Samuel Ginn, considered a pioneer of the telecommunications industry with more than four decades of experience, is a 1959 graduate of Auburn University with a bachelor’s degree in industrial engineering. Ginn also holds an honorary doctorate degree from Auburn and was awarded a Sloan Fellowship to the Stanford Graduate School of Business in 1969. He is the namesake for the Samuel Ginn College of Engineering at Auburn University.
Following a brief service with the Army Signal Corps, he began his career as a student engineer in 1960 at AT&T He rose through the ranks in management and operations, becoming vice president of network operations for AT&T Long Lines in 197 7, and was appointed president and CEO of PacTel, a regional Bell operating company in 1988. While with Pac Tel, Ginn led the company’s networking of the Los Angeles Olympics with cellular phones, which was one of the most extensive cellular projects to date during that time.
In 1994, Ginn launched AirTouch Communications, an early cellular phone company and a spin-off from PacTel, which became the third-largest Initial Public Offering (IPO) in U.S. history. He grew the company to develop in both domestic and global markets, eventually pushing it to become the second-largest global cellular company. One by one, AirTouch won cellular licenses in growing overseas markets, and by 1998 it had more than 20 million customers abroad. The company sold for $65 billion in 1999 to Vodafone, where Ginn assumed the position of chairman in the United Kingdom. During his tenure, Vodafone merged with Verizon to create Verizon Wireless. Ginn retired from Vodafone in 2002.
Presently, Ginn serves on the board of directors for The Eisenhower Medical Center in Rancho Mirage, California, and is also an overseer at Stanford Hoover Institution. He created the Ginn Family Foundation in 2005 and serves as chairman of the board. He is the founding director of OnDot, a startup company positioned to reduce credit card fraud.
Ginn has served on the corporate boards of Franklin Templeton, CH2M Hill, First Interstate Bank, Pacific Telesis Group, Safeway, Transamerica Corporation, Vodafone, AirTouch Communications, Chevron Corp, and Hewlett-Packard. He also served as chairman of the California Business Higher Education Forum, and the California Business Roundtable. Ginn is an angel investor and adviser to multiple Silicon Valley startup companies.
In 2001, he donated $25 million to Auburn University, which was used for the development of the wireless engineering degree program that helped vault Auburn into the nation’s elite wireless research and teaching institution. Auburn named the Samuel Ginn College of Engineering in honor of his gift. Ginn was also awarded an honorary doctorate degree in 1998 from Auburn and served on the university’s board of trustees from 2005 to 2013. The university also presented him with its Lifetime Achievement Award. He was inducted into the State of Alabama Engineering Hall of Fame in 1992 and in 2014 was inducted into the Wireless History Foundations Hall of Fame-one of the industry’s highest honors.
Ginn is a native of Anniston, Alabama, and is married to Ann Vance Ginn, and together they have three children and six grandchildren. The couple resides in Hillsborough, California.