Thomas C. Sullivan, former chairman and CEO of RPM, passed away peacefully on November 30, 2020, at 83 years old. An ardent proponent of RPM’s corporate philosophy The Value of 168, Tom made the most of every moment. He was an inspiration and example for so many as a loyal son and brother, a patriotic Naval officer, a dedicated husband, a beloved father, an internationally recognized business leader, a generous philanthropist, a widely respected community figure and a man of faith.
Over his 55-year career at the helm of RPM, Tom made a tremendous impact in shaping the company’s growth and success. He joined RPM—then known as Republic Powdered Metals—in 1961 as a division sales manager, before being elected to vice president in 1967 and executive vice president in 1969. Tom assumed leadership of the $11-million company as CEO and chairman in 1971, following the sudden death of his father and RPM founder, Frank C. Sullivan.
Under his leadership, RPM grew to more than $2 billion in sales before his retirement as CEO in 2002 through a combination of internal growth and acquisitions. In October 2008, Tom retired from a 37-year charge as RPM’s board chairman, but continued to serve as chairman emeritus until 2016 when company sales were nearly $5 billion.
Publicly, most would recognize Tom’s success as a titan of industry—but privately it was his philanthropic work that gave him sustained joy. Together with his wife Sandy, Tom was a passionate advocate of education initiatives championing the aspirations of underprivileged youth.
Tom’s most enduring trait—and perhaps the secret to his success—was his steadfast belief in people. He had a great way of connecting with others, setting high standards for them and believing in their abilities. As a result of his incredible leadership, Tom leaves a lasting legacy within RPM, his community and his family.
~ Acquisition philosophy of Thomas C. Sullivan