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$500,000 Worth of Motivation

Ettus Pays Back a Scholarship

Matt and Sara Ettus with son Noah
Matt and Sara Ettus with their son, Noah

​The first product Matthew Ettus, EN'96, sold through his company, Ettus Research LLC, was a tool he developed as a hobby while employed designing Bluetooth chips. “I really wanted to buy this product,” he says, “but it didn’t exist, so I ended up making it myself.”

Today, Ettus Research LLC is one of the world’s leading suppliers of software-defined radio hardware. They make the Universal Software Radio Peripheral (USRP™) family of products—tools engineers use to create custom, flexible radio communications systems. By changing the software on the USRP, Mr. Ettus explains, an engineer can create any one of dozens of radio devices, from garage door openers to cell phones to wildlife tracking systems.

While Mr. Ettus went on to earn a master’s degree in electrical and computer engineering from Carnegie Mellon University, he says his Washington University experience—including a job at a professor’s startup electronics company and a class project developing a hybrid electric car—gave him the foundation for his career.

“I was blessed to have gotten a Langsdorf Scholarship,” says Mr. Ettus, who received the 2011 Young Alumnus Award from the School of Engineering & Applied Science. “I never would have been able to attend Washington University without it.”

To honor his grandmother, Clara Lane, Mr. Ettus and his wife, Sara, have made a commitment of $500,000 to Washington University to establish and endow the Alexander S. Langsdorf and Clara D. Lane Scholarships in engineering. They made their gift as a challenge to others and will match, one to one, all gifts and pledges made by other donors to the Langsdorf Scholars Challenge.

“Education was important to my grandmother,” says Mr. Ettus. “She taught me to read and write, and instilled a love of learning in me. She worked to put herself through school, but was never able to finish due to the cost. As a widow, she put my mother and aunt through college and helped my brother as well.

“From the moment I received my scholarship, I looked at it as a loan,” says Mr. Ettus, whose company was acquired by National Instruments Corporation in 2010. “I knew I needed to pay it back, and I’m lucky I can do this now.”

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