5 Quotes About Chuck Geschke and His Everlasting Legacy

This article is also posted on ChangeTheCompany.com

Charles ‘Chuck’ Geschke died on April 16, 2021. As the father of desktop publishing, his mark on the world is unchallenged. As the co-founder of Adobe, the legacy of Chuck Geschke shall live on long into the future. For the aspiring entrepreneur, a look into his life might yield for them some great rewards.

Accompanying this brief biography are quotes by and about Chuck Geschke. Our hope is that they will illuminate his life and, perhaps, water the seeds of our readers’ ideas.

“I made a decision to go to a high school in Cleveland that my parents were not happy with, which was a Jesuit high school in a tough part of the city. That, frankly, was the best educational decision I ever made because they taught you how to think; how to express your ideas; how to write and speak in public” (Charles Geschke).

Born in Cleveland, Ohio, on September 11, 1939, Charles Geschke attended Saint Ignatius High School. It was going to this place, as per the above quote, that was “the best educational decision” he ever made. It gives us, as entrepreneurs, an insight into how Geshcke’s education shaped him. 

Following high school, Dr. Geschke went to Xavier University (a private Jesuit university also located in Cincinnati). There, he studied Latin and liberal arts as an undergraduate, even going into the priesthood at one point. After earning his AB in classics in 1962, and an MS in mathematics in 1963, he got a job teaching mathematics at John Carroll University, a small Catholic university in Cleveland. It was 1963, and his road to Adobe hadn’t yet taken shape.

“Learning how to communicate your ideas on paper is very important. Get a good, strong foundation in the liberal arts, philosophy, mathematics, biology, physics, chemistry , history. Get a good, well-rounded education” (John Warnock, partner to Charles Geschke, co-founder of Adobe).

It was during the mid-1960s while working at John Carroll that Chuck Geschke made a seemingly unimportant decision that would change the course of his life. Per The New York Times, Geschke told “a struggling student to leave the university.” A year later, that student would return having achieved a high-paying job selling computers for General Electric.

It was a storm of many events. In addition to meeting his former student, Dr. Geschke also had a daughter on the way. He wanted to send letters to those closest to him that would announce his daughter’s coming birthday, but how could he do this quickly and efficiently?

Thus, Dr. Geschke enlisted the help of his former student in making these letters as quickly as possible. The student took on the role as the teacher and taught Geschke how to make a simple computer program.

Knowing this was his new calling in his life, Dr. Geschke took action. Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh had opened up a computer science division, one of the first in the country. Not wasting time, Geschke enrolled as a student at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh. 

“Most of the collaborations of technology were done by teams…Collaboration is key to creativity” (Walter Isaacson, CEO of CNN).

Following his education at Carnegie Mellon, Dr. Geschke went to work at Xerox’s Palo Alto Research Center, better known as Xerox PARC. It was here that he met John Warnock.

John Warnock had already made a name for himself at this point. His earliest publication was his 1964 proof of a theorem solving the Jacobson radical for row-finite matrices and his 1969 doctoral thesis was the “Warnock algorithm,” a computer program that solves the problem of rendering a complicated image by dividing the image into simpler parts.

It was 1976, and Warnock and Dr. Geschke had become close friends. They had been working on a software that would translate words and images on a computer screen into printed documents and, unable to get Xerox to take them seriously, left the company to start their own.

“We were on a rocket ship…” (Dr. Geschke in a 2011 speech recounting the early years of Adobe).

In 1982, Adobe was born. While the two men lacked experience in running a business, Dr. Geschke and Warnock were ambitious. They turned their software into one of Adobe’s first products, PostScript, and were able to bring it to market for Apple’s LaserWriter by 1985.

The next year, 1986, was fruitful for Dr. Geschke. Not only did he become Adobe’s CEO, but the company itself went public and skyrocketed. However, as Geschke and Warnock continued to work on new products, new hardships were just around the corner.

“I don’t think many engineers are motivated by money. They’re motivated by having an impact” (Dr. Geschke).

It was on May 26, 1992 that something went terribly wrong for Dr. Geschke at Adobe. In his company’s parking lot, when arriving for work in Mountain View, California, he was kidnapped at gunpoint.

Dr. Geschke’s wife soon received a phone call demanding ransom money. Thankfully, Nan Geschke had been in contact with the FBI, and her phone calls were being monitored. After the $650,000 ransom was dropped, Mouhannad Albukhari, 26, of San Jose was arrested.

Albukhari led the police to a bungalow in Hollister where his partner in crime, Jack Sayeh, 25, was also arrested. Dr. Geschke was released unhurt after being held for four days and his kidnappers were sentenced to life terms in state prison.

Motivation, however, is powerful. Not wanting to stop, Dr. Geschke continued to serve as Adobe’s CEO until July 1994. Stepping down as CEO didn’t mean Dr. Geschke packed up his bags, though. He was still the company’s president

Dr. Geschke would retire as president of Adobe in 2000, shortly before his partner Warnock left as CEO, remaining as co-Chairman of the Board of Adobe from September 1997 to 2017.

During this time, Adobe software would publish Photoshop, Acrobat, and Illustrator, along with PDF technology. Today the company has a market value of about $250 billion.

When asked about his advice to up-and-coming entrepreneurs, Dr. Geschke replied…

“Don’t be afraid. Take a risk. Focus on the people which are going to help you achieve what you want to achieve, because you’re not going to do it alone.”

May he rest in peace.

Works Cited

Gaus Annie. “Adobe founder Chuck Geschke shares the simple principles that drove 30 years of success.Silicon Valley Business Journal. 19 Feb 2016

Hagerty, James R. “Adobe Co-Founder Charles Geschke, Pioneer of Desktop Publishing and PDFs, Dies at Age 81.The Wall Street Journal. 18 April 2021. 

Metz Cade. “Chuck Geschke, Father of Desktop Publishing, Dies at 81.The New York Times. 20 April 2021.

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