RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK – How odd that the largest venture capital event in North Carolina took place Wednesday and Thursday at the GSK campus in RTP just days after the death of Robert “Bob” Ingram who led the merger that ultimately turned Burroughs-Wellcome/Glaxo Wellcome into Glaxo Smith Kline. But the coincidence wasn’t lost on Jay Bigelow, one of the executives at the Council for Entrepreneurial Development which put on Venture Connect 2023.

“There’s something in the universe that had us at this campus, in this building when he passed. It’s almost like his legacy was helping us build this ecosystem even if he’s not here,” Bigelow told WRAL TechWire. “Gives me goosebumps.

“He was truly a Mount Rushmore person for our area that is gone and will be missed.”

Robert Ingram, general partner at Hatteras Venture Partners and former CEO of Glaxo. Photo courtesy of Hatteras.

Venture partner: ‘He always cared’

Christy Shaffer, a longtime partner with Ingram at Hatteras Venture Partners where Ingram served as a senior executive for years after retiring from his GSK career, gave a moving speech Thursday to honor him.

“Bob really cared about people. His mother had an incredible impact on him. She had her own business – a department store which was very successful – he watched her work hard and he had that work ethic too. I saw it every single day in what he was doing,” Schaffer told the crowd of hundreds gathered in the spacious, modern GSK facility.

“I know that many of you here have known Bob, worked with Bob, seen Bob in action, and he probably had an impact on some of you because he always made connections and he always cared about what people were doing.”

A philanthropist, civic leader and much more, Ingram established a legacy that many people won’t forget.

Robert ‘Bob’ Ingram, a pillar of Triangle’s life science industry, dies

“Thank you so much for being here today. Bob thought a lot about the CED organization and supported it and many other non-profits. And today what I just want to say is he is proud of all of you and what you’re doing. He was a believer in the power of innovation and entrepreneurship and he would want to see this continue to thrive in North Carolina.”

Later, in an interview with TechWire’s Jen McFarland, Shaffer elaborated on her remarks.

“I watched him as a leader of GlaxoWelcome and realized how important it was for the corporate side to give back to the general community because it helps your community flourish,” Shaffer said.

“I was thrilled when many years later I had the opportunity to work directly with Bob at Hatteras Venture Partners and I got to see him in a completely different role.

“We shared a passion for the power and the belief in innovation – that’s how you make a difference in the world.”

Shaffer also pointed out Ingram’s commitment to diversity.

“Bob helped a lot of women join their first corporate board. One of them was Machelle Sanders, our Secretary of Commerce for the state of NC. He realized before it was a big topic that diversification on boards was important,” Shaffer said.

NC Biotech Center CEO remembers

Life science was a crucial focus of Ingram over decades – not just the companies he ran. Among the benefactors of his focus was the North Carolina Biotechnology Center, which has helped create one of the top life science industry clusters in the United States and world.

“Our hearts go out to the Ingram family and vast number of friends of Bob Ingram. News of his passing took us by surprise. He was so active and a true renaissance man. He was a friend to all and a mentor to many,” Doug Edgeton, CEO of the Biotech Center, told WRAL TechWire.

“We need more people like Bob Ingram in this world, always kind, always smiling, always looking for ways he could help make a positive difference. Clearly GSK, Hatteras Capital, RTP, and North Carolina will miss his keen intellect and humanity. However, if all of us who knew Bob can exhibit just a small portion of his kind nature, the world will be a better place. The North Carolina Biotechnology Center has lost a friend but at the same time gained new ways of looking at our world from the times we were able to spend with Bob.”

Bob Ingram, a Triangle tech legend, reflects on region’s growth – and what’s needed now

An N.C. State connection

Tom White, director of the Economic Development Partnership, Poulton Innovation Center, at NC State University, also has strong memories of Ingram and pointed out Ingram’s role as a civic leader that reached well beyond life science.

“I had the very good fortune to come to know Bob Ingram when I worked at the Greater Durham Chamber of Commerce 1977-2005.”

“I was the president of the Durham United Way Board of Directors when we merged with our sister organizations in Wake County and Orange County in 1994, and we needed to have a GREAT LEADER step up and serve as Chairman of the Triangle United Way board of directors, and that LEADER was Bob Ingram, who did his usual magnificent job bringing people together in a spirit of common cause,” White said.

“He was prominent in his personal and GSK corporate support for so many terrific causes such as the Emily K Center, the City of Medicine Program, and countless additional local, regional and national causes. He, along with the dynamic indefatigable Jim Goodmon, supported Governor [Jim] Hunt’s Smart Start initiative as business leaders who cared deeply about high quality early childhood education. He was the go-to champion of Research Triangle Park as its second largest tenant to IBM.”

“Bob was the consummate gentleman, a generous philanthropist and a passionate leader. He will be greatly missed by all who had the very good fortune to know and love this titan who was as nice and kind as he was immensely talented and accomplished.”

“Bob was like his predecessor Joe Ruvane and Dr. Charles Sanders not only an extraordinary corporate leader but also a staunch advocate of corporate social responsibility and civic pride, terms that may have fallen out of fashion but honestly these were deeply-held values that he extolled and embodied from his leadership post at GSK. His ubiquitous support for Durham community based organizations and related statewide initiatives, programs and projects to build partnerships and collaborative endeavors was off the charts.”

BioCryst remembers its board chair

BioCryst Pharmaceuticals saluted Ingram – its board chair.

“We are very saddened by his loss and our thoughts and prayers go to Bob’s wife Jeanie and his sons Cameron, Michael and Rory,” the company said.

“Bob served as a board member since 2015 and chairman since 2017 and played a central role in recruiting highly accomplished board members who brought a wide diversity of skills. He set a tone of transparency with management that created a highly effective relationship that has led to some of the most productive years in the company’s history.”

CEO Jon Stonehouse added:  “Bob was a wonderful mentor to me and I am forever grateful to have had the time I did with him in helping build our company. I will miss him, but know that he has made us better. We will work to keep his spirit and influence alive to guide us as we continue to work hard to help patients around the world who are living with rare diseases.”

Capitol Broadcasting salute

Michael Goodmon,  senior vice president at Capitol Broadcasting Company, also praised Ingram.

“Mr. Ingram was a passionate and beloved leader in our community.  He knew, almost innately, that his position was one from which he could make amazing things happen.  And he understood the importance of this opportunity and, in every case, made sure that he maximized those chances for the good of the community,” Goodmon said. “I can tell you with absolute confidence that among many other things, downtown Durham, and more generally the Triangle, would simply not be where it is today without his leadership, guidance and support.  More importantly, my family was lucky to call him a friend for many years. He will be missed.”

Jim Roberts, entrepreneur

“Easily one of the most influential people in the history of the Triangle and this area would not have the focus on life sciences as one of the top three industries in the state without Bob,” said Jim Roberts, founder of the Network for Entrepreneurs in Wilmington (NEW), WALE Angel Network and Rojo Octo Ecosystem Consulting.

“He was always a gentleman and it’s rare that you meet someone that powerful that is also that much of a gentleman and also humble.”
Speaking of Venture Connect: “Certainly his leadership will be missed in the region and in the state and in the industry. Hopefully, we’ll find a new generation of future leaders at an event like this.”