MOUNT PROSPECT, ILLINOIS (November 4, 2019) – Gert Boyle, the first woman inducted into the Sporting Goods Industry Hall of Fame in 2003 for her role in building Columbia Sportswear Company into a global brand, passed away Sunday, November 3 at age 95.
Boyle held many roles at Columbia, from seamstress of its first fishing vest, to president and Chairman of the Board of Directors. She helped lead the company from near-bankruptcy in the early 1970s to a global multi-brand company with nearly $3 billion in annual net sales in 2018.
“We are deeply saddened about the passing of Gert Boyle and we extend our sincerest condolences to her family and everyone at Columbia Sportswear,” said NSGA President & CEO Matt Carlson. “Gert was a fighter and the title of her autobiography, One Tough Mother, exemplified the determination and spirit she had to build Columbia from adverse circumstances into the company it is today. She was a true pioneer and legend in the sporting goods industry.”
Boyle was president of Columbia Sportswear from 1970 to 1988. Women inductees who followed Boyle into the Sporting Goods Industry Hall of Fame were Mary Cabela (Cabela’s, Inc., 2005), Elizabeth Goeke and Ellen Wessel (Moving Comfort, 2009), Julie Nimmons (Schutt Sports, 2010) and Barbara Longstreth (Longstreth Sporting Goods, 2018).
“I am extremely honored to be one of the five women inducted into the Sporting Goods Industry Hall of Fame,” Boyle said in a 2013 NSGA NOW magazine story. “There is nothing more flattering than to be recognized by your peers.”
Boyle was 13 when she and her family fled Nazi Germany and moved to Portland, Oregon. Her parents, Paul and Marie Lamfrom, founded Columbia Hat Company in 1938. After Boyle and her husband Neal attended the University of Arizona, they returned to Oregon to join the family business.
In 1960, Gert Boyle sewed the first Columbia fishing vests for Neal and his friends. After Gert’s father died, Neal took over as president of Columbia until 1970 when he died of a heart attack at 47. Gert took over the financially struggling company with help from her son Tim, who was in college, and they were advised one year later to sell, but declined an offer of just $1,400.
Gert and Tim Boyle proceeded to build Columbia Sportswear into an international leader in active lifestyle apparel, footwear, accessories and equipment with brands now sold in approximately 90 countries. Gert was the genesis for the 1984 ad campaign, “One Tough Mother,” before Tim took over as the company’s president and CEO.
“Her pioneering role as a woman in what was then a male-dominated industry is a testament to her strength of character and ability to persevere through difficult situations,” Columbia Sportswear said in a statement. “Gert’s humor and business savvy were sought by many people at Columbia Sportswear Company and she was truly beloved. Gert was unique and we feel fortunate to have had her as a leader for almost 50 years.”
In lieu of flowers, the family asks to consider a donation to Oregon Health and Sciences Knight Cancer Institute. Columbia Sportswear said an announcement will be made soon about a celebration of Gert Boyle’s life.
About the National Sporting Goods Association
Since 1929, the National Sporting Goods Association (NSGA) has been the leading voice and go-to resource for sporting goods retailers and dealers. NSGA helps the industry grow the business through research, advocacy and networking. For more information about membership or NSGA’s products and services, please visit nsga.org.