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Andrew book a ‘flash’ back on family’s, company’s history

Edward Andrew Jr. holds copy book 'Flash Genius' recently published which traces history Andrew family Andrew Corp. founded by his

Edward Andrew Jr. holds a copy of the book "Flash of Genius," recently published, which traces the history of the Andrew family and Andrew Corp., founded by his grandparents Victor and Aileen Andrew. He is a director of the Andrew Family Foundation in Orland Park. | Mike Nolan~Sun-Times Media

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In 1947, Victor and Aileen bought 430 acres in Orland Park, paying an average of less than $200 per acre. In the 1980s, a large portion of the property was sold and developed as the Crystal Tree golf course and subdivision.

Plans to sell most of the property to a homebuilder after the company vacated the site fell through, but land that Andrew Corp. owned south of 153rd Street was sold to M/I Homes, which is building the Sheffield Square townhouse development.

A pollutant cleanup, a metal degreasing solvent, on the property north of 153rd Street is ongoing and will likely extend into 2015. CommScope hopes to sell the land once that is complete.

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Updated: November 4, 2013 6:02AM



Just as White Sox fans clamored for bricks from Comiskey Park before it was razed, Edward Andrew Jr. is hanging on to a few keepsakes from Orland Park buildings that are facing a similar fate.

He plans to salvage bricks from what was once the global headquarters of communications equipment company Andrew Corp., which his grandparents started in their home on Chicago’s Southwest Side in 1937 and has been part of his family’s history since.

Vacant since the company relocated in 2007, the 600,000-square-foot office and manufacturing complex, 10500 W. 153rd St., is being demolished.

Tracing the company’s rise and the impact it has had — not just on those who worked there but on Orland Park and surrounding communities as well — is the subject of a book the nonprofit Andrew Family Foundation has released.

Andrew Jr., a director of the foundation, hopes the book will “preserve the story” of the family and the business that generations of them were connected with.

“The Andrew Corporation affected a lot more people than just my family,” he said.

Along with bricks from the first structure built on the property in the early 1950s, Andrew Jr. said a microwave antenna from the site could end up on display at Andrew High School in Tinley Park, which is named for his grandfather, Victor. The high school is interested in establishing a “legacy corner” with information about its namesake.

The school was dedicated in October 1977, a little more than six years after Victor Andrew’s death. Consolidated High School District 230 considered several names for the school, and the Andrew family had no input or influence in the decision, Andrew Jr. said.

Hardbound copies of the book are at the Orland Park Village Hall and the Orland Park Public Library, where a photo of Andrew Jr.’s grandmother, Aileen, is prominently displayed. The Aileen S. Andrew Foundation provided the funds to build, then later expand, the former Orland Park library, now the village’s cultural center.

The Andrew Family Foundation, created in December 1994, is separate from the Aileen S. Andrew Foundation, which was established in 1945 as the Andrew Foundation and renamed in 1953.

The Andrew Family Foundation provides scholarships to the top math and science students at Andrew High School and supports “Reading in Motion,” a Chicago Public Schools program to help students learn to read through the use of music.

Soft cover versions of the book are being sold to fund fellowships at the College of Wooster in Wooster, Ohio. Several generations of the Andrew family attended the school, starting with Victor and most recently Andrew Jr.’s son.

Papers, pictures help tell story

Known as Andy much of his life — “my parents started calling me Andy when I was 3 months old,” Andrew Jr. said — the longtime Orland Park resident is “the unofficial Andrew family historian,” having inherited several boxes of memos and correspondence belonging to his grandfather that were kept in a Mokena warehouse.

Aileen, who was Andrew Corp.’s president at the time, died in July 1967 during a business trip to Australia with her husband and was buried in Adelaide. Victor died in October 1971 at 69 and was interred in Orland Memorial Park Cemetery.

A writer who had previously done “life stories” about Andy’s parents — Edward, who formerly served as the company chairman, and Edie, a director at Andrew for 20 years — compiled the text and reviewed hundred of photos for the book.

It covers the period from Jan. 1, 1937, when Victor J. Andrew, Manufacturer and Consulting Engineer was founded, selling $32 worth of products in its first month, through 2007, when Andrew Corp. was acquired by CommScope for $2.65 billion. CommScope was bought in early 2011 by a private equity firm, The Carlyle Group.

As wireless communications and mobile phone use skyrocketed, demand for Andrew products such as antennas and cable also rose, helping to build networks that make wireless signals omnipresent.

‘Flash’ of inspiration

It was Andy’s son, Brandon, who during the family’s Thanksgiving dinner two years ago came up with the book’s title “Flash of Genius.”

The company’s trademarked red “flash,” resembling a lightning bolt, is emblazoned on its antennas and other products. The Thunderbolt symbol at Andrew High School looks similar to the “flash” but has sharper endpoints to avoid a trademark violation.

“It’s probably the most recognizable trademark that people never knew about,” Andrew Jr. said of the symbol.

In 2007 — when the company’s corporate offices were being moved to Westchester and its manufacturing to Joliet — he snapped up anything that wasn’t going to make the move and joked that he should probably compile a book. In April 2010, his father was diagnosed with dementia. Andrew Jr. understood that if he hoped to capture his dad’s oral history of the company, he couldn’t wait.

“I realized I need to do this now,” he said. “My dad had been around literally since day one.”

His father died in March at 77, and the fellowships the foundation recently established at Wooster are named in his memory.

Shown the door

Andrew Jr. worked for 30 years with the company — in the human resources department and his last 15 years as a facilities engineer — before his position was eliminated in 2009. His father explains in the book that he and his wife were forced off Andrew’s board of directors in November 1992.

Andrew Jr. had four brothers and sisters who also worked for the company. When he was let go, they were no longer there, and his involuntary departure represented the family’s last tie to the company.

With the demolition of the Orland Park buildings expected to be done in the coming weeks, Andrew Jr., who lives near the old headquarters and walks his dogs there, said he has conflicting thoughts and emotions.

He said the complex of offices and manufacturing plant was “the culmination of my grandparents’ visions and dreams,” although the property has been looking forlorn lately.

“I know when the building still standing finally is demolished it will hurt,” he said. “It will be a sad day.”



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