of Rhines, who was a top chip executive at Texas Instruments prior to joining Mentor, “We competed for about 20 years, which is probably why he went to Mentor Graphics.”

He added, “His hairline is receding faster than mine.”

The retired Intel executive later said Rhines’ career has been “fantastic,” adding, “He certainly exceeded all our expectations. You done good, man. Keep it up.”

A video shown before the formal presentation offered Barrett and other top executives showering accolades on Rhines, who turned 69 years old on Wednesday, November 11. Among those praising Rhines were Aart de Geus, chairman and co-CEO of Synopsys, and Lip-Bu Tan, president and CEO of Cadence Design Systems – business rivals and friends.

“He’s actually a cool cat,” de Geus said of Rhines in the video.

In his remarks, Rhines returned the favor to those praising him, saying of de Geus and Tan, “We’ve had enjoyable interactions.

“I’m particularly gratified that my professor, Craig Barrett, came here for my roast,” he said. “He willingly paid for the beer at The Oasis in Menlo Park.”

On a more serious note, Rhines said of Barrett, “He was very critical to my success.”

Rhines recalled the days when chip designers used rubylith sheets to lay out integrated circuits. “We evolved an industry,” he commented. While IC design and layout has become highly automated with EDA software, system design in many industries remains in the rubylith era, Rhines said. He called for a movement to “automate system design the way we automated electronic design.”

The evening drew to a close with a spoof video depicting Rhines as not only a visionary leader in EDA, but also as a race-car mechanic, a sushi chef, and a hair stylist. A good time was had by all.



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