Fortune 100 CEO remains committed to his University
By Mary Alice Casey
Walter, BSME 67
From Robert Walters
office in Dublin, Ohio, two walls of windows look out on a magnificent
stand of oaks and maples and the growing northwest Columbus skyline.
Family pictures dot the walls and desktop.
This is the environment
of a most successful businessman, devoted husband, involved father
and committed Ohio University alumnus.
Walter is chairman and CEO of Cardinal Health Inc., a Fortune 100
company with annualized revenues of $38 billion. His commitments
extend to 45,000 employees worldwide, many of them fellow alumni.
He also is a member of the boards of trustees of Ohio University
and Battelle Memorial Institute and the boards of directors of Bank
One, Infinity Broadcasting and Viacom. In February, the Greater
Columbus Chamber of Commerce presented him with its highest honor,
the Christopher Columbus Award.
Yet Walter describes himself as a private person. He shuns interviews
and prefers quiet time with his family to any other activity. He
is not reserved, though, about his conviction that a good education,
high ethics and hard work provide the strongest foundation for success.
And he sets a good example.
Born and raised in Columbus, Walter arrived at Ohio University in
1963. He graduated summa cum laude in December 1967 with a bachelors
degree in mechanical engineering.
I worked hard at Ohio University, says Walter, who held
a job in the engineering labs, served on student council and was
a member of Sigma Chi fraternity. I never missed one class.
I still had a lot of fun, but I never missed a class. Even my wife
thought I was crazy.
His family: Despite his business and philanthropic
obligations, Walter says his first commitment always has been
to his family. He and his wife, Peggy, have three grown sons
Matthew, Blane and Peter and three grandchildren.
Cardinal Health: Walter founded the company as a
food wholesaler in 1971. Through internal growth and more than
30 acquisitions, Cardinal has expanded to pharmaceutical distribution;
health-care product manufacturing, distribution and consulting
services; drug delivery systems development; and more. The company
occupies the No. 1 or 2 market position in every product or
service it offers.
Hardest business lesson: You cannot tolerate
people who lack character; you cannot change peoples values.
Advice for todays students: If you hustle,
you will get ahead.
Three months before he
graduated, Walter married his grade school sweetheart, Peggy McGreevey
Walter, BFA 67. After working briefly as a design engineer
in Columbus, he decided to pursue an MBA. His application to Harvard
Business School was supported by then-University President Vernon
Alden, a former Harvard dean.
I have a lot of loyalty to Ohio University for a lot of reasons,
including the help given to me by Vern Alden, Walter says.
Aldens encouragement and the generosity of scholarship
donors who provided support for Walters education helped
inspire his impressive commitment to assist others.
The Robert and Margaret
Walter Endowed Scholarship, established in 1991, has provided 52
students with scholarships. And this past fall, the Walters announced
a donation of $5 million to help finance a state-of-the-art classroom
building at Richland Avenue and South Green Drive. The $10 million
building is targeted for completion in 2004.
Dick Brown, BSC 69 and HON 96, was encouraged by Walter
to become a Sigma Chi. Today, the two men have something else in
common: They both lead Fortune 100 companies. Brown is the CEO of
EDS, the worlds second-largest computer services provider.
You could tell back then that Bob had the capacity to deal
with complexity, to sort things out, to prioritize all qualities
you need to have if youre going to lead a Fortune 100 company,
Loyalty must be another attribute.
As you become successful, you have an obligation to give back
to the things that helped make you successful, says Walter,
who was granted an honorary doctoral degree by the University in
1997, the same year he began a nine-year term on the Board of Trustees.
Ive gotten a lot of really nice rewards.
Mary Alice Casey is editor of Ohio Today.