Hometown Hawkeye: Kelly Ortberg

Hometown Hawkeye: Kelly Ortberg

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Engineering graduate is corporate, community leader
Portrait of Kelly OrtbergUniversity of Iowa College of Engineering alumnus Kelly Ortberg wants young people to consider careers in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). Photo courtesy of Rockwell Collins.

Name: Kelly Ortberg
Degree: B.S. (Mechanical Engineering) ‘82
Occupation: President and CEO, Rockwell Collins
Residence: Cedar Rapids

As the head of one of Iowa’s most technologically advanced companies—Cedar Rapids-based aerospace and defense giant Rockwell Collins—Kelly Ortberg has many demands on his time. As a consequence, he goes out of his way to share his time with others.

Map of Iowa highlighting Linn County
Cedar Rapids is in Linn County, Iowa, which includes:
11,063 UI alumni
1,417 UI-educated teachers and school administrators
274 UI-educated physicians
109 UI-educated dentists
179 UI-educated pharmacists

Additionally, last year:
* The UI supported 414 Linn County companies with purchases of $42.7 million
* 71,169 Linn County residents received service from UI Hospitals and Clinics
* 1,868 Linn County residents received services through UI Outreach Specialty Clinics and UI Home Care

Source: UI Outreach site

On giving back to the community, he says: “I think it is critical to engage in community activities beyond our day-to-day work. I encourage all my leadership (co-workers) to get engaged and find something that they have passion in and use that to better our communities.

“My passion is in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) education where I am on the Governor's STEM Advisory Council, the Board of Directors of FIRST (United States Foundation for Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology), and the University of Iowa College of Engineering Advisory Board,” he says. “My end goal is to inspire more youth to look to science, technology, and math as an enabler to a satisfying career.”

Growing up in Dubuque, Ortberg learned some of the lessons that guide him in his day-to-day work.

“I grew up in a typical Midwest family,” he says. “My dad worked at John Deere, and my mom was a stay-at-home mother of four. I enjoyed the TV show ‘The Wonder Years’ because it reminded me of my childhood. This upbringing instilled some key values in me that have served me well. You need to work hard to earn your keep.

“I was involved in Boy Scouts and eventually became an eagle scout, where I learned key leadership skills and character traits that I still use today,” he says.

At Rockwell Collins, Ortberg’s advance has been steady and progressive since he first joined the company in 1987 as a program manager. Over the years, he has led both the commercial and governmental divisions of the company. As a Rockwell Collins biography notes, Ortberg “launched innovative product lines that continue to transform commercial and military operations, and helped set the strategy for the future direction of the company.”

In September 2012 he was named president, and in August 2013 Rockwell’s Board of Directors elected him CEO.

For those and other accomplishments, Ortberg will be inducted into the UI College of Engineering’s Distinguished Engineering Alumni Academy Dec. 21 at the engineering undergraduate commencement ceremony. The academy honors UI engineering alumni for their personal contributions toward engineering achievement, leadership, and service to the profession and society.

In addition, he will deliver the “charge to the graduates.”

On being inducted into the Alumni Academy, he says: “It’s a great honor to be recognized with such a prestigious award, and I'm humbled to be among the previous inductees. When I graduated from the University of Iowa, I would have never dreamed of receiving such an honor, which I guess is a great testament to what hard work can do.”

When it comes to recreation, Ortberg enjoys a hobby that is dear to the hearts of millions of people around the world. As President Dwight Eisenhower reportedly said of golf, “It offers healthy respite from daily toil, refreshment of body and mind.”

Ortberg agrees.

“I love to golf,” he says. “It’s a game that keeps you very humble, and there's only one person to get credit or blame for the results. While I don't get to play as much as I used to, it is a time when the cell phone is turned off, and it’s just me and my buddies in search of that ‘great round.’ There are always those one or two shots that keep you coming back.”

Did you know? University of Iowa engineering alumni live and work in 91 of Iowa’s 99 counties.

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Hometown Hawkeyes are University of Iowa alumni, students, faculty, and staff living, working, and making a difference in Iowa. Know a Hometown Hawkeye you'd like to see profiled in Iowa Now? Email your suggestion to us at now@uiowa.edu.

Contacts

Gary Galluzzo, University Communication and Marketing, 319-384-0009

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