Distinguished Alumni Awards

Gerald E. McGinnis

Gerald E. McGinnis
To Gerald E. McGinnis for his spirit of entrepreneurship and his creative blending of engineering and medical knowledge to produce innovative products.

President of Respironics, Inc., Murrysville, Pennsylvania

BS, Mechanical Engineering, 1958

Products designed and produced by Gerald E. McGinnis have improved the quality of medical treatment for thousands of people around the world. He began his engineering career at Westinghouse, first working in research and development. In 1963, he became manager of the Bio-Engineering Department, and it was this experience that initiated his career in medical product development. From 1969-71, as head of the Surgical Research Department at Allegheny General Hospital in Pittsburgh, he conducted research on artificial hearts. Seeing so much potential for engineering-medical innovation, in 1971 he struck out on his own. His first two devices, a ceramic anesthesia mask and a tracheotomy tube, were developed at home using the kitchen oven as a kiln. With backing from a physician, he established Lanz Medical Products Corporation. Already a creative engineer, he rapidly became an astute businessman. From 1971-75, he also served on the staff of the Critical Care Department of Presbyterian University Hospital in Pittsburgh, where he participated in programs to apply technology to medical care. The primary product of Lanz Corporation, the tracheotomy tube, was sold to a large corporation in 1976. McGinnis then established Respironics, Inc. Respironics has fared well and was listed as the fifth best private company by Forbes magazine in 1988. Now a public company, Respironics employs people in the United States, China, and Hong Kong. Their best selling product is a device to treat obstructive sleep apnea.

McGinnis epitomizes the potential of UIUC engineering graduates to succeed in designing and developing products for niche markets and founding new enterprises. He developed a good understanding of the disciplines of business and medicine, blended them with his engineering expertise, and now leads a notably successful manufacturing firm. He is also a strong advocate for education. He serves on the advisory board of Point Park College, the Pittsburgh High Technology Council, and the alumni board for UIUC’s Department f Mechanical and Industrial Engineering. In 1991, he received the Distinguished Alumnus Award from the Department of Mechanical and Industrial Engineering.

Current as of 1993.