Steve Appleton began working at Micron Technology, Inc.—one of the world's leading providers of advanced semiconductor solutions—on the night shift, earning 4.46 USD per hour in the early 1980s. He received 11 promotions in nine years and was named company president in 1991. In 1994, he became CEO, president and chair of the board, helping propel Micron Technology to become the leading DRAM producer in the world. At the age of 34, Appleton was one of the youngest CEOs listed in the Fortune 500.
In 2001, the Semiconductor Industry Association named Appleton the Noyce Award winner, SIA's highest honor.
"Steve Appleton is truly a champion of the semiconductor industry. He has worked tirelessly to strengthen the U.S. industry as a whole and has successfully maintained leadership of the highly competitive memory business," said Ray Stata, chair of Analog Devices and 2011 chair of SIA.
Appleton served on the SIA Board of Directors since 1991 and was instrumental in raising the stature of the World Semiconductor Council as its longest-serving board member. By keeping the U.S. industry a strong player in the memory industry despite the targeting of this segment by foreign industries, Appleton has helped not only Micron but also the overall U.S. semiconductor industry and its infrastructure.
Appleton was key to Micron's diversification beyond DRAM and into non-volatile flash memory in an effort to drive future growth for the company and its global workforce of 20,000 employees. Even with slowing chip demands, in 1995, Micron continued to grow and earned record profits of 844 million USD. In 2000, Micron started a 200 million USD expansion with plans to add 500 jobs. It posted record-breaking quarterly earnings of 727 million USD.
Through his years as chair and CEO of Micron, Appleton contributed to a variety of worthy causes and programs. He championed the Boise State University cause through the Micron Foundation with a gift of 12.5 million USD, which made the Micron Business and Economics Building a reality. He served as co-chair of Boise State’s comprehensive fundraising campaign for scholarships, programs, and buildings form 2007 to 2011, raising 186 million USD. He also was a Boise State University Foundation board member from 1995 to 2002 and was a lifetime Chaffee Guild member.
Appleton was a great supporter of Boise State University and the College of Business and Economics, financially and with his time. He loved to come to campus to speak with students and faculty and was an inspiration to all.
Bob Kustra, president of Boise State University, said “Steve’s passion for his alma mater helped forge an invaluable partnership between Micron and Boise State that is evident in everything we see around us today.”
Steve was killed in a small plane accident in Boise in February 2012 at the age of 51. He is remembered by Boise mayor Dave Bieter: “Steve Appleton was a dynamic leader who skillfully guided Micron through both prosperous and difficult times. He was a philanthropist and a great friend to Boise.”