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Distinguished Graduate: T. Richard Robe

 

robeT. Richard Robe, BSCE '55 and MSME '62. In the spring of 1955, Dick Robe received a B.S.C.E. with high honors from Ohio University. Following a brief stint with the General Electric Company, less than a year after graduation he entered the US Air Force as a ROTC commissioned officer and pilot, serving on active duty from 1956 to 1959. His reserve military service would continue until 1985, when he retired as a major. Robe remembers having the opportunity to fly some of the United States’ early supersonic jet fighters in the 50s, as well as serving as an Air Force Academy liaison officer in the 70s. In the 60s, however, Robe focused on academics. While on leave from GE following his active duty, Robe served as an acting instructor and then instructor of civil engineering at Ohio University for three-and-a-half years while completing his master’s in mechanical engineering in 1962. Deciding to remain in academia, he cancelled his GE leave in 1963 and went to Stanford University to continue his graduate education, earning a Ph.D. in engineering mechanics in 1966.

With his doctorate, he would return to the Midwest at the University of Kentucky where he progressed through the ranks from assistant professor to professor in nine years. During his 15 years at Kentucky, he also served for one year in the President’s Office as an American Council of Education fellow and then later served as associate dean for Academic Affairs in the College of Engineering for three years. He would remain there until Ohio University beckoned once again. This time he would be neither a student nor an acting instructor; in 1980, he became dean of the College of Engineering and Technology (1980-1996). During his career, academia would not be Robe’s only interest, merely his most profound. He served as a consultant for a myriad of companies including Westinghouse Air Brake, Liberty Mutual Insurance, IBM, and the Ohio State Board of Registration for Professional Engineers. Robe also served as a directing officer to companies and organizations ranging from the Ohio Aerospace Institute to ABET to Lexington Little League Baseball; he served for 18 years on the Board of Directors of DataBeam Corporation of Lexington, Kentucky—from start-up to successful corporation—before it was acquired by IBM-Lotus in 1998.

As a professor and dean, Robe lists one of his major accomplishments as having had the opportunity to contribute to the education of more than 10,000 engineering students in his 40+ year career in academia. With the extraordinary support of the Stocker Endowment and the College’s Board of Visitors, Dean Robe helped build strong engineering instructional and research programs that have attracted outstanding faculty as well as excellent students, and greatly enhanced the reputation of the Russ College of Engineering and Technology at Ohio University. In 1981, he initiated the College’s selective admission standards to improve the student body and named professorships to strengthen the faculty; both of these initiatives helped lead the way for the rest of the University to follow a few years later. Robe was dean when the College was named in honor of Fritz and Dolores Russ, and commissioned their biographies as well as that of C. Paul Stocker. When the Ohio University Board of Trustees established the T. Richard and Eleanora K. Robe Leadership Institute in 1996, Robe was appointed its first director; through the Institute, he has introduced leadership education into the engineering curriculum of the Russ College.

Robe was designated the Cruse W. Moss Professor of Engineering Education in 1992. He received the Ohio University Medal of Merit in 1993 and the Alumnus-of-the-Year honor from the Ohio University Alumni Association in 1996. In the early- and middle-90s, he worked with Presidents Ping and Glidden and the Russes to establish the international Russ Prize in engineering through Ohio University and the National Academy of Engineering (NAE) to celebrate outstanding engineering achievements. In 2000, he was asked to serve as an advisor to the NAE Russ Prize Selection Committee for the first awarding of this significant engineering honor in February 2001.

Robe continues to return to the Ohio University campus to serve on the Ohio University Foundation Board of Trustees and, each fall quarter, he conducts the Leadership Seminar sponsored by the Robe Leadership Institute.

 

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