Longtime Motorola executive Robert W. Galvin dies

The son of the company founder presided over sales of the world's first commercial cell phones

Robert W. Galvin, the son of the founder of Motorola and CEO of the company for 29 years, has died. He was 89.

Galvin "died peacefully during the night" Tuesday in Chicago, the company said in a statement issued Wednesday.

The son of Motorola founder Paul V. Galvin, he played a central role in the company's storied history. While Robert Galvin was CEO, Motorola created the radio that transmitted the first words from the moon to Earth, demonstrated the first portable cellphones, began selling the first commercial cellphones, and made innovations in two-way radios, televisions and laser barcode scanners.

In addition, under Galvin's leadership, Motorola developed the Six Sigma process for quality management in response to growing competition from Japanese manufacturers. The system has been adopted by hundreds of companies around the world.

"At times we must engage an act of faith that key things are doable that are not provable," he once said.

Galvin started working full-time at Motorola in 1944. He became president of the company in 1956 and CEO in 1959 when his father died. He served as CEO through 1986 and was chairman of the board until 1990. Under his leadership as CEO, the company's sales grew from US$290 million, mostly in North America, to $10.8 billion in sales in 1990. He retired from the company's board in 2001.

When Galvin stepped down as CEO from Motorola, he didn't directly hand the reigns to his son, Christopher, who had already spent years at the company. But by 1993, Christopher Galvin had become the third generation in his family to run the company.

In 2004, Galvin founded the Galvin Electricity Initiative, a company that hopes to shift the U.S. to a more reliable electric power system.

Galvin was born in 1922 in Marshfield, Wisconsin. He attended Evanston Township High School in Illinois, and the University of Notre Dame and the University of Chicago.

Galvin is survived by his wife of 67 years, Mary Barnes Galvin, four children, Gail Galvin Ellis, Dawn Galvin Meiners, and Christopher and Michael Galvin , 13 grandchildren, 10 great-grandchildren, with one on the way, and eight "valued" in-laws, Motorola said.

A wake will be held Monday, Oct. 17 from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. Central Time, at Donnellan Family Funeral Home, 10045 Skokie Blvd., Skokie, Illinois, with a funeral Mass and tribute on Oct. 18 at 5 p.m. Central Time, at Faith Hope and Charity Church, 191 Linden St., Winnetka, Illinois. A reception will follow the Mass at the Indiana Hill Club, One Indian Hill Rd., Winnetka.

In lieu of flowers, the family requests that memorial gifts be made to the Robert W. Galvin Center for Electricity Innovation at Illinois Institute of Technology. Memorial gifts should be sent to the attention of Betsy Hughes at Illinois Institute of Technology, 10 W. 35th St., Ste. 1700, Chicago, IL 60616.

Nancy Gohring covers mobile phones and cloud computing for The IDG News Service. Follow Nancy on Twitter at @idgnancy. Nancy's e-mail address is Nancy_Gohring@idg.com

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