125 Influential People and Ideas


Through a Wharton fellowship, W.E.B. DuBois undertook his classic study of the social and economic conditions of urban blacks.

A Medical Calling Redirected

Arthur D. Collins Jr., WG’73

It’s tough to picture Medtronic CEO and Chairman Arthur Collins Jr. as anything other than a poised professional. But get him talking, and you’ll glimpse the young boy who followed his doctor dad on medical rounds. Today, Collins brings the same excitement with him when he meets patients helped by Medtronic’s medical devices.

When it came to choosing a career path, however, Arthur Collins Sr. — himself a Penn grad — had a piece of advice for his son: “If you don’t have an undeniable calling to be a physician, don’t do it.” Bitten instead by the business bug, Collins combined his childhood awe of healing with leadership skills nurtured in the U.S. Navy and the Wharton MBA program. After consulting at Booz Allen Hamilton and working for Abbott Laboratories, he joined Medtronic, in 1992. Early in 2001, Collins became CEO, and a year later was elected chairman of the board.

“My hope for the future is that we’ll accelerate the use of advanced medical technology to provide even better medical solutions.”

Minneapolis-based Medtronic is the world’s largest medical device company, with revenues annualizing at more than $12 billion. Medtronic is best known for its pacemakers and implantable defibrillators, but also makes products to battle a range of cardiac and cardiovascular problems. The firm has also branched into treating neurological and spinal disorders, diabetes, and urological and gastrointestinal problems. Medtronic reports that every five seconds, a Medtronic product is used to save or substantially improve a life.

“My hope for the future is that we’ll accelerate the use of advanced medical technology to provide even better medical solutions,” Collins says. To that end, he often “scrubs in” with surgeons using Medtronic products and walks the R&D labs and manufacturing facilities.

Lauded as an innovative leader for Medtronic and as chairman of the Advanced Medical Technology Association, Collins was appointed by the U.S. Commerce Secretary to the Measuring Innovation in the 21st Century Economy Advisory Committee in 2006. He’s now charged with understanding and measuring how U.S. innovation contributes to American economic growth and productivity.

Collins is also a Wharton Overseer.