Robert P. Gwinn was born in Anderson, Indiana, in 1907. He received a PhB from the University of Chicago Booth School of Business, then the School of Commerce and Administration, in 1929. He joined the Sunbeam Corporation in 1936 as a salesman and rose steadily through the ranks. In the early 1950s he was elected vice president and a director; in 1955, he was elected president. In 1971, he became chairman and CEO of the company.
Under Gwinn's direction, in the face of strong competition from electrical industry giants, Sunbeam maintained and extended its leadership position in the manufacture and marketing of small appliances. With emphasis on product quality and with concern for customer needs, Gwinn led his firm in imaginative and profitable directions, inspiring and supporting creativity and flexibility in organization, production, and marketing in both domestic and overseas operations.
In addition to his contributions as an outstanding business leader, Gwinn gave time and attention to education and public service, and served as a member, director, or trustee of a wide variety of organizations devoted to educational, civic, and cultural affairs.