Edward E. Whitacre Jr. was born on November 4, 1941 in Ennis, Texas. He 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. He then progressed through a series of assignments in the company’s operational departments in Texas, Arkansas and Kansas.
From 1982 to 1985, Whitacre headed Southwestern Bell’s Kansas Division, leading the state division through the divestiture of the Bell System. He then moved to corporate headquarters where he served as group president, vice president of revenues and public affairs, and vice chairman and chief financial officer.
Texas Tech nominated and selected Whitacre as a Distinguished Engineer in 1985 to recognize his accomplishments.
In recognition of his outstanding work and leadership at Southwestern Bell, Whitacre was made president and chief operating officer in October 1988, taking responsibility for the company’s six primary subsidiaries. Within 16 months, he became chairman and chief executive officer. In 1995, the company changed its name to SBC Communications.
At the request of Chancellor John T. Montford, Whitacre served as the national campaign chairman for Texas Tech’s Horizon Fundraising Campaign from 1996 to 2001.
Under Whitacre's leadership, SBC made significant domestic and international investments. In addition, SBC established several groundbreaking strategic partnerships with companies such as Yahoo! and EchoStar, enabling SBC to set the pace for DSL sales as well as enter the video market. SBC joined with BellSouth to create Cingular Wireless, which in 2004 acquired AT&T Wireless.
Whitacre led on a disciplined growth strategy and through a series of industry-changing mergers and acquisitions, including the 2005 acquisition of AT&T Corp., after which the company adopted the name, AT&T Inc.
SBC and the new AT&T have been repeatedly named by Fortune magazine as the most admired telecommunications company in America and the world. Forbes magazine named AT&T "Company of the Year" for 2006.
After a successful 17-year tenure as AT&T chairman, CEO and president, Whitacre announced his retirement in 2007. That year, AT&T pledged a $5.35 million gift to the Texas Tech College of Engineering for nanophotonics research as a tribute to his commitment to higher education.
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.
Whitacre joined General Motors Company (GM) as chairman when the new company launched in July 2009. He was elected chairman and CEO on December 1, 2009. He was selected based on his diligence, attention to detail, and decisive management style, which helped him to rebuild AT&T into the largest telecommunications company in the world. These qualities helped him overhaul GM’s management and brands.
In his expanded leadership role, Whitacre drove GM's vision to design, build and sell the world's best vehicles.
Whitacre shook up the company with a number of managerial changes, including luring Chief Financial Officer Chris Liddell from Microsoft Corp. He also combined sales and marketing responsibilities and consolidated control of GM's core North American market under one executive.
In one year after declaring bankruptcy, the company earned $1.3 billion and prepared to pay back the government’s $50 million bailout.
Whitacre stepped down as CEO of GM in September 2010 and retired as chairman of the board on December 31, 2010.
Whitacre also serves on the boards of Exxon Mobil Corporation and the PGA Tour, and previously served on the board of Burlington Northern Santa Fe Corporation. He serves on the board of the Institute for International Economics and is a member of The Business Council. He previously served on the President's National Security Telecommunications Advisory Committee and the board of Anheuser-Busch Companies.
Whitacre's leadership extends into the community where he has been actively involved with the Boy Scouts of America, the Board of Regents of Texas Tech University, Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center and United Way.
In recognition of his commitment to business and community, BusinessWeek named Whitacre one of the Top 25 Executives of the Year in 2010. He also has earned a number of awards for his contributions to business and civic affairs, including the Corporate Leadership Award from the National Minority Supplier Development Council and the Obelisk Leadership Award.
Whitacre has been instrumental in securing some of the largest contributions to Texas Tech, including a $20 million gift for Jones Stadium renovations, and $14 million from the SBC Foundation to create endowed scholarships at Texas Tech.