When Lewis W. Lehr joined 3M in 1947, he earned $65 a week testing adhesives for the St. Paul company.
When he left nearly four decades later, he had helped turn 3M into the multi-faceted international business it is today, one that's now more sought-after for young Americans than Google.
Lehr died last Saturday at the age of 95, according to Legacy.com.
“On behalf of our entire 3M team, we salute Lew for his leadership and extend our deepest condolences to his family," 3M chairman, president and CEO Inge G. Thulin said in a news release Thursday.
Born in 1921 in Elgin, Nebraska, Lehr graduated from the University of Nebraska and served as 2nd Lieutenant in the U.S. Army during World War II.
He married his wife Doris Stauder in 1944, and a few years later moved to Minnesota to join 3M.
He became 3M's CEO in 1979, and for the 11 years that followed served the company in top leadership roles. When he left, 3M's revenue had skyrocketed to $8.6 billion, according to the Harvard Business School.
Lehr oversaw some key developments. He accelerated the company's expansion overseas, Thulin said, and in 1984 it became the first wholly owned foreign enterprise in China.
He also pushed to grow 3M's health care portfolio – which is now worth $5.4 billion, the Star Tribune says.
The New York Times wrote about Lehr in 1983, when the then-62-year-old was pushing back against a state environmental bill that addressed hazardous disposal sites, their clean-up, and compensation for victims, the Times said.
But that was sort of out of character for Lehr, the paper said, writing he had "proven in the past to be sympathetic" to environmental worries.
"For example, he enthusiastically helped to develop 3M's Pollution Prevention Pays program, now eight years old. This program stresses the elimination of pollution at the source – the redesign of polluting processes in order to avoid the need for cleanup later on ... "
The Times also credited him for an "unusually easy-going management style."
3M now has worldwide sales of more than $30.2 billion, and employs nearly 90,000 people worldwide. It is the 12th-largest employer in Minnesota, according to the state's Department of Employment and Economic Development.
A funeral service for Lehr will be Friday in Arizona. You can see details here.