Raytheon’s Dennis Picard Remembered for Role in Advancing Radar

The former CEO and chairman of Raytheon transformed the company into a global defense giant

3 min read
Photo of Dennis J. Picard
Photo: Raytheon

THE INSTITUTE IEEE mourns the loss of Life Fellow Dennis J. Picard, former CEO and chairman of Raytheon, a U.S. technology company specializing in defense and homeland security. He died on 21 October at the age of 87.

Picard, who rose through the ranks at Raytheon, was able to help the company become one of the largest military suppliers in the United States.

IEEE established the Dennis J. Picard Medal for Radar Technologies Applications in 1999 to honor his career.

LUCKY MISTAKE

After graduating from high school in 1950, Picard joined the U.S. Air Force. While overseas during the Korean War, he took courses on how radio worked—which sparked his interest in engineering. After he was discharged from the Air Force in 1953, he attended RCA Institute in New York City, and he graduated as a licensed broadcast engineer.

Picard started a business repairing broken televisions in the basement of his parents’ home in North Providence, R.I. In 1955 he decided to pursue a full-time position with an engineering company in Waltham, Mass. According to his obituary published by The Boston Globe, on the way to the interview, he got lost and sought help from a police officer, who mistakenly directed him to a Raytheon hiring center in Waltham. Raytheon hired him on the spot as an engineering assistant.

While working at Raytheon, Picard continued his studies. In 1961 he received a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering and management from Northeastern University, in Boston.

Picard worked as an electrical engineer at Raytheon for 21 years, until he was promoted to corporate vice president in 1976.

CLIMBING THE CAREER LADDER

According to IEEE Life Fellow Richard Cox, a research professor at the Johns Hopkins Whiting School of Engineering, in Baltimore, Picard was a true success story. In both his technical and managerial career, he was known for his attention to detail. He made Raytheon a leader.” 

In 1982 Picard became general manager of Raytheon’s equipment division, which designed and produced shipboard and large phased array radars for intelligence gathering and attack warning.

He became general manager of the missile systems division in 1983. He helped develop the Patriot missile, a ground-based mobile defense interceptor deployed by many countries including the United States. The system is used to detect and track unmanned aerial vehicles as well as missiles.

He was named CEO in 1991. During his tenure, he more than doubled the company’s yearly sales, to US $19.5 billion in 1998 from $9.3 billion in 1991.

Picard retired in 1998, and was honored by the company’s board of directors with the title of chairman emeritus.

He was a generous donor to the IEEE Foundation.

“We are deeply saddened by the passing of Dennis,” says IEEE Life Fellow John Treichler, president of the IEEE Foundation. “He was a visionary leader who understood that by weeding through the details, you would uncover what needed to be done. And then he did it. We are grateful that for nearly 20 years he chose to donate to the IEEE Foundation’s fund, ensuring that a wide variety of philanthropic activities would be supported.”

“For two decades, Raytheon has been proud to be a partner with the IEEE Foundation through the creation of the IEEE Dennis J. Picard Medal recognizing outstanding accomplishments in the field of radar technology and its applications,” adds IEEE Fellow Mark E. Russell, the company’s vice president of engineering, technology, and mission assurance. “Moving forward, Dennis’ vibrancy and commitment to investing in the progression of others will be carried on by honoring another whose inventive contributions will continue to have a sustained impact on our world.”

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