RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, N.C. – IBM’s 6th chief executive John Akers, passed away on Friday in Boston at age 79. According to a company spokesperson, the cause was a stroke.

Akers served as IBM’s CEO for eight years during the company’s struggles to adapt its dominance in mainframes to the PC era.

A former U.S. Navy pilot, Akers joined IBM in 1960 and stayed there for 33 years, until being ousted as CEO in favor of RJR Nabisco Holdings chief Louis Gerstner – IBM’s first top executive from outside the company.

Early in his IBM career, Akers was an executive assistant to Frank Cary, who himself became a CEO at the company. Akers also served as president of the data-processing division and president before becoming chief executive in 1985.

One of his executive assistants was Samuel Palmisano, who also later became CEO. He described Akers in IBM’s statement as the ultimate company man and “so committed to the institution and its culture.”

“People liked John Akers, because they knew he cared about them – as employees, as people, and as IBMers,” Palmisano said in the IBM statement.

As IBM’s centennial approached in 2011, Akers expressed satisfaction in what the company had accomplished.

“Many things have changed over the years but the values of IBM then and the values of IBM today are what we have built on successfully all of these years,” he said. “It continues to result in the best value and solution for the customer.”

His survivors include his wife of 54 years, Susan Davis Akers; a son, Scott; two daughters, Pamela Sjodin and Annie Klyver; and 10 grandchildren.

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