Robert Galvin leaves ‘perfect power’ legacy


Robert (Bob) Galvin, longtime chief executive officer of Motorola Inc. who envisioned the concept of “perfect power,” died Tuesday October 11, 2011 in Chicago aged 89.

Galvin, who was CEO of Motorola for 29 years, was committed to innovation throughout his life and among his many achievements he was a leader in the development of the global cellular telephone industry. In retirement following the major blackout in the U.S. in 2003, he turned his attention to means to transform the electricity industry, establishing the Galvin Electricity Initiative (now the Perfect Power Institute) and setting out his vision – in essence an electricity system based on smart microgrids – in the book “Perfect Power” co-authored with Kurt Yeager.

Though Galvin probably never thought he would live to see his vision enacted, as indeed many of us many years younger are unlikely to see a fully smart grid, what has become clear is the key potential of microgrids in the power system of the future, whether it be in an urban community in a developed country or a rural one in a developing country.

Galvin was born in Marshfield, Wisconsin in 1922. He attended Evanston Township High School in Evanston, Illinois, and went on to the University of Notre Dame. He started full time with his father’s company Motorola, in 1944, working his way up through various positions before being named president in 1956 and CEO in 1959. He retired from the board of directors in 2001.

In addition to Galvin’s interest in the power sector, he also started the Galvin Transportation Initiative, with the aim to eliminate urban auto congestion using a program laid out in the book “Mobility First.”

The Robert W. Galvin Center for Electricity Innovation at Illinois Institute of Technology, on the board of which he served for over 50 years, is named in his honor.