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Apple Co-Founder Steve Wozniak Named Inaugural Speaker for the Muma College of Business Thought Leader Series

By Keith Morelli

Steve Wozniak

Photo by Dianna Bonner

Due to overwhelming response, the Steve Wozniak event was moved to the USF Sun Dome.

TAMPA (November 15, 2017) -- As thought leaders go, you can't get much headier than Steve Wozniak, co-founder of Apple, philanthropist and entrepreneur and now, the inaugural speaker at the Muma College of Business Thought Leader Series, scheduled for Feb. 20 on the Tampa campus.

The series was established to draw nationally recognized speakers, innovators, idea generators, entrepreneurs, philanthropists, authors and "turn-around artists" in business and industry.

The topics Wozniak will discuss likely will vary widely. He certainly is qualified to talk about important tech issues in this age, such as the role of artificial intelligence and privacy, and on the business side of things, the need for entrepreneurship and how together, business and marketing – along with engineering capabilities – can make a mark with any company, especially one centered on technology.

In past lectures, he has talked about the future, what role technology will play down the road, what to expect next, what innovation may look like 10, 20, 50 years from now.

Who exactly is Steve Wozniak? Here are some clues:

Besides being the driving engineering force behind Apple, Wozniak also has been known to cut quite a rug on "Dancing with the Stars," even though he lost out, perhaps in part because of a pulled hamstring and fractured foot. But, with the pink feather boa he wore at the outset of that peppy little Argentinian tango, he should have been given points for audacity.

He's a big guy with a big smile who does huge things; things that are outside his comfort zone like opening up his own university for computer geeks. That's his new project, Woz U, a digital institute sharing the knowledge of how to navigate a keyboard and work a mouse to find new ways across cyberspace.

Forty years ago, he was the engineering genius who came up with the first line of personal computers, which evolved into devices that almost everyone uses today.

Throughout the development of Apple as a groundbreaking technology company, most of the attention was on Wozniak's fellow co-founder, Steve Jobs. So, lost in the media glare was the fact that Wozniak was the sole inventor of the Apple I, the first home computer that used a keyboard and screen, and Apple II, the first model to use color graphics and understand a computer language.

But, Wozniak is more than just an electrical engineer, programmer and entrepreneur. He is a philanthropist, who once gave about $100 million worth of Apple stock to coworkers he felt got stiffed by the company. He has donated laptops to school districts, online accounts and Internet access to countless students and teachers.

After making millions from his devices in the 1980s, Wozniak returned to the University of California-Berkley under the name Rocky Raccoon Clark to avoid publicity. That actually is the name on his diploma. He also racked up such ridiculously high scores on Tetris that Nintendo Power magazine refused to print them under his name. His solution, play under the name Evets Kainzow (hold that up to a mirror).

Now, he's coming to USF to deliver a keynote speech, or rather take part in an informal conversation with Muma College of Business Dean Moez Limayem in front of thousands in the USF Sun Dome. Initially the event was to have taken place in the Oval Theater in the Marshall Student Center, but due to overwhelming response, the venue was changed to the Sun Dome. Admission is free, but reservations are required.

It's sure to be enlightening, funny and warm, as Wozniak has a reputation for keeping it light for a heavyweight in today's ever-evolving world of technology and engineering.

Returning to an educational setting is nothing new for the Woz. He holds 10 honorary engineering doctorates from schools that range from the University of Colorado at Boulder (from which he was expelled as a freshman over a hacking issue), Escuela Superior Politécnica del University in Guayaquil, Ecuador, Michigan State University and the University Camilo Jose Cela in Madrid, Spain.

He's been a guest on Howard Stern and dated comedienne Kathy Griffin. He parodied his character on a little known television series called "Code Monkeys" and he played himself on mega-hit "The Big Bang Theory." He once was on a Segway polo team called the Silicon Valley Aftershocks.

Wozniak's motivation as an inventor and involvement with the technological community has resulted in a slew of accolades and accomplishments. In 1985, he and Jobs, received the National Medal of Technology from President Ronald Reagan. In 2000, he was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame and in 2001, he was awarded the prestigious Heinz Award for Technology. In 2014, the New York City Chapter of Young Presidents' Organization presented him with its Lifetime Achievement Award.

"I cannot think of a better choice to kick off the Muma College of Business Thought Leader Series," said Dean Moez Limayem. "Steve Wozniak is a game changer. His engineering mind developed technology that improved the lives of people all over the world. Yet his down-to-earth demeanor that embraces free thinking and creativity is the balance each one of us should take home and live by every day.

"Nobody understands the intersection between analytics and creativity more than Steve," Limayem said. "Analytics and creativity, two fundamentals we teach here at the Muma College of Business, are not either/or options. The most successful companies in the world, like Apple, use both in their business models.

"Having Steve as our inaugural guest sets the standard for future speakers in this series," Limayem said. "His talk here benefits everyone: USF, the Muma College of Business, the Tampa Bay area – currently poised to become a technology hub – and Steve, who can see firsthand the fresh analytical approaches we are implementing into our business curriculum."

Wozniak continues to break the stereotype of engineers; left-brained, analytical and methodical. He encourages creativity and thinking outside the traditional box every step of way. According to his biography, he counsels "against forces of conformity," which leave people unable to control their own fate.

"Also," his bio says, "(he) loves children and dogs."

The event is free and open to the public. Reservations are required. To register, click here.

Due to overwhelming response, the Steve Wozniak event was moved to the USF Sun Dome.