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McCracken, Ed

Published onMar 12, 2021
McCracken, Ed

Ed McCracken, 2017

Commissioned by University Museums and the College of Engineering. U2017.119

ED McCRACKEN (BS ’66 electrical engineering) took his degree to Silicon Valley, where his leadership in the computer industry opened a new world of visual effects for Hollywood. 

Between 1995 and 2002, every movie nominated for an Academy Award for visual effects used computers from McCracken’s company, Silicon Graphics, to create and manipulate 3-D images, including Jurassic Park and Forrest Gump. In 1995, McCracken was named Executive of the Year by R&D magazine and was presented the National Technology Medal award by President Clinton. He also received the ISU Alumni Association’s Distinguished Alumni Award.

Raised on an Iowa farm near Fairfield, McCracken and two siblings are ISU graduates. After graduation, he joined the Hewlett-Packard Company in California, where he managed much of the company’s entrance into the computer market. He stayed at HP until 1984, when he joined Silicon Graphics, Inc., as President and CEO.

McCracken’s leadership at Silicon Graphics led to affordable 3-D visual computing and supercomputing technologies that could be used for early 3-D video games, creation of special effects for movies and television, and for mechanical design in many industries. McCracken grew Silicon Graphics from a small startup to a 5,000-person company. He retired in 1998.

Throughout his career he served on the board of directors for such companies as 3M, National Semiconductor Corporation, Tularik Bio Technology and Redwood Bio Systems. McCracken also was co-chair for both the United States Advisory Council on Information Infrastructure and the Joint Venture: Silicon Valley Network.

McCracken received the Professional Achievement Citation in Engineering (PACE) award from the Iowa State University College of Engineering in 1992.

He and his wife, Ana Hays McCracken, have supported many initiatives at Iowa State including scholarships for students in Engineering and Apparel Merchandising and Design, and early support of the Iowa State Virtual Reality Applications Center (VRAC). They are lifetime members and Sustaining Life donors of the ISU Alumni Association. McCracken and his wife are ISU Foundation Governors, and he serves on the investment committee.

“My fondest memories at Iowa State were co-founding the Triangle Fraternity chapter and serving as its second president,” he recalled. “Triangle is a social fraternity of engineers, architects and scientists.”

The McCracken’s split their time between Ames and their Thistlewood Ranch in Angel Fire, New Mexico.

“In Ames I enjoy all things Iowa State, and flying my plane back and forth to Angel Fire,” he said. “In New Mexico, I enjoy skiing, harvesting thistles on the ranch during the summer, and the aspen fall colors.”

McCracken has a son, daughter and two granddaughters.

Dean of the College of Engineering, Sarah Rajala: Ed had a brilliant career in the computer and technology industry and we are very fortunate to have his support and leadership commitments that benefit our college and many areas at Iowa State.

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