Gert Boyle

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Gertrude Boyle
Gert Boyle in 2013.jpg
Gert Boyle in 2013
Gertrude Lamfrom

(1924-03-06)March 6, 1924
DiedNovember 3, 2019(2019-11-03) (aged 95)
NationalityUnited States
EducationB.A. University of Arizona
Known forChairwoman of Columbia Sportswear
Spouse(s)Neal Boyle (1948–1970, his death)
Children Timothy Boyle
Kathy Boyle
Sally Boyle
Parent(s)Paul Lamfrom
Marie Lamfrom

Gertrude Boyle (née Lamfrom; March 6, 1924 – November 3, 2019) was a German-born American businesswoman in the U.S. state of Oregon. After her family fled Nazi Germany, her father founded the business that would become Columbia Sportswear, where in 1970, she became company president. She remained president until 1988 and additionally, served as chairwoman of the company's board of directors from 1983 [1] until her death in 2019. Starting in the 1980s, she appeared in a series of advertisements for Columbia Sportswear alongside her son Timothy Boyle, often humorously testing the quality and durability of their products. She was also a philanthropist and memoirist.

Oregon state of the United States of America

Oregon is a state in the Pacific Northwest region on the West Coast of the United States. The Columbia River delineates much of Oregon's northern boundary with Washington, while the Snake River delineates much of its eastern boundary with Idaho. The parallel 42° north delineates the southern boundary with California and Nevada.

Nazi Germany The German state from 1933 to 1945, under the dictatorship of Adolf Hitler

Nazi Germany is the common English name for Germany between 1933 and 1945, when Adolf Hitler and his Nazi Party (NSDAP) controlled the country through a dictatorship. Under Hitler's rule, Germany was transformed into a totalitarian state where nearly all aspects of life were controlled by the government. The official name of the state was Deutsches Reich until 1943 and Großdeutsches Reich from 1943 to 1945. Nazi Germany is also known as the Third Reich, meaning "Third Realm" or "Third Empire", the first two being the Holy Roman Empire (800–1806) and the German Empire (1871–1918). The Nazi regime ended after the Allies defeated Germany in May 1945, ending World War II in Europe.

Columbia Sportswear United States company that manufactures and distributes outerwear and sportswear

The Columbia Sportswear Company is an American company that manufactures and distributes outerwear, sportswear, and footwear, as well as headgear, camping equipment, ski apparel, and outerwear accessories.


Early life and education

Born Gertrude Lamfrom to a German Jewish family in Augsburg, Germany, [2] she was the daughter of Marie (née Epstein) and Paul Lamfrom. Her father owned the largest shirt factory in Germany [2] until it was seized. [1] Her mother was a nurse during World War I. [1] In 1937, when she was 13, her family fled Nazi Germany and immigrated to Portland, Oregon, in the United States; [2] her grandmother, who had remained in Germany, died in a concentration camp. [2] When the family arrived, she did not speak English. [1] In 1938, her father borrowed money from a relative and purchased the Rosenfeld Hat Company, [2] changing its name to the Columbia Hat Company [3] (after the river). [2] She attended Grant High School in Portland, [4] and later graduated with a B.A. in sociology from the University of Arizona. [2]

World War I 1914–1918 global war starting in Europe

World War I, also known as the First World War, the Great War, the Seminal Catastrophe, and initially in North America as the European War, was a global war originating in Europe that lasted from 28 July 1914 to 11 November 1918. Contemporaneously described as "the war to end all wars", it led to the mobilisation of more than 70 million military personnel, including 60 million Europeans, making it one of the largest wars in history. It is also one of the deadliest conflicts in history, with an estimated nine million combatants and seven million civilian deaths as a direct result of the war, while resulting genocides and the resulting 1918 influenza pandemic caused another 50 to 100 million deaths worldwide.

