(Bloomberg) -- Peter Nicholas, co-founder of the medical device maker Boston Scientific Corp. and its longtime leader as it grew into a global giant with tens of thousands of employees, has died. He was 80.

He died on May 14 at his home in Boca Grande, Florida, in the arms of his wife of 58 years, Ginny Lilly Nicholas. The cause was cancer, according to a company spokesperson.

In a company tribute, current Boston Scientific Chief Executive Officer Mike Mahoney called Nicholas “a pioneer who helped shape the field of minimally invasive surgery.” 

Nicholas spent decades working with co-founder John Abele to build the company “from a startup with fewer than 50 employees and financed with a $500,000 loan and $300,000 in partners’ capital into a global industry leader with 27,000 employees and $8.4 billion in revenue in 2016,” the tribute said.

Peter Michael Nicholas was born in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, on May 16, 1941, the second son of Nicholas and Vrysula Nicholas, who were both from Greece. 

He attended Duke University, where he met his wife-to-be, and earned a master’s in business administration from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. Passionate about boating, he served as a lieutenant in the US Navy.

Nicholas spent the first 10 years of his career at Eli Lilly & Co. In 1979, he and Abele founded Boston Scientific, and he spent the next 35 years leading it, as CEO through 1999 and chair of the board until he retired in 2016.  

He continued to work after that retirement, as managing director of Ithaka Partners LLC, a family private-equity firm.

Peter and Ginny Nicholas focused much of their philanthropy on education and marine causes. Major donations to their alma mater, Duke, included the founding gifts to create its Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions.

“Anyone [who] is resigned that things are inevitable will not live the life that they could lead,” the Boston Scientific tribute quotes Nicholas as saying.  

In addition to his wife, survivors include their three children -- JK of Cambridge, Massachusetts; Peter Jr. of Boston; and Katherine of Coconut Grove, Florida -- and seven grandchildren. 

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