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The institute was established by the Ohio University Board of Trustees in 1996 to honor retiring Dean T. Richard Robe, and his wife, Eleanora, who served the Russ College as a team during their 16-year tenure. With Dean Robe’s leadership, the College introduced selective admission standards, women’s and minority programs, and other innovative programs. Robe also worked to strengthen the College’s faculty by introducing the practice of named professorships at Ohio University. He has served on numerous boards, consulted with several corporations, and published in several engineering journals.
Robe graduated from Ohio University in 1955 with high honors in civil engineering. After working for General Electric and serving in the U.S. Air Force as a fighter pilot, he returned to Ohio University to complete a master’s degree in mechanical engineering while teaching civil engineering. After earning his Ph.D. in engineering mechanics at Stanford University, Robe was a professor at the University of Kentucky and later as associate dean for academic affairs in its college of engineering.
Robe became the institute’s first director and architect of its initiatives. Retired as director at the end of 2004, Robe remains engaged with the institute’s programs and serves as a member of the advisory board.