*Updated on Feb. 5, 2021.
John “Jack” D. Cosgrove, Iowa State University 1956 electrical engineering graduate, passed away on Jan. 23, 2021. Cosgrove made a memorable impact on the electronics industry and on the lives of many students at Iowa State.
During his time as a student, Cosgrove was in the Army ROTC and was a member of Tau Kappa Epsilon and Tau Beta Pi.
“I always knew I wanted to be an electrical engineer,” Cosgrove said in an August 1986 publication called Rockwell News. “Electricity always fascinated me, and applying the technology to build radios seemed pretty interesting.”
Rockwell News states that Cosgrove began working at Collins Radio Company in Cedar Rapids during summers when he was a high school student — he made antennas on an assembly line and worked in test repair on the ARC-27, making $1.07 an hour. After graduating from ISU, he went to work as a junior engineer for Collins Radio.
“I graduated at 11 o’clock on Saturday and started working at 7:30 Monday morning,” he said in Rockwell News. “I’ve been here ever since.”
Cosgrove eventually rose through the ranks at Collins, becoming vice president and general manager of the Defense Division. He went on to become president of Collins Defense Communications and was appointed president and CEO of the company, then named Rockwell Collins. He was also senior vice president of Rockwell International. In a recent post on Facebook from Collins Aerospace (the company‘s current name), many people took time to comment and share their memories of working for Cosgrove and how he remembered every employee’s name, always had a smile for everyone, was a kind and compassionate leader and left a wonderful legacy.
“I remember when he would walk around the buildings, just to say hi and thank people for their hard work. A genuine man with the most impressive character I’ve come across,” one comment said.
“Jack Cosgrove’s influence on Collins Aerospace will be felt for generations to come,” Collins Aerospace CEO President Stephen Timm wrote in an email, according to the Cedar Rapids Gazette newspaper. “He created a company culture based on respect, collaboration and a genuine interest in the success of everyone at Collins. And it was that culture that allowed our company to thrive and solve our customers’ biggest challenges together. We owe Jack a debt of gratitude for the legacy he leaves behind. We are all better for it.”
When Cosgrove retired in 1999, Rockwell Collins created an ISU endowed scholarship in his name in the College of Engineering.
Cosgrove was recently honored by becoming a member of the inaugural class of the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECpE) Hall of Fame, which debuted in October 2019. He visited campus for the ceremony and was presented with a plaque by ECpE Professor and Palmer Department Chair Ashfaq Khokhar.
“Jack was an outstanding human being who passionately supported Iowa State University,” Khokhar said. “As President and CEO of Rockwell Collins, he transformed the company in to an industry giant! As part of the inaugural class, he was inducted into ECpE Hall of Fame for his service to the technology and to the humanity.”
Steve Russell, ECpE associate professor emeritus, recalled working with Cosgrove.
“I knew Jack from our old Collins Radio days in Cedar Rapids,” he said. “Although Jack was a manager while I worked there, he was still a true engineer. He was involved in supporting my ISU-Collins research projects back in the 1990s. Jack was a true friend of ISU.”
Cosgrove served on many boards and committees across ISU; he was a governor of the ISU Foundation Board and received the Alumni Association’s Distinguished Achievement Citation. He served on the College of Engineering Industrial Advisory Board and the Program for Women in Science and Engineering (WiSE) Advisory Board; and he was a member of the Campaign Destiny National Committee. He and his wife, Dilla, were named Parents of the Year in 1986 and Cy’s Favorite Alums in 1987, as well as being members of the ISU Order of the Knoll President’s Circle and Campanile Society. The Cosgroves supported many areas of the university, including the College of Engineering, Department of Athletics, marching band, C.Y. Stephens Auditorium, Plaza of Heroines and the General University Fund for Excellence.
In an interview with WMT Radio 600 based in Cedar Rapids, Cosgrove said, “The solid academic program [at ISU] helped me meet the day-to-day challenges in my career. That’s why I encouraged my children to consider ISU for their education. Collins Defense Communications and Iowa State University are much the same — each is committed to the enrichment of the people they touch — both for a better today and a brighter future.”
Other awards and honors Cosgrove received include the Anson Marston Medal; the Order of the Knoll Cardinal and Gold award; and Outstanding Volunteer Fundraiser – Eastern Iowa Chaper Association of Fundraising. His four children, Kelly, Jill, Tracey and Patrick, all attended Iowa State University; Cosgrove is survived by his children and their families, along with his wife Dilla.