College of Science & Engineering Alumni Newsletter

Spring 1999

A Success Story

Robert Frostholm (BS í71, Electrical Engineering) was born and raised in Oakland. His mother was a housewife and his father was the manager of the Pacific Union Club in San Francisco. What might have been the good life was cut short when his father passed away suddenly at the age of 48 from a heart attack. It was 6 days before Bobís 9th birthday. His whole world turned upside-down. When Bob was 11 or 12, he began to do minor gardening work for neighbors to earn spending money. Bob also took on two paper routes delivering the Oakland Tribune and earned big money ...almost $30/month.

During this time Bobís uncle, who was quite involved with amateur radio, gave Bob an old beat up Navy receiver. Bob started to be very interested and involved in the electronics field. He received his first Ham Radio License at the age of 13. He in turn got some of his friends interested as well. In Junior High he went to summer school to learn electronics because it was not offered until high school. In the senior year of high school he took an advanced electronics class at Chabot College along with the same group of friends in amateur radio. All through high school his life revolved around amateur radio and this close knit group of friends. Seeing the electronics passion in him, his high school Counselor pushed and pushed and pushed him to apply to college. Frostholm was the first one in his family who went to college. While attending San Francisco State College, Bob took a part-time job, which become a full-time job starting in his junior year, as an engraver in a Jewelry/Trophy store in Berkeley.

There were lots of distractions during his college years (1966-1970), civil uprising at SF State in the morning then a repeat at UC Berkeley in the afternoon. Bob experienced a lot internal conflicts in those days, a conservative engineering student vs. the entire cultural revolution (Haight/Ashbury and all that....). The two individuals kept him going on the right track with his studying were Rene Marxheimer and Tom Zilka, who were always there to encourage, advise, and push Bob. He also joined the Engineering Society and became the IEEE Chairperson. Bob barely made it through college.
Bobís first Ďrealí job came as a result of meeting an engineering Vice President from GTE Lunkurt at an IEEE Engineering Society dinner. He became a field application engineer in June of '70 while taking the last General Education class to officially graduate. He worked with installation teams in Coos Bay, OR, Ft. Wayne, IN, and Tampa, FL, documenting better ways to install microwave communications links for the GTE phone system.  After about 6 months in the field he became a Project Engineer for a year and then was offered a promotion to be an instructor in the customer training school. Shortly after that he accepted a job at Signetics (a semiconductor company later to be bought by Philips Semiconductors) as a Product Marketing Engineer.

In the early 70's change was frequent and loyalties were to people more than companies. Bob moved to Fairchild Semiconductors following a good boss and back to Signetics where he met his wife, Deborah. A romance turned to marriage and company nepotism rules dictated one of them needed to move on. Frostholm went back to Fairchild then to National Semiconductor where he got involved with sales. While at National, a friend called to offer an opportunity to join up as a co-founder of a startup semiconductor company.  They developed a business plan, shopped it to the Venture Capitalist and ended up getting money from the UK if they would locate in Scotland. Running his own company gave him tremendous opportunity and learning experience. They sold their company to Seagate 4 years later.

Frostholm then did some consulting before taking a position as Vice President of Marketing at Sprague Semiconductors (subsequently sold to a Japanese company and the name was then changed to Allegro MicroSystems) in Worcester, MA. He later became Vice President and General Manager of the signal processing division and the Vice President of Sales and Marketing. Bob and his family moved to the East Coast and enjoyed the New England lifestyle for 4 1/2 years. They returned to the Bay Area in 1992 when Bob took the role of Vice President of Marketing at Siliconix. This was a highly politically charged environment with pitting American management against German (Daimler Benz) owners. He lasted less than 2 years there and returned to Signetics (Philips by then) as Director of Product Sales for North America but soon tired of the same American versus European politics. In 1997 he left to become Vice President of Sales and Marketing at SEEQ Technology, a small chip company focused on serving the networking industry.

Frostholm is the author of multiple technical articles appearing in books and trade journals. Bob and Deborah have one daughter and three sons. Marissa majors in Math at University of Santa Clara; Kellen is a Freshman at Mountain View High School and working on becoming an Eagle Scout; Andrew is in 8th grade at Black Middle school; and Taylor is a 5th grader at Loyola Grade School.

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Updated by Lannie Nguyen-Tang on August 3rd, 2000