Robert Galvin, who over nearly three decades as Motorola's CEO transformed the maker of police radios and TVs into one of the world's leading electronics companies, has died. He was 89.
Galvin died Tuesday night in Chicago of natural causes, his family said.
Galvin oversaw Motorola's pioneering efforts in the cellular industry, including the creation of the first commercial cell phone in 1973 and the construction of the first cell phone network in the early 1980s.
"He probably single-handedly provided this firm with more leadership and guided it through more innovation than any other single person in our 83-year history," said Greg Brown, CEO of Motorola Solutions, the half of the old Motorola that sells communications equipment to government and corporate customers.
Galvin was named CEO in 1959 at the death his father, Paul Galvin, who had founded the company in 1928. Robert Galvin, known as "Bob," remained in the post until 1986 and stayed on as chairman until 1990. He retired from the board of directors in 2001.
Galvin led the company into China with a $100 million investment in 1987. The country is still a major market for its phones. He helped create the Six Sigma quality system at Motorola, since adopted by many other companies.
"Bob saw around corners. He anticipated," Brown said.
Motorola split into two companies in January. Motorola Solutions makes police radios, bar code scanners and other products for corporate and government customers. Motorola Mobility Holdings makes cell phones and has agreed to be acquired by Google.
In retirement, Galvin founded an investment firm with his sons and established two think tanks focused on energy and transportation issues.
He wrote two books on the influence of the Scottish Enlightment on the founders of the United States and published a compilation of the business philosophies that shaped Motorola.
Galvin was born in 1922 in Marshfield, Wis. He attended high school in Evanston, Ill., and attended the University of Notre Dame. He started working full time at Motorola in 1944, when it was still called Galvin Manufacturing.
Galvin is survived by his wife, Mary Barnes Galvin, four children – Gail Galvin Ellis, Dawn Galvin Meiners, and Christopher and Michael Galvin – 13 grandchildren and 10 great grandchildren.
A wake is scheduled for Monday in Skokie, Ill., followed by a funeral mass the next day in Winnetka, Ill.
In lieu of flowers, the family requests that gifts be directed to the Robert W. Galvin Center for Electricity Innovation at Illinois Institute of Technology, 10 W. 35th St. Suite 1700, Chicago, IL 60616, attention of Betsy Hughes.