RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK – John Chambers, the man recognized as the chief architect behind the building of Cisco Systems into an international technology giant, stepped down as chair of the company on Monday at the firm’s annual stockholders meeting. And Chuck Robbins, the UNC-Chapel Hill graduate who replaced him, offered plenty of praise to Chambers.

“We all know John for his brilliant mind, his charismatic leadership and for those of us who he has helped whether as a mentor, leader or friend, his impact has been immeasurable. Over the last 26 years, John has helped build Cisco’s culture, our customer first approach and our commitment to innovation,” Robbins said during a conference call.

“Most recently, John has helped build our focus on country digitization all over the world. All of this has laid a strong foundation for our future and we are truly grateful for his vision and his commitment to our company. John, on behalf of all of us here at Cisco thank you for our leadership and everything that you have done and I would also personally like to thank you for your friendship, your leadership, your mentorship over the last 20 years that I have been here.

“You hold a cornerstone in our history.

“No other person is more responsible for Cisco’s significant technological and societal contributions and you will always be a part of Cisco just as I imagine Cisco will always be a part of you,” he added, according to an transcript of the meeting provided by website SeekingAlpha.

Chambers served as CEO for 20 years then turned the job over to Robbins in 2015.

Chambers was named chairman emeritus and thanked shareholders for the opportunity to lead the company.

Later, Robbins was named to the Cisco board. He is expected to be named chairman.

“Change the world”

“You’re going to see a company that will lead in digitization and continue to change the world,” Chambers told Robbins, according to CRN. “When you look at our employees and look at the pride they have in the organization, it’s what really makes me most excited. This company has the courage to dream big dreams like nobody else. It sets audacious goals of being one or two in everything we do.”

CRN noted that Chambers grew Cisco to $47 billion in revenue from just $1.2 billion.

Chambers joined Cisco in 1991 as head of sales.

Cisco operates one of its largest corporate campuses in RTP.