Robert William Galvin

Robert W. Galvin, longtime CEO of Motorola, passed away Oct. 11, 2011, in Chicago at age 89. The son of Paul Galvin, the founder of Motorola, Bob was born in 1922 in Marshfield, Wis. He attended Evanston Township High School in Evanston, Ill., where he excelled in academics, student government, the debating society and sports.


He joined Motorola full time in 1944, earning his way up through various positions. He was CEO from 1959 to 1986 and chairman until 1990. During that time, the company grew from $290 million to $10.8 billion in annual sales.


Under his leadership and through the principles his father imbued in the company, Motorola became a world leader in communications technology. Most notably, it led the creation of the global cellular telephone industry, installing the first prototype cellphone demonstration system in Washington, D.C., in 1971; unveiling the first portable cellphone prototype, the DynaTAC, in 1973; enabling the first commercial cellphone call, made on the DynaTAC by Ameritech, in 1983; and introducing MicroTAC, the first compact cellphone, in 1989.


Throughout his career, Galvin made crucial investments in cellular and semiconductor R&D and advocated tirelessly for competitive telecom regulation and fair trade across the globe. He measured himself and his executive team by the company's treatment of its workforce, and he was proud that Motorola employees, who knew and referred to him simply as 'Bob', never felt the need to unionize in any of its global operations.


Due largely to his commitment to continuous renewal and customer satisfaction, Motorola received the U.S. Commerce Department's Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award for Manufacturing in 1988. Galvin expanded Motorola's footprint into Europe, Southeast Asia, Israel, India, Japan and Latin America, and made a major early push into China. He helped pioneer Technology Road-mapping and the Participative Management Program, founded Motorola University and developed the Six Sigma Quality improvement system, which he disseminated across the globe.


He was a trusted advisor to generations of U.S. presidents and cabinet leaders, serving a term on the U.S. Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board and acting as lead business liaison in numerous U.S. Trade Representative, State Department, and Defense and Intelligence delegations. He also chaired the Commission to Reorganize U.S. National Laboratories (known as 'the Galvin Commission'), the Commission on the Future for the National Science Foundation, and Sematech, the government initiative to revitalize U.S. semiconductor competitiveness.


In retirement, he joined his sons in founding investment management firm Harrison Street Capital, established two nonprofit think tanks – Perfect Power and the Galvin Transportation Initiative – and wrote several books, including The Genius of People: What the Scottish Enlightenment Taught Our Founding Fathers and The Idea of Ideas.


Galvin was committed to the cause of education, notably through his support of the Illinois Institute of Technology. The recipient of several honorary doctoral degrees, he was elected to the American National Business Hall of Fame and awarded the National Medal of Technology, the Vannevar Bush Award and the French Legion of Honor medal.


He was a devoted husband of 67 years to Mary Barnes Galvin and an inspiring, loving father to his four children – Gail Galvin Ellis, Dawn Galvin Meiners, and Christopher and Michael Galvin. Bob delighted in passing time with family and friends, singing on the player piano and debating policy, books and ideas. He loved playing tennis, snow skiing, waterskiing, windsurfing and sculling.


He discovered his highest passions pursuing the principles of leadership, innovation, creativity, integrity, and dignity and respect for all. His was an inspiring, principled, loving and accomplished American life. He will be greatly missed by all who knew him well.


Associated Press story

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