Portland, Oregon city in Oregon, USA

Portland, officially the City of Portland, is the largest and most populous city in the U.S. state of Oregon and the seat of Multnomah County. It is a major port in the Willamette Valley region of the Pacific Northwest, at the confluence of the Willamette and Columbia rivers. As of 2018, Portland had an estimated population of 653,115, making it the 25th most populated city in the United States, and the second-most populous in the Pacific Northwest after Seattle. Approximately 2.4 million people live in the Portland metropolitan statistical area (MSA), making it the 25th most populous in the United States. Its combined statistical area (CSA) ranks 19th-largest with a population of around 3.2 million. Approximately 60% of Oregon's population resides within the Portland metropolitan area.

Columbia River River in the Pacific Northwest of the United States

The Columbia River is the largest river in the Pacific Northwest region of North America. The river rises in the Rocky Mountains of British Columbia, Canada. It flows northwest and then south into the US state of Washington, then turns west to form most of the border between Washington and the state of Oregon before emptying into the Pacific Ocean. The river is 1,243 miles (2,000 km) long, and its largest tributary is the Snake River. Its drainage basin is roughly the size of France and extends into seven US states and a Canadian province. The fourth-largest river in the United States by volume, the Columbia has the greatest flow of any North American river entering the Pacific.


In 1964, Boyle's father died and her husband, Neal Boyle, became president; her husband diversified the hat business [2] into outerwear for hunters, fishermen, and skiers. [1] In 1960, Gert Boyle designed the first fishing vest (her husband was an avid fisherman) and the name of the company was changed to Columbia Sportswear. [3] In 1970, her husband died unexpectedly at the age of 47 of a heart attack; she became president of the company, then with $800,000 in annual sales. [2] The company struggled and teetered on bankruptcy [5] until, in the 1970s, she and her son Timothy refocused the business on outdoor clothing and casual wear which paralleled a general trend away from formal work attire. [6] In 1975, they were the first company to introduce Gore-Tex parkas. [3]

Timothy Boyle is an American billionaire, and the president and CEO of Columbia Sportswear.

Gore-Tex Trademark for a waterproof, breathable fabric

Gore-Tex is a waterproof, breathable fabric membrane and registered trademark of W. L. Gore and Associates. Invented in 1969, Gore-Tex can repel liquid water while allowing water vapor to pass through and is designed to be a lightweight, waterproof fabric for all-weather use. It is composed of stretched polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE), which is more commonly known by the generic trademark Teflon.

In 1983, Boyle became chairman of Columbia's board of directors [1] (a position she ultimately retained for 36 years, until her death in 2019).

Boyle started starring in commercials for the company in 1984. [2] In the ads she stars as Ma Boyle, who is "One Tough Mother" and uses her son as a test dummy for new products. [7] [8] In 1986, they released the Bugaboo, a jacket with a zip out lining which became quite trendy and further propelled the company's growth. [2] Columbia was unique among specialty clothing manufacturers in that it would sell its products to any retail shop or chain. [1] In 1987, Columbia had $18.8 million in sales and by 1997 it had grown to $353.5 million. [1] The company went public in 1998. [6]

She stepped down as company president in 1988, handing the reins to her son Tim, but remained chairman of the board. [1]


In 1995, Boyle outfitted the Special Olympics Team USA for the World Games. She donated the royalties from her autobiography One Tough Mother to the Special Olympics and Court Appointed Special Advocates for Children. [1] [8] In 2010, she endowed the Hildegard Lamfrom Chair in Basic Science in association with the Knight Cancer Institute at Oregon Health and Science University with $2.5 million which honors her sister, Hildegard, who died from a brain tumor in 1984. [9] In 2014, Boyle donated $100 million to the Knight Cancer Institute. [10]

Personal life

In 1948, she married Joseph Cornelius "Neal" Boyle, an Irish American from Pennsylvania whom she met in college, at All Saints Church in Portland, Oregon. [1] Gert Boyle converted to her husband's Catholic faith. [1] They had three children: Timothy Boyle (born 1949); Kathy Boyle (born 1952); and Sally Boyle (born 1958). [2] As of 2013, her son Tim was the CEO of Columbia; [11] Kathy is an artist and real estate saleswoman, and Sally is the co-owner of Moonstruck Chocolates, an upscale chocolatier. [8] Her husband Neal died in 1970, and she never remarried. [12]

