Garmin International announced that Gary Burrell, aviation pioneer and co-founder of Garmin Ltd., passed away on June 12, 2019, at the age of 81. Mr. Burrell retired in 2002 and continued to serve as Garmin’s co-Chairman until 2004 when he was named Chairman Emeritus.
Mr. 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. Of his many accomplishments, Gary was most proud of the jobs he helped create.
“Gary Burrell has been my friend, mentor and partner for more than 30 years,” Kao said. “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 said. “Whether it was about creating the best product or his behaviour 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.
At Garmin, Gary expanded his vision for integration with the GNS 430/530 product family, which combines GPS technology with traditional aviation navigation and communication systems and a colour moving map. Gary went on to conceive the G1000 cockpit system which today is operating in thousands of aircraft around the world from small piston powered airplanes through mid-sized business jets. Burrell earned his bachelor’s in electrical engineering at Wichita State University and his master’s from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.
Innovator, entrepreneur and servant leader, Gary Burrell will be remembered for his legacy of growing Garmin from a start-up company to a global leader in GPS technology.