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Published on Jan 27, 2011
Born in Ennis, Texas, Whitacre graduated from Texas Tech University in 1964 with a Bachelor of Science in Industrial Engineering. He began his career with Southwestern Bell Telephone Company in 1963 as a facility engineer in Lubbock, Texas. Quickly working his way up in the company, Whitacre held various leadership positions which eventually led him to the top of the organization.
In recognition of his outstanding work and leadership, Whitacre was made president and chief operating officer in October 1988, responsible for the company's six primary subsidiaries. Within 16 months, Whitacre became SBC chairman and CEO, and retained this title with AT&T, Inc.
Under his leadership, Whitacre lead AT&T to great success and recognition, including being named as the "Company of the Year" in 2006 by Forbes magazine. After a successful 17-year tenure as AT&T chairman, CEO and president, Whitacre announced his retirement in 2007.
In November 2008, Texas Tech accepted a $25 million gift from AT&T and friends of Whitacre to the College of Engineering. Because of AT&T's and Whitacre's longstanding support of Texas Tech, the College of Engineering was named the Edward E. Whitacre Jr. College of Engineering.
In June 2009, after 44 years in the telecommunications industry, Whitacre was named the Chairman and CEO of General Motors (GM). Selected based on his diligence, attention to detail and decisive management style which helped him build AT&T into the largest telecommunications company in the world, Whitacre was charged with bringing GM out of recently-declared bankruptcy. These qualities helped him overhaul GM's management and brands.
The company earned $1.3 billion and returned to profitability in the one year of his tenure. Given these accomplishments, he felt that his task of rebuilding the GM brand was complete, and it was time to step down and allow the company to prepare for its highly anticipated initial public stock offering.