Michael P. Galvin, Class of 1978
Leading private equity fund manager and former assistant secretary of the U.S. Department of Commerce
Michael Galvin has four decades of experience managing the issues facing global high technology companies. Known for his passion for technology innovation and high ethical standards, he is a former Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Motorola and previously served under President George H.W. Bush as the Assistant Secretary of the U.S. Department of Commerce for Export Administration. At the Department of Commerce, he worked with the Defense and State Departments to reformulate and renegotiate 45 years of post-Cold War strategic trade policies after the collapse of the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact. Earlier in his career, Galvin was a partner in Winston & Strawn’s Chicago office.
Together with his brother, Chris, Galvin founded Harrison Street Real Estate Capital LLC, a real estate acquisition and development company, in 2005 and currently serves as President. He is a Life Trustee of the Illinois Institute of Technology and a member of the IIT Board’s Executive Committee. He also served on the Board’s Strategic Planning and Campaign Planning Committees and is a member of the Chicago-Kent Board of Overseers.
Who was your favorite professor at Chicago-Kent? What was your favorite class?
There were so many favorites. But, Professor Richard Conviser stood out because he was distinctive not only inside, but outside the classroom too. In class, his heat-seeking, take-no-prisoners deployment of the Socratic Method demanded the best of all of us. Outside class, he reached out to all to become an equally effective faculty adviser, professional mentor and even better friend.
Describe your career path. What steps did you take to get to where you are currently?
Corporate finance transactions associate (then elected partner) at Winston & Strawn, then US Senate-confirmed Assistant Secretary of Commerce for defense trade, and then (as now) owner/operator of real estate, buyout/build-up, and venture start-up companies as Co-Founder and President of Harrison Street Capital.
Since as a law student I did not have a definitive, sequentially envisioned career path, my philosophy “path” was to stay in productive, energetic, professional and civic motion so that career opportunities would hopefully materialize along the way. And they did. Focus, but remain agile and open to career adjustments and opportunities as they arise.
What was the greatest challenge you have faced in your career? How did you overcome it?
When one of our companies experienced a serious misunderstanding with a government enforcement agency, it took every ounce of legal training, understanding and judgment I had learned at Chicago-Kent and experienced in legal practice to prove that no wrong-doing had actually occurred. I was able to restore our credibility, which endures today.
What would people find most surprising about you?
My biggest passion in life is to take wounded (amputee) warriors snow skiing to help them experience what they can overcome, achieve and look forward to doing in life in their physically challenged state as opposed to sitting around rehab thinking about the life experiences they might no longer be able to enjoy.
Who is your favorite US Supreme Court justice (living or deceased)?
Justice Anton Scalia: Even if you do not agree with his more disciplined less inventive interpretation of the Constitution’s guiding principles, one has to respect that Justice Scalia’s best friend on the Supreme Court is Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg (among the most liberal Justices with whom he often disagrees)—which represents a level of genuine civility and respect in public service to which all should aspire.