Gert Boyle

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Gertrude Boyle
Gert Boyle in 2013.jpg
Gert Boyle in 2013
Gertrude Lamfrom

(1924-03-06) March 6, 1924 (age 95)
NationalityUnited States
EducationB.A. University of Arizona
Known forChairman of Columbia Sportswear
Spouse(s)Joseph Cornelius "Neal" Boyle (1948–1970; his death)
ChildrenTimothy Boyle
Kathy Boyle
Sally Boyle
Parent(s)Paul Lamfrom
Marie Lamfrom

Gertrude "Gert" Boyle (née Lamfrom, born March 6, 1924) is a German-born American businesswoman in the state of Oregon. After her family fled Nazi Germany, her father started Columbia Sportswear, where she later became president. As of 2013, she is the chairperson of the company,[1] as well as a philanthropist and memoirist.

Early life and education[edit]

Born Gertrude Lamfrom to a German Jewish family in Augsburg, Germany,[2] she was the daughter of Marie (née Epstein) and Paul Lamfrom. Her father used to own the largest shirt factory in Germany[2] until it was seized.[1] Her mother was a nurse during World War I.[1] In 1937, when she was 13, her family fled Nazi Germany and immigrated to Portland, Oregon, in the United States;[2] her grandmother who stayed behind died in a concentration camp.[2] When she arrived, she did not speak English.[1] In 1938, her father borrowed money from a relative and purchased the Rosenfeld Hat Company,[2] changing its name to the Columbia Hat Company[3] (after the river).[2] She attended Grant High School in Portland[4] and later graduated with a B.A. in sociology from the University of Arizona.[2]


In 1964, Boyle's father died and her husband, Neal Boyle, became president; her husband diversified the hat business into outerwear[2] for hunters, fishermen, and skiers.[1] In 1960, Gert Boyle designed the first fishing vest (her husband was an avid fisherman) and the name of the company was changed to Columbia Sportswear.[3] In 1970, her husband died unexpectedly at the age of 47 of a heart attack; she became president of the company, then with $800,000 in annual sales.[2] The company struggled and teetered on bankruptcy[5] until in the 1970s, she and her son Timothy, refocused the business on outdoor clothing and casual wear which paralleled a general trend away from formal work attire.[6] In 1975, they were the first company to introduce Gore-Tex parkas.[3]

Boyle started starring in commercials for the company in 1984.[2] In the ads she stars as Ma Boyle, who is "One Tough Mother" and uses her son as a test dummy for new products.[7][8] In 1986, they released the Bugaboo, a jacket with a zip out lining which became quite trendy and further propelled the company's growth.[2] Columbia was unique among specialty clothing manufacturers in that it would sell its products to any retail shop or chain.[1] In 1987, Columbia had $18.8 million in sales and by 1997 it had grown to $353.5 million.[1] The company went public in 1998.[6]


In 1995, Boyle outfitted the Special Olympics Team USA for the World Games. She donates the royalties from her autobiography One Tough Mother to the Special Olympics and Court Appointed Special Advocates for Children.[1][8] In 2010, she endowed the Hildegard Lamfrom Chair in Basic Science in association with the Knight Cancer Institute at Oregon Health and Science University with $2.5 million which honors her sister, Hildegard, who died from a brain tumor in 1984.[9] In 2014, Boyle donated $100 million to the Knight Cancer Institute.[10]

Personal life[edit]

In 1948, she married Joseph Cornelius "Neal" Boyle, an Irish Catholic whom she met in college, at All Saints Church in Portland, Oregon.[1] Gert Boyle converted to Catholicism.[1] They had three children: Timothy Boyle (born 1949); Kathy Boyle (born 1952); and Sally Boyle (born 1958).[2] As of 2013, her son Tim is the CEO of Columbia;[11] Kathy is an artist and real estate saleswoman; and Sally is the co-owner of Moonstruck Chocolates, an upscale chocolatier.[8]

In 2010, she was tied up at gunpoint by an armed robber in her home in West Linn, Oregon.[12] She was able to trigger a silent alarm which alerted police, and the robber was later captured.[12]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Accettola, Anna. Wadhwani, R. Daniel (ed.). "Gertrude Boyle". Immigrant Entrepreneurship: German-American Business Biographies, 1720 to the Present. German Historical Institute. 5. Retrieved 10 November 2013.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Whitford, David; Gert Boyle (September 1, 2003). "Gert Boyle Columbia Sportswear Co". Fortune Small Business. Retrieved 10 November 2013.
  3. ^ a b c "History". About Us. Columbia Sportswear. Retrieved 10 November 2013.
  4. ^ Francis, Jamie (September 1, 2008). "Columbia Sportswear's Gert Boyle talks about her life and her company". The Oregonian. Retrieved November 9, 2013.
  5. ^ Harriet Shapiro; Diane S. Lund (September 18, 1989). "Gert Boyle Has a Vested Interest in George Bush's Fishing Fortunes". People. Retrieved November 9, 2013.
  6. ^ a b Boyle, Gert (April 1, 2006). "How I Did It: Gert Boyle, chairman, Columbia Sportswear". Inc. magazine. Retrieved November 9, 2013. Italic or bold markup not allowed in: |work= (help)
  7. ^ Memmott, Mark (November 12, 2010). "Gert Boyle, Columbia Sportswear's 'One Tough Mother,' Foils Robber". the two-way. National Public Radio. Retrieved 10 November 2013.
  8. ^ a b c Schwartz, Todd (Summer 2005). "Inventing Ma: Yes, an ad agency invented Columbia Sportswear's legendary Ma Boyle – but it was Life that made Gert Boyle '97 hon. one real Tough Mother". Portland magazine. University of Portland. Archived from the original on November 9, 2013. Retrieved November 9, 2013. Cite uses deprecated parameter |deadurl= (help); Italic or bold markup not allowed in: |work= (help)
  9. ^ "Boyle family endows chair to honor Gert's scientist sister". OHSU Extra. Oregon Health & Science University. Summer 2010. Retrieved 10 November 2013.
  10. ^ Budnick, Nick (August 29, 2014). "The story behind Gert Boyle's $100-million gift for cancer research at Oregon Health & Science University". The Oregonian via Retrieved August 29, 2014. Italic or bold markup not allowed in: |publisher= (help)
  11. ^ Dill, Kathryn (November 8, 2013). "Columbia Sportswear Thrives, Lifting CEO Tim Boyle To Billionaire Ranks". Forbes. Retrieved November 9, 2013.
  12. ^ a b Bella, Rick (November 11, 2010). "Gert Boyle, the 'One Tough Mother' of Columbia Sportswear, outwits armed robber". The Oregonian. Retrieved November 9, 2013.

External links[edit]