John Thode

2016 Distinguished Alumni Award

For exceptional leadership in building and reinventing global technology businesses

John Thode
BSEE ‘79
Founder and Chairman
Thode Residential Rental Properties, LLC
Lake Zurich, Illinois

John Thode is a successful intra/entrepreneur. He has built profitable businesses from start-up to several billions in revenues in the mobility, computing, security, and imaging sectors.

John is currently Founder & Chairman of Thode Residential Rental Properties, LLC. Previously, he was president of DigitalOptics Corp., where he led a significant turnaround by leading the development of a highly differentiated imaging products portfolio using computational optics and MEMS actuators. The company’s customers included Apple, Samsung, Xiaomi, and Oppo, to name a few.

Over his 35-year career, John has been a significant leader in technology innovation. As a young engineer, he was an early and significant contributor in the development of the first cellular system (AMPS) that included the commercial launch of the original Motorola Dyna TAC “Brick Phone.” Subsequently, he led the development of Motorola’s first smartphone, the world’s first 3G cellphone with video chat, and the world’s first touchscreen-only smartphone, the Motorola A1000. At Dell, John led teams that developed the world’s first phablet, first 2-in-1 PC, and countless other innovations in tablets and convertibles.

John holds an MBA, with Distinction, from the Kellogg School at Northwestern University, and MSEE and BSEE degrees. John currently serves on several boards at the University of Illinois, including the Dean of Engineering’s Board of Visitors and the University’s Faculty Entrepreneur Fellowship Board. In addition, John and his wife Judi have founded a nonprofit, Ancient Oaks Foundation, targeted at preserving old oak habitats in the Lake Zurich area where they live. In his spare time, John is a habitual marathon runner (30) and jazz trumpeter.

Contact Us

Audrey LeGrande

Assistant Director of Alumni and Student Relations
1072 ECE Building
(217) 300-1783
alegrand@illinois.edu