Robert Emory Kirby, a former chairman and chief executive officer of Westinghouse Corp., died Friday after several strokes. A longtime resident of Catonsville, Mr. Kirby died in Naples, Fla. He was 80.
As the top executive at Westinghouse, Mr. Kirby fought off bankruptcy and reshaped the company into a profitable communications, defense and electronics giant. Westinghouse has since become CBS Corp., and a year ago began selling off its industrial businesses to concentrate on its media holdings.
Mr. Kirby was a native of Ames, Iowa. He came to Catonsville in 1946 to begin his career with Westinghouse. He worked there as head of the electronics and ordnance divisions until he moved to the company's Pittsburgh headquarters in 1963.
In 1975 he became Westinghouse's top executive and held the post until his retirement, in 1983.
"He was a get-on-the-floor kind of manager," said his daughter, Linda Mewshaw of London. "He took the time to know his employees on a personal level. He was not a pretentious or high-handed person. He was very interested in people, and he believed all people deserved respect and responsibility, and to the extent you gave them that, they could do their job and keep the lines of communication open."
Mr. Kirby graduated from Pennsylvania State University in 1939 with a degree in chemical engineering. He spent three years in the Navy during World War II, and later earned a master's degree in business administration from Harvard Business School, graduating in 1952.
Mr. Kirby was an avid golfer who loved big band music and gadgets of all kinds. He loved magic tricks and could provide his own sleight of hand. Once, at an event in Pittsburgh, he solved the Rubik's Cube in 72 seconds.
A memorial service will be held on Wednesday in Naples. Mr. Kirby will be buried in a private service at Baltimore National Cemetery.
His wife, Barbara, died four years ago. In addition to his daughter, Mr. Kirby is survived by his son-in-law, Michael Mewshaw; and two grandsons, Sean Kirby Mewshaw of Los Angeles and Marc Paul Mewshaw of Princeton, N.J.
Pub Date: 1/04/99