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Longtime Motorola CEO Robert W. Galvin dies at 89

October 13, 2011
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(Story via The Chicago Tribune ) Robert W. Galvin, 89, the former chief executive and chairman of Motorola Inc. who led the company as it pioneered the cellular phone, died late Tuesday in Chicago, his family said.

Mr. Galvin shaped Motorola, a company founded by his father, into a multinational technology powerhouse with a strong presence in Europe, Latin America, China and other regions.

"The world lost one of the all-time greats in Bob Galvin," says Greg Brown, chief executive of Motorola Solutions, one of two companies that resulted from Motorola's split in January. "He was one of a kind and a tremendous humanitarian. He treated everyone with dignity and respect. He took this company to new heights and always emphasized innovation and the art of the possible."

Mr. Galvin, who attended Evanston Township High School and the University of Notre Dame, started working full time at Motorola in 1944. He succeeded his father, company founder Paul Galvin, in 1959. At that time, Motorola's annual sales totaled $290 million. By the time Galvin stepped down as chairman in 1990, Motorola was a global company with $10.8 billion in sales.

Among the milestones he oversaw was the 1973 introduction of the DynaTAC, the first portable cellphone prototype. A decade later, Ameritech used the iconic brick phone to make the first commercial cellphone call.

Motorola spun off its mobile devices and TV set-top boxes into an independent company called Motorola Mobility in January. A proposed $12.5 billion sale of the firm to Google was announced in August.

"Bob's commitment to innovation has remained a core value at Motorola Mobility and his contributions have left a lasting mark on both the Motorola Mobility portfolio and the entire cellphone industry," the company said in a statement.

Mr. Galvin's son Christopher became CEO in 1997 and was the last member of the founding family to serve in that role. He was ousted by the board in 2003. The family's statement on Mr. Galvin's death said he was "deeply disappointed" by that turn of events because Motorola was "completing the most significant turnaround in its history" at the time his son was forced out.

Mr. Galvin stayed busy in retirement. He and his sons, Christopher and Michael, founded Harrison Street Capital, an investment management firm named after the Chicago street where Motorola got its start as the Galvin Manufacturing Co. In addition, Mr. Galvin turned his focus to infrastructure and created two think tanks devoted to electricity and urban transportation.

Mr. Galvin was also a major benefactor of the Illinois Institute of Technology, where he served on the board for more than 50 years and was the namesake for the school's Robert W. Galvin Center for Electricity Innovation.

"Bob was an inspiration to many of us and was one of the university's most steadfast supporters," IIT President John Anderson said in a statement. "IIT is deeply saddened by the loss of one of the country's greatest innovators and leaders of industry."

Mr. Galvin is also survived by his wife of 67 years, Mary Barnes Galvin; two daughters, Gail Galvin Ellis and Dawn Galvin Meiners; 13 grandchildren; and 10 great-grandchildren.

Visitation is set for 4 to 8 p.m. Monday at Donnellan Family Funeral Home, 10045 Skokie Blvd., Skokie. A funeral Mass is scheduled for 5 p.m. Tuesday at Saints Faith, Hope & Charity Church, 191 Linden St., Winnetka.

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