In 2010, she was tied up at gunpoint by an armed robber in her home in West Linn, Oregon. [13] She was able to trigger a silent alarm which alerted police, and the robber was later captured. [13]

Boyle died in an assisted living facility in Portland on November 3, 2019, at age 95. [14] Cause of death was not disclosed by the company spokesman who announced the news. [15]

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  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 Accettola, Anna (October 16, 2012). Wadhwani, R. Daniel (ed.). "Gertrude Boyle". Immigrant Entrepreneurship: German-American Business Biographies, 1720 to the Present. German Historical Institute. 5. Archived from the original on May 3, 2016. Retrieved November 3, 2019.
  2. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 Whitford, David; Gert Boyle (September 1, 2003). "Gert Boyle, Columbia Sportswear Co". Fortune Small Business. Archived from the original on May 24, 2019. Retrieved November 3, 2019.
  3. 1 2 3 "Columbia Milestones". About Us. Columbia Sportswear. Archived from the original on July 9, 2011. Retrieved November 3, 2019.
  4. Francis, Jamie (September 1, 2008). "Columbia Sportswear's Gert Boyle talks about her life and her company". The Oregonian . Retrieved November 9, 2013.
  5. Harriet Shapiro; Diane S. Lund (September 18, 1989). "Gert Boyle Has a Vested Interest in George Bush's Fishing Fortunes". People . Archived from the original on November 9, 2013. Retrieved November 3, 2019.
  6. 1 2 Boyle, Gert (April 1, 2006). "How I Did It: Gert Boyle, chairman, Columbia Sportswear". Inc. Archived from the original on September 24, 2015. Retrieved November 9, 2013.
  7. Memmott, Mark (November 12, 2010). "Gert Boyle, Columbia Sportswear's 'One Tough Mother,' Foils Robber". the two-way. National Public Radio. Archived from the original on June 11, 2015. Retrieved November 10, 2013.
  8. 1 2 3 Schwartz, Todd (Summer 2005). "Inventing Ma: Yes, an ad agency invented Columbia Sportswear's legendary Ma Boyle – but it was Life that made Gert Boyle '97 hon. one real Tough Mother". Portland magazine. University of Portland. Archived from the original on November 9, 2013. Retrieved November 9, 2013.
  9. "Columbia Sportswear's Boyle family, including 'One Tough Mother' herself, endow OHSU chair in cancer research". Oregon Health & Science University. April 19, 2010. Retrieved November 3, 2019.
  10. Budnick, Nick (August 29, 2014). "The story behind Gert Boyle's $100-million gift for cancer research at Oregon Health & Science University". The Oregonian via . Retrieved August 29, 2014.
  11. Dill, Kathryn (November 8, 2013). "Columbia Sportswear Thrives, Lifting CEO Tim Boyle To Billionaire Ranks". Forbes . Archived from the original on September 24, 2015. Retrieved November 3, 2019.
  12. Bowles, Nellie (November 6, 2019). "Gert Boyle, 95, Dies; Sportswear Chief Billed as 'One Tough Mother'". The New York Times . Retrieved November 7, 2019.
  13. 1 2 Bella, Rick (November 11, 2010). "Gert Boyle, the 'One Tough Mother' of Columbia Sportswear, outwits armed robber". The Oregonian . Retrieved November 9, 2013.
  14. Duin, Steve (November 3, 2019). "Gert Boyle, longtime Columbia Sportswear chairwoman, dies at 95". The Oregonian. Retrieved November 3, 2019.
  15. Associated Press, "‘Tough Mother’ Gert Boyle dies at 95," Corvallis Gazette-Times, vol. 157, no. 254 (Nov. 4, 2019), p. 1.