Press Release

Palo Alto, CA, August 29, 2011

Robert W. Galvin to be Honored With Marconi Society Lifetime Achievement Award

Robert W. Galvin, former Chairman of Motorola, will be honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Marconi Society for his historic and lifelong impact on worldwide telecommunications. The award will be presented at the Society’s annual awards gala in La Jolla, CA on September 8th, 2011.

Galvin, a household name in telecommunication circles in the 1980s and 1990s, is considered by many to be the most important and influential business leader to keep the US competitive in the emerging cellular telephone and semiconductor industries in the 1970's through 1990's.

Galvin worked at Motorola, founded by his father as a car radio company, most of his life, and served as chairman for approximately three decades. During that time he made Motorola a global telecommunications equipment leader for both consumer and public safety sectors, and championed the first commercial cellular phone technology both at the base station and handset.

“One of our main thrusts was that our company was always going to be preparing for the next adventure—the next thing,” said Galvin. I was always asking the question, ‘What’s the next thing we could be adding, multiplying; what would be good for our future line-up of products?’”

Although not an engineer himself, Galvin insisted on a strong R&D base and launched Motorola Labs, a leading contributor to cellular, public safety, digital signal processing, power and semiconductor technologies. Galvin was the father of the quality movement at Motorola, where the goal was “six nines” (a.k.a. “six sigma”) manufacturing quality, a term indicating 99.9999% reliability. He also personally invested in sponsoring research and students at US universities. As a technical business icon, he advised several US presidents either formally or informally.

In the late 1980s, Galvin promoted and helped develop Sematech, a government-funded consortium of US semiconductor companies who would collaborate to perform breakthrough R&D to keep the US semiconductor industry competitive to Japan and Taiwan. Soon, he was asked to step into the role of Chairman of the organization.

William J. Spencer, former President/CEO and Chairman of Sematech from 1990 to 2000, said, “Bob chaired the board at the time when it really made a big difference in the US industry. He managed to bring a group of huge egos together, even though they had very different ideas. He was masterful leader.”

By taking a chaotic organization and turning it into a major force, Galvin helped the US semiconductor industry regain market leadership by 1993-94, a position it has held ever since.

Martin Cooper, former Motorola vice president and division manager who in the 1970s led the team that developed the handheld mobile phone, said of Galvin, “The most important thing that Bob did was create an environment that gave people the freedom and stimulus to do great things. He also set the tone from the top—no compromise on ethics—and emphasized objectivity in decision making—taking the personal issues out of the discussion and deciding based on doing what was right. His skills were not technological, but no one could pick and motivate people better than he could. He also made sure everyone in the company has the same tools and incentives to excel.”

 “Galvin had an historic and life-long impact on the global telecommunications and semiconductor industries and unwavering commitment to US research and development,” said Dr. Theodore Rappaport, founder and director of the NSF Wireless Internet Center for Advanced Technology at University of Texas-Austin. “He is a true visionary who revolutionized an entire industry.”

Galvin’s many honorary degrees and other recognitions including election to the American National Business Hall of Fame and the 1991 National Medal of Technology. He is currently a member and was the recent chairman of the board of trustees of the Illinois Institute of Technology and serves as co-chairman of the executive advisory board of the Joseph M. Juran Center for Leadership in Quality at the University of Minnesota’s Carlson School of Management. He continues to informally serve various Motorola interests.

In 2004, he launched the Galvin Electricity Initiative to bring his visionary approach to the faltering electric power system, based on the belief that it is possible to build a system that never fails the consumer.

Galvin was one of the initial supporters and funders of the Marconi Society, serving on the board and insuring Motorola’s financial contribution to the original endowment in the 1970s. The Society, established in 1974 by Gioia Marconi Braga, is best known for the Marconi Prize, awarded annually to an outstanding individual whose scope of work and influence emulate the principle of “creativity in service to humanity.” Additional information about the Marconi Society and the Marconi Fellows can be found at

Hatti Hamlin