Robert E. "Bob" Harlan, who has led the Green Bay Packers to professional football's heights during a 14-year tenure as the team's president and chief executive officer, has been elected to the Packers Hall of Fame in recognition of his major and multiple contributions to the NFL's most storied franchise, HOF President Michael B. Gage announced Friday.
Harlan, who will be the sole inductee, will be enshrined during the 2004 Hall of Fame Induction Dinner, to be held in the Lambeau Field Atrium Saturday night, July 17, 2004.
When Harlan assumed his current responsibilities in June of 1989, the Packers' then incoming CEO promptly established an ambitious agenda for himself and the organization, announcing, "I want to move this franchise ahead in every area."
In the interim, the genial Iowan has more than fulfilled that commitment. Under his visionary leadership, first exemplified when he brought in Ron Wolf as executive vice president/general manager in 1991 with full authority to run the football operation, and again when he named Mike Sherman to succeed the retiring Wolf in 2001, the Packers have become the most successful team in the National Football League.
Hailed today as the standard of professional football, they have posted 10 winning records in the last 11 seasons, advanced to the playoffs eight times in the last 10 years, won four division titles, two National Football Conference championships and been to two Super Bowls, winning it all in 1996.
In the highly successful process, Harlan has developed an organization that is being cited as a model - not only for the National Football League but for franchises across the sprawling spectrum of professional sports.
Harlan's election to the Hall of Fame follows upon the crowning achievement of his remarkably successful tenure - completion in September of the $295 million renovation of Lambeau Field, a monumental three-year project.
Faced with finding a way to assure the team's financial survival in the NFL for the next three decades, it was Harlan who conceived the idea of transforming "Lambeau" into a 365-day-a-year tourist destination - the first such operation in NFL history - then put together the creative and comprehensive plan to make it a stunning reality.
He literally sold the project to Brown County voters door-to-door, even to the point of being abroad at 5:30 a.m. to greet paper mill workers coming off an over-night shift, thus putting his personal integrity on the line in seeking a "yes" vote in a close referendum on a half-cent-per-dollar "stadium" tax.
During his tenure, Harlan also has presided over several other major moves critical to the Packers' continued success - the historic 1994 decision to leave Milwaukee, ending a 62-year stay, and play all home games in Green Bay; launching of the fourth stock sale in team annals in 1997, a mechanism which produced more than $20 million in new money and over 110,000 new shareholders; and authorizing the construction, also in 1994, of the Don Hutson Center, the team's "state-of-the-art" practice facility.
Now in his 33rd year in the Packers organization and its most senior member in point of service, Harlan joined the team June 1, 1971, as assistant general manager, having come to Green Bay from St. Louis, Mo., where he had been serving as director of public relations for the St. Louis baseball Cardinals.
He later was named corporate general manager in 1975, corporate assistant to the president in 1981 and executive vice president of administration on Feb. 16, 1988, before being elected the team's ninth president and chief executive officer on June 5, 1989.
A graduate of Marquette University in 1958, Harlan launched his career in sports as sports information director at his alma mater, working with the legendary basketball coach, Al McGuire, during the1964-65 season.
The possessor of two prized pieces of jewelry as the result of his professional endeavors, the 67-year-old native of Des Moines, Iowa, is the owner of a 1967 World Series ring, earned while he worked for the St. Louis Cardinals, in addition to the Super Bowl ring from the Packers' 1996 championship.
Bob and his wife, Madeline, have three sons - Kevin, 43, Bryan, 41, and Michael, 34 - and four grandchildren.