A Remarkable Life

The late John Ocampo ’79 believed technology was the great equalizer. His legacy continues to push that belief forward at Santa Clara University.

John Ocampo ’79 credited a little luck and a lot of hard work for his life’s journey, from growing up in the Philippines to immigrating to America to becoming a tech CEO in Silicon Valley.

He believed technology to be the great equalizer, making donations with his wife and business partner, Susan, to enhance STEM education at Santa Clara to help more people achieve success.

Ocampo was 16 when he started at Santa Clara University, where he received a full-ride scholarship and studied electrical engineering. Just three years before, his mother, Rosa, had moved him and his five siblings to the Bay Area after their father died in the Philippines.

“My mom was the ultimate entrepreneur. She packed everybody up, and off we go to this distant land, not knowing what the outcome was going to be,” he said. “That was a bigger risk than any risk I’ve taken.”

It was also Rosa who encouraged her son to study engineering, noting his creativity and inclination to tinker. “I thought I was just having fun,” he remembered.

John Ocampo
The Ocampos’ gift was earmarked for innovation space inside the new Sobrato Campus for Discovery and Innovation. Photo by Jim Gensheimer.

After SCU, Ocampo worked his way up the fields of radio frequency and microwave technologies. In 1985, he and his wife, Susan, co-founded Sirenza Microdevices, a supplier of semiconductors and related devices. And in 2008, they started the semiconductor private equity firm Gaas Labs.

Throughout the years, Ocampo maintained strong ties to his alma mater, serving on Santa Clara’s Board of Trustees and on the Industry Advisory Board for the School of Engineering. His and Susan’s gift to the new Sobrato Campus for Discovery and Innovation will create the couple’s most enduring SCU legacy, though.

They hoped it will help attract and retain more diverse faculty and students. Technology, he said, “doesn’t care what your background is, or the color of your skin. It can provide a level playing field, and help SCU achieve its goals to be a more inclusive and diverse institution.”

O’Campo died on November 21, 2023. He is survived by Susan and their three children.

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