John R. Opel was IBM's chief executive officer from January 1981 through January 1985 and chairman of the board from February 1983 through May 1986. Born in Kansas City, Mo., and raised in Jefferson City, Opel graduated from Westminster College in Fulton, Mo., and the University of Chicago, where he received a master's degree in business administration.
Mr. Opel joined IBM in 1949 as a sales representative in Jefferson City, and held various management posts. He became a vice president in 1966 and was appointed to the Management Committee the following year. He became vice president of corporate finance and planning in 1968, senior vice president in 1969 and group executive of the Data Processing Product Group in January 1972. He was elected to the IBM board of directors later that year. In 1974 he was named president.
In January 1985, Mr. Opel was succeeded as president by John F. Akers. He remained as chairman until May 1986 and as a member of IBM's board of directors and chairman of its executive committee until 1993.
Mr. Opel died November 3, 2011, at age 86.