1990 Horatio Alger Award Winner
"Taking all things within the realm of possibility and making them practical and feasible—that is the challenge."
John Roach was born in 1938 in Stamford, Texas, but moved to Fort Worth with his family at the age of four. After World War II, his father operated a small neighborhood grocery store. As a youngster, Roach worked in the store after school, stocking shelves, sweeping floors, and cashiering.
During his college years at Texas Christian University, Roach held jobs unloading box cars and working as a field engineer. He earned a degree in physics and math, and returned two years later to earn a master's degree in business administration, where he learned about computer programming and the potential of widespread computer use by consumers.
In 1967, Roach joined Tandy Corporation as a data processing manager. "At that time," he says, "neither the concept nor the thought of a personal computer had even been conceived." During the mid-1970s, as vice president of manufacturing, Roach led Tandy in its emergence as a pioneer in the microcomputer industry. He had the ability to see the power of the microprocessor and what it would do for consumers. He made accurate predictions that the computer would become more personal and interrelated long before anyone had ever heard of the internet. By 1981, Roach was one of the youngest CEOs in the country. He became chairman and CEO in 1983, and held those positions until he retired in 1999. Today, Tandy Corporation is one of the largest consumer electronics retailers in the country.
Roach gives much of the credit for his success to his solid family background. "I had hard-working parents, and certainly an exceptionally determined mother. I think if I had a role model it was of a strong family-based upbringing." In addition, Roach says he is inspired by the promise of what tomorrow may bring. "There are so many great challenges and opportunities out there. Whether you're looking at business, or whether you're looking at the community, or whether you're looking at the family, there are just an infinite number of challenges in all directions that make it exciting to get up in the morning."
Wanting to do something to promote the study of science and math, Roach helped the Tandy Corporation launch a program that rewards teachers and students who are leaders in those subjects. "I wanted to do something that would help America be more competitive tomorrow in a world where technology is a major driving force," he says. His program gives financial rewards to teachers and students who have made outstanding contributions to academic excellence in science and math.