Born and raised in California, Appleton attended Boise State University, where he was on the tennis team. A lifelong aviation enthusiast, he died when his single-engine plane crashed shortly after takeoff in Boise, Idaho, on February 3, 2012.
Appleton started his career at Micron shortly after graduation in 1983, working the night shift in production. He held a variety of positions in the company, including Wafer Fab manager, Production Manager, Director of Manufacturing, and Vice President of Manufacturing before being appointed President and COO in 1991. He was appointed to the position of CEO and Chairman of the Board in 1994, which he maintained until his untimely death when the small plane he was piloting crashed at Boise Airport in 2012. At age 34 he was the third youngest CEO in the Fortune 500.
He formerly served on the Board of Directors for SEMATECH, the Idaho State Supreme Court Advisory Council and was appointed by the Clinton Administration to serve on the National Semiconductor Technology Council. At the time of his death, he was serving on the Board of Directors for the Semiconductor Industry Association, and the Board of Directors for National Semiconductor Corporation, The U.S. Technology CEO Council and was a member of the World Semiconductor Council and the Idaho Business Council. After his death, Mark Durcan assumed Appleton's position as CEO of Micron.
Appleton was named among the worst 10 CEOs by a Forbes magazine web site in 2006, using a formula that some disputed accurately reflected performance in the very volatile market for MU's product line.
In 2011 he received the Robert Noyce Award from the Semiconductor Industry Association.
Appleton participated in a number of sports, including professional tennis. His hobbies included scuba diving, surfing, wakeboarding, motorcycling and, more recently, off-road car racing. His aviation background included multiple ratings and professional performances at air shows in both propeller and jet-powered aircraft. He also had a black belt in taekwondo.
On February 3, 2012, Appleton was killed while attempting an emergency landing in a Lancair IV-PT experimental-category, four-seat, turboprop airplane at the Boise Airport in Boise, Idaho, moments after taking off. He had aborted a take off a few minutes earlier for unknown reasons.
- Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer, www.Micron.com.
- Comeback kid, Businessweek, May 13, 1996.
- MICRON CEO gets an F from Forbes
- Micron Technology CEO Steve Appleton Honored By Industry Peers, PR Newswire, November 3, 2011.
- SCORE International. "Official Results". SCORE International. Retrieved 2011-01-15. "Steve Appleton 1st 7th overall"
- Steve Appleton, CEO of Micron, dies in airplane crash at Boise Airport, IdahoStatesman.com, Retrieved February 3, 2012.
- NTSB Preliminary Accident Report, NTSB, Retrieved February 10, 2012.
- Extra Flugzeugrau GMBH EA 300/L, Air Crash in Boise, IDAHO, USA on 7/8/2004, aircrashed.com.