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Father and Son IBM Executives Bring 50 Years Experience to the Mainframe

Pat Toole Jr. and Pat Toole Sr. stand in front of Thomas J. Watson Sr.’s bookcase in his New York office at 590 Madison Ave. in the late 1990s. Photo Courtesy of the Tooles

Pat Toole, GM for System z*, grew up surrounded by IBM. “When I was growing up, most of my friends had a poster of Joe Namath on their bedroom wall and I had Tom Watson Sr.,” he recalls.

He went on his first plant tour when he was 3. At age 8, his father tried to teach him how to design a printed circuit board. When he was 17, he applied for a co-op position, working mornings at IBM and spending afternoons finishing high school. Being entrenched in IBM was what he knew, as his father, Pat Toole Sr., a former senior vice president and group executive, retired after a 36-year career at IBM in 1997.

Like his son, Pat Sr. started at IBM as a co-op in Endicott, New York, where IBM was founded. The co-op experience afforded him the chance to work on various assignments. “I got fascinated with working on semiconductors, so my electrical engineering career led me into semiconductors and semiconductors led me into mainframes,” Pat Sr. says. “It seems that if you want to do the best technical work, do the most for society beyond the frontier of applications and development, it leads you inevitably to mainframes.”

Always a workhorse in solving client issues, the mainframe was the heart of where complicated business problems were solved, Pat Sr. says. Over the years, he’s seen the mainframe advance into “a much broader technical and user environment than anybody ever imagined when I was working on mainframes.”

Though retired, Pat Sr. is still connected to IBM and the mainframe. He periodically helps IBM or discusses projects with his son. And people have found the elder Toole through his son. “When you leave IBM and retire in the type of a technical world that I lived in, the things you miss are the ever-changing technology and the relationship with people. Pat has enabled me to have continuity in both of those respects.”

The family link to IBM goes beyond father and son. Pat Jr.’s sister worked for IBM for 10 years and is now an independent contractor with IBM customers as clients. Two of Pat Jr.’s children now work for IBM.

Beyond mainframes and IBM, the father and son duo enjoy playing golf together; traveling to Ireland; and visiting the University of Notre Dame, where Pat Jr. received a bachelor’s in electrical engineering and serves on the university’s graduate studies and research advisory council. Pat Sr. holds an honorary doctorate from Notre Dame and serves on the university’s college of engineering advisory council.

The Toole family holds IBM in high regard. It’s all Pat Jr. has known, and he says he was born to be a part of IBM.

“I love the company like a family and I never would have had that appreciation, knowledge or insight if it were not for my father,” Pat Jr. says. “I am forever grateful for all he did to get me ready and prepared.”

Valerie Dennis Craven is a Minneapolis-based writer and editor.



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