Gary Burrell, co-founder of Garmin Ltd, passed away last week at the age of 81. Burrell retired in 2002 and continued to serve as Garmin’s co-chairman until 2004, when he was named chairman emeritus.
Burrell co-founded Garmin with Dr Min Kao in 1989 with the vision of creating products powered by an emerging technology known as the Global Positioning System, or GPS. Thirty years later, Garmin has grown from a handful of engineers into a global location and communication product powerhouse with more than 13,000 associates in 60 offices around the world.
“Gary Burrell has been my friend, mentor and partner for more than 30 years,” Kao says. “His vision, values, engineering skills and commitment to serving our customers have been the foundation for the growth of our company. It has been both a great privilege and a blessing to have known this amazing man and I know his legacy will live on.”
In a career spanning 50 years, Burrell motivated and mentored thousands of employees. Among them was Garmin president and CEO Cliff Pemble, one of Burrell’s first hires.
“While Gary will be remembered by many as one of the great entrepreneurs of our age, I will remember the unusual way in which he led our company, something he called servant leadership,” Pemble says. “Whether it was about creating the best product or his behavior as a leader, Gary always considered the impact to others before himself. His example not only inspired my contribution to Garmin, it also positively influenced me as a husband and father. I am forever grateful for the rich and enduring legacy of Gary Burrell.”
Prior to launching Garmin in 1989, Burrell held leadership positions at marine and aviation electronics companies including Lowrance Electronics, King Radio Corporation and AlliedSignal. He is widely regarded as one of the leading innovators of integrated avionics, having designed and developed the first successful NAV/COMM for the general aviation market.