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 at age 34. In January 1996 he was fired and then rehired 8 days later.
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.
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.
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Steve Appleton 1st 7th overall
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- Extra Flugzeugrau GMBH EA 300/L, Air Crash in Boise, IDAHO, USA on 7/8/2004, aircrashed.com. Archived February 7, 2012, at the Wayback Machine.