Craig R. Barrett was born in 1939 in San Francisco, where his father worked at the research labs of Shell Oil Company. His mother was a nursing assistant. When he was seven, Barrett's parents divorced. Three years later, his father died of cancer. "My father introduced me to fishing and instilled in me a great love of the outdoors," says Barrett. "He also triggered my interest in science and technology. Losing him and seeing him so ill in the end was very tough for me."
Barrett's mother remarried when he was 10, and the family moved to a small town near Stanford University. At the time, his stepfather was a cutter in the garment industry, later becoming a hair stylist. During his youth, Barrett delivered papers, cut lawns, and worked as a stock boy at Macy's. He also did construction jobs during his summer vacations.
Barrett did well academically and enjoyed school and sports. In 1957, he earned a scholarship to Stanford, where he majored in metallurgical engineering. By 1964, he had earned bachelor's and master's degrees in science, as well as a doctorate in materials science, a field that allowed him to combine his interests in physics and engineering. As an undergraduate, Barrett worked as a lab assistant.
After graduation, he won a NATO postdoctoral fellowship at Great Britain's National Physical Laboratory. Upon his return in 1965, he joined the faculty of Stanford's Department of Materials Science and Engineering, rising to the rank of associate professor.
In 1973, Barrett took a leave of absence to work at Intel. In 1974, he returned to Stanford as a senior engineer in research but almost immediately realized it was a mistake. "That short misstep taught me to be unafraid of opportunity," he says. "I stretched myself and went in a new direction. It was exciting to think I was working for a company on the leading edge of technology. We were bringing products to the marketplace that would change lives, and I was happy to be a part of that."
Barrett helped Intel become the industry leader in microprocessor development. He steadily rose through the ranks of Intel, whose discoveries in computer chips laid the foundation for modern personal computing. "Technology has changed just about everything, the way we are educated, the way we do commerce, the way we access information, the way we communicate, the way governments interact with their citizens. Even the way we work and play has all changed. I'm glad I was in a position to help make that happen."
Barrett, recognized by the semiconductor industry for having perfected the process of manufacturing Intel's powerful microprocessors, became Intel's vice president in 1984 and was promoted to senior vice president in 1987. In 1990, he became executive vice president. In 1992, he joined Intel's board of directors and was named chief operating officer in 1993. He became Intel's fourth president in 1997, CEO in 1998, and chairman of the board in 2005.
"Education is perhaps the greatest option that you are ever given," says Barrett, looking back at his rise to success. "It opens more doors than anything else you can do. Once you have that as your foundation, you can build on it for the rest of your life."
For Barrett, who says success is doing what you love to do and being the very best at it, it's important to have balance in life. "My philosophy," he says, "is work hard, play hard." He and his wife, Barbara Barrett, a Horatio Alger member from the class of 1999, enjoy their ranch in Montana as often as possible. He still loves the outdoors.
Honored by his Horatio Alger Award, Barrett says, "America is the land of opportunity. It's the land where if you work hard, you can be successful. The Horatio Alger Association recognizes that. There is no greater task for society than to educate its young people and give them opportunity. That's what this Association stands for, and I'm proud to be a part of it. Technology has made this a much smaller, more competitive world. Today, our young people have to compete with peers not only in the United States, but worldwide. It's important to America's success in the future for our young people to be prepared to work hard, to get a good education, and to compete. I'm looking forward to serving as a mentor to help make that happen."