Robert W. Galvin

Inducted 2008

Industry Leader of the Year Award 1988

Distinguished Service Citation Award 1984

In 1940, Paul Galvin’s son Bob started working for Motorola, starting at the bottom in the stock room and learning the business from both older employees and his father while attending Notre Dame and the University of Chicago. In 1948, he was elected executive vice president and, in 1956, was named president of the company. He took over Motorola completely after his father died on November 5, 1959. But the story is not that he took the reins of the company founded by his father, it’s what he did with it during the 60 years he was associated with it. Galvin led Motorola Corporation from a few hundred million dollars in annual sales to tens of billions. During his tenure as CEO, Bob Galvin led Motorola through numerous evolutions. Motorola was already a successful car radio and mobile telephone manufacturer in the late 1950s. Following a brief foray into televisions in the mid-1950s, Galvin brought Motorola back into the TV business in 1961 with color television technology. But realizing that Motorola could not compete with lower priced imported units, Galvin sold the television business to a Japanese company, and plowed the proceeds back into developing new businesses such as semi-conductors. But the television business provided him with a revelation that would guide him and Motorola for years to come. In order to compete globally, Galvin realized that superior technology and low cost were not enough. He knew that he needed to put in place a management system that put quality first, from top to bottom throughout the organization. The result of this effort was the development, along with Motorola engineer Bill Smith, of the Six Sigma approach to quality management. Six Sigma seeks to identify and remove the causes of defects and errors in manufacturing and business processes, where a defect is anything that could lead to customer dissatisfaction. Six Sigma today remains a registered trademark of Motorola. Motorola has reported over $17 billion in savings as a result of Six Sigma, and many other companies, including automotive companies, also use Six Sigma to their benefit. In 1988, Motorola was the first large company-wide winner of the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award. In the late 1980s, Galvin began to step back from day-to-day involvement. In 1986, he retired as CEO and, in 1990, he stepped down as chairman of the board to become chairman of the executive committee of the board of directors. He fully retired from the board in May 2001. In 2005, he was awarded the Vannevar Bush Award for “his visionary leadership to enhance U.S. innovation, competitiveness, and excellence at the interface of science and technology with the Nation’s industrial enterprise. In the counsels of government, industry, and academe, he unselfishly gave the Nation the benefit of his knowledge, experience and creative wisdom while leading his company in its great contribution to the computing and telecommunications transformation of society.”

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Class of 2008

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