Born in Marshfield, Wisconsin, Galvin went to work for Motorola in 1940. In 1956 he was named president of the company. Two years later he succeeded his father as chief executive officer. During the 1980s, Galvin was assisted by John Mitchell and Dorian Shainin in his effort to improve quality at Motorola.
In 1986, Bob Galvin gave up the title of CEO while remaining chairman of the board. Under his leadership, Motorola sales had grown from $216.6 million in 1958 to $6.7 billion in 1987 and cash flow per share had grown from 89 cents to $6.10. Bob Galvin also was instrumental, along with John Mitchell and Motorola engineer Bill Smith, in implementing the Six Sigma quality system at Motorola.
As a result of the Six Sigma program, Motorola received the first Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award in 1988, which is given by the President of the United States. Later, the Six Sigma processes subsequently were adopted at the General Electric Corporation. Jack Welch said: "Six Sigma changed the DNA of GE." The Six Sigma process requires 99.99967% error free processes and products, (or 3.4 parts per million defects or less).
In 2005, Galvin created the Galvin Electricity Initiative, a nonprofit organization dedicated to transforming the electrical grid so that it meets with Six Sigma standards of quality.
Along with his two sons Christopher and Michael, Galvin recently started a real estate investment firm, Harrison Street Real Estate Capital, named for the street where his father and uncle started Motorola (originally named "Galvin Manufacturing").
Galvin was a longtime supporter of Illinois Institute of Technology and became a trustee in 1953. He served as chairman from 1979 to 1990 and sat on three steering bodies on the future of IIT, in 1975, 1985, and as chairman in 1993. At the time of his death he served as a University Regent. In 1990, IIT presented Galvin with an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree, and in 1996, he received the university’s Henry Heald Award. IIT dedicated the Paul V. Galvin Library in 1985 to recognize the Galvin family’s commitment to the institution.
In 1991, Galvin was inducted into Junior Achievement's U.S. Business Hall of Fame. In 1993, he received the Bower Award in Business Leadership. In 2000 he was awarded the IEEE Founder's Medal for "For his distinguished leadership in promoting quality, technological excellence and' cooperation between government and the private sector, and expanding the applications of electronics and communications technology globally." 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." In 1995, he received the Chicago History Museum "Making History Award" for Distinction in Civic Leadership.
Galvin lived in Barrington, Illinois with his wife, Mary Barnes Galvin. Together they have four children and thirteen grandchildren. Galvin, who was a Christian, died in October 2011 in Chicago, Illinois.
- "A Brief History of Six Sigma[http://scm.ncsu.edu/scm-articles/article/six-sigma-where-is-it-now "Six Sigma: Where is it now?" Retrieved May 22, 2008.
- "New Six Sigma®: A Leader's Guide to Achieving Rapid Business Improvement and Sustainable Results: Art Sundry shouted '"Our Quality Stinks"'" Retrieved March 6, 2012, By: Matt Barney; Tom McCarty, Publisher: Prentice Hall, Pub. Date: December 19, 2002, Print ISBN 0-13-101399-8, Print ISBN 978-0-13-101399-5, Pages in Print Edition: 128.
- "Robert W. Galvin". IEEE Global History Network. IEEE. Retrieved 12 October 2011.
-  Archived March 5, 2005 at the Wayback Machine
- Robert D. McFadden (October 12, 2011). "Robert W. Galvin, Who Ushered Motorola Into the Modern Era, Dies at 89". The New York Times.
- Bob Galvin bio in the Business Hall of Fame
- Galvin Electricity Initiative
- Robert W. Galvin Dies at Age 89
- Bob Galvin at Find a Grave
|CEO of Motorola
George M.C. Fisher