Robert W. “Bob” Gore, chairman emeritus of the board of directors of W. L. Gore & Associates, Newark, died on September 17. He was 83.
Bob Gore’s scientific discoveries spawned Gore-Tex Outerwear and paved the way for advancements in industries as varied as performance fabrics, medical devices, space exploration, and filtration, assumed the chairman emeritus role in 2018 after 57 years ons the Gore board, 30 as chairman.
Bob Gore also served as president of Gore from 1976 to 2000 and continued the company’s unique culture that focuses on teams, few bosses, and small production plants. Everyone is an associate with the CEO being the only titled position.
During his time as president, privately held Gore became a business with $1 billion in annual sales. Based on published accounts, Bob Gore controlled a large chunk of the closely held company’s stock with an estimated net worth. approaching $900. million.
Current sales for the global company are $3.7 billion.
The substance provided many new product applications including Gore-Tex Fabrics, the world’s first waterproof-breathable outerwear.
Bob Gore’s ePTFE innovation came about at a period in the late 1960s when the big challenge for Gore was to develop products for computing, space exploration and defense. Trends in electronics at that time made it clear that miniature integrated circuits were the wave of the future and that less cable would be needed as computers became smaller.
One night in October 1969, Bob was researching a new process for stretching extruded PTFE into pipe-thread tape when he discovered that the polymer could be expanded. The discovery followed a series of unsuccessful experiments in which he was attempting to stretch heated rods of PTFE by about 10 percent.
As it turned out, the right conditions for stretching PTFE were unique, the company noted.
Instead of slowly stretching the heated material, he applied a sudden, accelerating yank that unexpectedly caused it to expand to nearly 1000 percent. This resulted in the transformation of solid PTFE into a microporous structure that was mostly air.
Today, ePTFE is at the heart of products in many industries, the most successful being the medical area. In keeping with the mountain west roots of the Gore family, the medical business is based in Flagstaff, AZ.
Bob Gore was awarded nine patents for his work with fluoropolymers. He was elected to the National Academy of Engineering for his technical achievements and in 2006 was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame.
Born on April 15, 1937, in Salt Lake City, Utah, Bob was the oldest of five children of Wilbert L. (Bill) and Genevieve W. (Vieve) Gore, founders of W. L. Gore & Associates.
Bill Gore joined the DuPont workforce after World War II and ultimately was transferred to DuPont’s Experimental Station in Delaware.
Bill and Vieve purchased land in Newark and started building a house with help from Bob and the rest of the Gore family.
Bob led a rather ordinary teenage life, playing trombone, participating in athletics, and serving in student government.
Bob earned his bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering from the University of Delaware and his master’s degree and Ph.D. in chemical engineering from the University of Minnesota.
Like his father, Bob was a born entrepreneur. As a sophomore in college, he solved an early technical challenge that helped kick start his parents’ company which was founded in 1958 in the basement of their Delaware home.
With a focus on exploring the potential of the fluoropolymer PTFE, Gore focused on the wire and cable industry during its early years. In 1969, the company’s cable technology landed on the moon as part of the Apollo 11 mission.
In 1976, Bob succeeded his father as president and CEO of Gore.
“Bob Gore appreciated that innovation can arise from many different places if entrepreneurial spirit is encouraged and fostered,” said current Gore CEO Jason Field, who came out of Gore’s medical business “Innovation as activity, doing things with your hands, experimenting, testing and observing, was instilled in our Enterprise consistently and productively throughout Bob’s tenure as both president and chairman.”
“Gore Associates ranging from engineers to marketers considered Bob a leader, a mentor and a contributor to their personal success and the success of the enterprise” Field said.
“I am sure I speak for all associates when I say I grew as a leader through Bob’s guidance. His passion for the quality and performance of our products and his incisive questions and insights shaped not only the culture of our technology efforts but the values at the core of who we are,” Field said.
Bob Gore served as a trustee of the University of Delaware Research Foundation and a member of the board of trustees.
In 1998, Bob and his mother, Vieve Gore, donated funds for the construction of a state-of-the-art classroom building on the university’s green, which was christened Gore Hall in honor of his family. In 2013, Bob and his wife, Jane, contributed to the development of the university’s science and engineering research laboratories, named in their honor. Bob also contributed significantly to the University of Minnesota and other institutions.
Bob’s nephew, current Gore board chair Bret Snyder, reflected on his uncle’s legacy. “Bob’s innovative spirit shaped our enterprise from the very beginning, paving the way for W. L. Gore & Associates to improve lives and industries. We will continue to build on his legacy with a commitment toward breaking new ground and developing solutions that make the world a better place.”
Bob Gore is survived by his wife Jane and a large family of children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren as well as four siblings (Susan Gore, Ginger Giovale, David Gore, Betty Snyder) and extended family.
Memorial plans have not been announced.
(Includes information from W.L. Gore)