Qualcomm (QCOM) said late Tuesday that its founder Dr. Irwin Mark Jacobs, 78, will retire from the company’s board of directors at its 2012 stockholder meeting on March 6.

The maker of digital telecom products for use in global positioning systems and smartphones will give Jacobs title of ‘founding chairman and CEO emeritus” upon his retirement.

"When we first started Qualcomm, I told my wife Joan that, if we were lucky, we might grow to 100 employees," said Jacobs. "We clearly have surpassed that.”

The founder, which has built the company to more than 22,000 employees since then, added that he was “immensely proud of the company” they have built.

Jacobs has been regarded as a business leader that inspired “generations of engineers” to think beyond what’s possible today and pursue the technology breakthroughs of tomorrow, according to Qualcomm CEO Dr. Paul Jacobs, Irwin’s son.

He served as chief executive of the San Diego-based company from the company’s founding on July 1, 1985 to its 20th anniversary on June 30, 2005, and has chairman from founding until March 2009.

Jacobs currently serves as chair of the Salk Institute for Biological Studies and of the National Academy of Engineering.

He has received many industry, education and business accolades, including the National Media of Technology in 1994, the IEEE Alexander Graham Bell medal in 1995 and the Financial Times Lifetime Achievement award for 25 years in telecommunications in 2005.

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