Callahan had a reputation for tremendous drive, honesty and integrity
We were saddened to lose an old friend and leader recently. Francis Joseph Callahan Jr. -- everyone knew him as Joe -- died June 28 in Chagrin Falls, Ohio, at age 89. As president, chief executive and chairman of Swagelok, he helped boost the company's revenue over the $1 billion mark. But Callahan was a lot more than an executive behind a desk. He knew Swagelok from the ground up, earning 23 patents and writing the 226-page Swagelok Tube Fitter's Manual. In fact, he spent 42 years with the company.
Callahan always credited the U.S. Navy for laying the foundations of his leadership values. He graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1945, then went on to submarine school. Among the officers he served with were Admiral Hyman Rickover and future President Jimmy Carter. The Navy sent Callahan to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology for a bachelor's degree in electrical engineering and a master's in nuclear engineering. He became a project officer on the Nautilus and the Seawolf, the first two nuclear subs, and helped design others.
In 1957, Callahan left the Navy. His wife's uncle, Fred Lennon, hired him at the company we now know as Swagelok. While family connections got him in the door, Callahan had to work his way up to the top ranks. He started as a salesman. In 1980 he became president, and moved into the chairman's position in 1998.
The Navy influence helped guide the way Callahan organized Swagelok, creating a culture that valued being the best at whatever task the company took on. He made sure Swagelok stayed up to date with new technology, making early use of computers and robots.
Callahan's work earned him great wealth, which he used to better the community he lived in. In 1968 he set up the Callahan Foundation, which has since awarded more than $10 million in grants to northeastern Ohio nonprofits that demonstrate superior entrepreneurial leadership and a record of creating value.
Callahan also served on several boards, including hospitals, universities and the Cleveland Orchestra. He endowed an orchestra concert series and university lecture series.
In all that he did, Callahan had a reputation for tremendous drive, honesty and integrity. We try to live up to that ideal every day at Swagelok Northern California. When we hire, we look for people who fit our culture of being the best at what we do. When we meet with a customer, we always try to do what's best for them. Joe Callahan retired from the company more than a decade ago, but his spirit still infuses everything we do.
Photos of original Swagelok Tube Fitter's Manual