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Dexter F. Baker

Dexter Baker

Detail of Image, CHF Collections

  • Born: April 16, 1927, Worcester, Massachusetts

  Interview Details

Interview no.: 0131
Interview Date: January 27, 1995
Location: Naples, Florida
Interviewer: James J. Bohning
No. of pages: 41
Minutes: 122
Sponsor: Society of Chemical Industry
Society of Chemical Industry

  Abstract of Interview

Dexter Baker begins the interview by discussing his childhood and early education in the suburbs of Philadelphia. After graduating from Upper Darby High in 1945, Baker was drafted into the US Navy and admitted to the Naval Academy Preparatory program. Before he completed the program, however, World War II ended, and Baker was discharged. He then enrolled at Lehigh University, where he studied mechanical engineering and developed an interest in turbines. After graduating in 1950, Baker took a job with Allis-Chalmers but was soon drafted into the US Army and served in the Korean War. While in the Army, Baker was appointed to the engineering research and development laboratories, where he worked on the development of high-speed, small-size gas turbine engines. After he had completed his two years in the Army, Baker accepted a position with Air Products and Chemicals in Emmaus, Pennsylvania. He worked in sales while attending night school at Lehigh to earn his MBA degree. He was soon sent to England to begin a division of Air Products in Europe. A decade later, Baker returned to the United States and completed his climb up the corporate ladder, becoming president of Air Products in 1978 and Chairman of the Board in 1986.


1950 B.S., Mechanical Engineering, Lehigh University
1957 M.B.A. Lehigh University

  Professional Experience

United States Navy

1945 - 1946 Seaman First Class

United States Army

1950 - 1952 Corps Engineer, Private First Class

Air Products and Chemicals, Inc.

1952 - 1956 Sales Engineer

Air Products and Chemicals, Inc.

1956 - 1957 General Sales Manager, Process Equipment Division

Air Products and Chemicals, Inc.

1957 - 1964 Managing Director, Air Products Limited

Air Products and Chemicals, Inc.

1964 - 1967 Chief Executive of Air Products Operations in Europe

Air Products and Chemicals, Inc.

1964 - present Board of Directors

Air Products and Chemicals, Inc.

1967 - 1978

Executive Vice President

Air Products and Chemicals, Inc.

1978 - 1986


Air Products and Chemicals, Inc.

1986 - 1992

Chairman and Chief Executive Officer 

Air Products and Chemicals, Inc.

1990 - 1992

Chairman of the Board, President

Air Products and Chemicals, Inc.

1992 - 1998

Chairman, Executive Committee, Board of Directors


1991 Chemical Industry Award, Society of Chemical Industry

  Table of Contents

Title and Description Page

Early Years 1

Born in Massachusetts. Raised in suburban Philadelphia. Experience in naval academy. First employment at Allis-Chalmers. Experience in U.S. Army. Marriage to Dorothy Hess.

Education and Early Career 3

Attending Lehigh University. Working at Allis-Chalmers. Interest in Air Products in Emmaus, Pennsylvania. Job as sales engineer with Air Products. Meets with Ed Donley.

Air Products & Chemical, Inc. 6

Personal goals at Air Products. Head of sales of oxygen plants for the chemical Industry. Competition with Union Carbide.

Higher Education 9

MBA degree from Lehigh. Thesis sent to Leonard Pool.

Air Products, England 10

Two year assignment in U.K. Starting of Air Products Europe. Business experiences overseas.

International Expansion of American Industry 16

Lessons of international expansion. Advantages of melding different experiences to create stronger companies.

Upper Management at Air Products 17

Executive vice presidency. Expansion into Canada. Presidency.

Innovation 21

Importance of innovation at Air Products. Challenge of running innovative, multinational chemical company. Management techniques. Importance of risk taking. Environmental responsibility.

Final Reflections 30

Thoughts on the chemical industry.

Notes 31

Index 32

  About the Interviewer

James J. Bohning

James J. Bohning is professor emeritus of chemistry at Wilkes University, where he was a faculty member from 1959 to 1990. He served there as chemistry department chair from 1970 to 1986 and environmental science department chair from 1987 to 1990. Bohning was chair of the American Chemical Society’s Division of the History of Chemistry in 1986; he received the division’s Outstanding Paper Award in 1989 and has presented more than forty papers at national meetings of the society. Bohning was on the advisory committee of the society’s National Historic Chemical Landmarks Program from its inception in 1992 through 2001 and is currently a consultant to the committee. He developed the oral history program of the Chemical Heritage Foundation, and he was the foundation’s director of oral history from 1990 to 1995. From 1995 to 1998, Bohning was a science writer for the News Service group of the American Chemical Society. He is currently a visiting research scientist and CESAR Fellow at Lehigh University. In May 2005, he received the Joseph Priestley Service Award from the Susquehanna Valley Section of the American Chemical Society.

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