October 12, 2011
Robert W. Galvin, Marconi Society Lifetime Achievement Award Winner, Dies
Longtime Motorola CEO Leaves Legacy of Innovation
CHICAGO, IL. — Robert ("Bob") William Galvin, the longtime chief executive officer of Motorola Inc., died peacefully during the night of October 11, 2011 in Chicago. Galvin - a transformative global business leader, innovator, author, and philanthropist - was 89 years old.
Galvin oversaw remarkable growth and innovation during his 29-year tenure as CEO of Motorola. When he took over in 1959 on the death of his father, Motorola founder Paul V. Galvin, the company had annual sales of $290 million, primarily in North America. Building on the strong foundation he established with his father in Communications, Automotive, Military Electronics, Semiconductor and Consumer products, Galvin transformed Motorola into a global technology leader with $10.8 billion in sales in 1990, the year he stepped down as chairman. Due in large part to his vision and leadership, Motorola received the U.S. Commerce Department's first Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award for Manufacturing in 1988.
Galvin was born in 1922 in Marshfield, Wisconsin. He attended Evanston Township High School in Evanston, Illinois, where he excelled in academics, student government, the debating society, and sports. He went on to attend the University of Notre Dame. Starting full-time with Motorola in 1944, Galvin earned his way up through various positions before being named president in 1956. He was chief executive officer of Motorola from 1959 to 1988 and retained senior-most executive responsibility as chairman of the company throughout a planned succession completed in 1990. He retired from the board of directors in 2001.
Throughout his life, Galvin was committed to innovation. "At times we must engage an act of faith," he said, "that key things are doable that are not provable." Under his guidance, Motorola became a world leader in semiconductor, paging, two-way radio, space and military communication, and automotive embedded control technologies. Motorola's semiconductor products were particularly seminal, enabling a generation of computing and data communications start-ups in the 1980s and 1990s.
Under Galvin, Motorola led the creation of the global cellular telephone industry. It installed the first prototype cell phone demonstration system in Washington DC in 1971; unveiled the first portable cell phone prototype, the DynaTAC, in 1973; enabled the first commercial cell phone call, which was made on the DynaTAC by Ameritech, in Chicago in 1983; and introduced MicroTAC, the industry's first compact cell phone, in 1989. Finally, in 1996, with Galvin serving on Motorola's board, the company manufactured the first pocket-sized 'flip phone', the StarTAC. These innovations paved the way to a cell phone market that now includes some 3.8 billion subscribers worldwide. Throughout his career, Galvin made crucial investments in cellular R&D and advocated tirelessly for competitive telecom regulation across the globe, never wavering in his belief that cellular technology would revolutionize the way people communicated.
He was profoundly grateful to the dedicated and talented employees of Motorola. "People are Motorola's most important asset," he often said. Galvin instilled his vision for a workplace marked by dignity, respect, integrity, trust, training, and fair pay in Motorola's global management team, and he urged heads of government and policymakers to encourage such workplace policies in order to enhance the opportunity for innovation and wealth creation in their countries. He measured himself and his executive team by the company's treatment of its workforce, and he was proud that Motorola employees never felt the need to unionize in any of its global operations. He insisted that all Motorola employees address him simply as 'Bob.'
Among many accomplishments in international business, Galvin moved Motorola into Europe, Southeast Asia, Israel, India, Japan, Latin America and China. An influential force in global telecom regulation and fair trade, he initiated Motorola's "Japan Challenge" and partnered with Robert Strauss, then US Trade Representative, to open Japan's domestic semiconductor markets. Seeing that China would soon evolve into a major global market, he committed the company to a $100 million investment there in 1987. By the time he retired from the board, Motorola was one of China's largest foreign investors.
Galvin was a trusted advisor to generations of US presidents and cabinet leaders from the Eisenhower to the Bush administrations. He served a term on the US Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board and was lead business liaison in numerous US Trade Representative, State Department, and Defense and Intelligence delegations. He also chaired the Commission to Reorganize US National Laboratories (known as 'the Galvin Commission'), the Commission on the Future for the National Science Foundation, and Sematech, the government initiative to revitalize US semiconductor competitiveness. He also served as President of the Electronic Industry Association.
In addition to technology and public affairs, Galvin also left his mark on the fields of management theory and change management. Under his leadership, Motorola developed the Six Sigma Quality improvement system and disseminated its findings across the globe. Insistent that process change management was important to the growth of large companies, he helped to pioneer Technology Road-mapping and the Participative Management Program, founded Motorola University, and experimented continuously with other promising change management initiatives.
Galvin's long-term vision was for Motorola to continue to advance a highly diversified technology platform to inform and enable the creation of new global technology industries while remaining true to the timeless principles that his father, Paul Galvin, imbued in the company as its founder. By doing both, he believed Motorola could eventually grow global sales by another factor of 10. He was, therefore, deeply disappointed when Motorola's board chose to deviate from that path in late 2003 and force out his son Christopher, the third generation Galvin CEO, just as Motorola was completing the most significant turnaround in its history. Galvin went on to join his sons, Chris and Michael, in founding Harrison Street Capital, an investment management firm focused on real estate, defense services and high technology.
During his retirement, Galvin established two non-profit think tanks to tackle major infrastructure problems. The first, originally the Galvin Electricity Initiative and now the Perfect Power Institute, aims to transform the electricity industry, as envisioned in a book Galvin co-authored called Perfect Power. The second, the Galvin Transportation Initiative, sought to eliminate urban auto congestion using a program laid out in the book Mobility First, which Galvin helped to inspire. Galvin's overriding objective in these projects was to create one million permanent jobs in the United States over 50 years.
Galvin wrote several books in his retirement years, including The Genius of People and America's Founding Secret, both on the influence of the Scottish Enlightenment on the founding of the United States, and The Idea of Ideas, a compilation of business philosophies that shaped Motorola.
Committed to the cause of education, Galvin focused much of his philanthropic energy on the Illinois Institute of Technology ("IIT"), which he never attended but considered essential to Chicago and the world. He served on IIT's board for over 50 years, chairing it for 10. The Robert W. Galvin Center for Electricity Innovation at IIT is named in his honor. He also supported a variety of other non-profit causes over the years, including inner city schools, universities, hospitals, the arts, and science research.
Business groups, industry associations, governments and academic institutions around the world have recognized Galvin's leadership and vision. 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, the French Legion of Honor medal and the Founders Medal from the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers. Recently, he received the Marconi Society Lifetime Achievement Award. He also served on the Advisory Boards of the Santa Fe Institute and the Chicago Museum of Science and Industry and was an active member of the Young Presidents Organization.
Above all, Galvin was a devoted husband of 67 years to Mary Barnes Galvin and an inspiring and loving father to his four children - Gail Galvin Ellis, Dawn Galvin Meiners, and Christopher and Michael Galvin - and their extended families, collectively comprised of 13 grandchildren, 10 great grandchildren (with one more on the way) and 8 valued in-laws.
He delighted in passing time with family and friends, singing on the player piano and debating policy, books and ideas around the dining table. He loved playing tennis, snow skiing, waterskiing, windsurfing and sculling, among other sports.
Galvin discovered his highest passions pursuing the principles of leadership, innovation, creativity, ethics, and dignity and respect for all. His was an inspiring, principled, loving and accomplished American life.
In lieu of flowers, the family requests that gifts in memory of Bob be directed to the Robert W. Galvin Center for Electricity Innovation at Illinois Institute of Technology; please send to the attention of Betsy Hughes at Illinois Institute of Technology, 10 W. 35th St., Ste. 1700, Chicago, IL 60616 (312-567-5045).
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