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Robert D. Kennedy

  • Born: November 8, 1932, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

  Interview Details

Interview no.: 0154
Interview Date: February 4, 1997
Location: Danbury, Connecticut
Interviewer: James G. Traynham
No. of pages: 27
Sponsor: Society of Chemical Industry
Society of Chemical Industry

  Abstract of Interview

Robert Kennedy begins the interview with a discussion of his family and growing up in Pittsburgh and New York. Kennedy initially considered a career in journalism, but his family persuaded him to pursue engineering. He entered Cornell University as a mechanical engineering major, receiving his B.S. in 1955. After graduation, Kennedy was offered several jobs in his field. He chose to work for Union Carbide Corporation due to his interest in Union Carbide's metallurgical industries; he worked in this area for twenty years. He began a management career with Union Carbide in the company's European division in Geneva, Switzerland. Upon his return to the United States seven years later, Kennedy became head of Linde Air Products Company, a division of Union Carbide. After the Bhopal incident, Kennedy adjusted his corporate management style as Union Carbide found itself in a transitional phase. The company embarked on a massive restructuring program. As CEO of Union Carbide, Kennedy helped to rebuild the image of chemical industry by serving as a representative with the Chemical Manufacturers Association (CMA). He helped to instill the Responsible Care program into CMA's agenda. He concludes the interview with reflections on education and thoughts on his family.


1955 B.S., Mechanical Engineering, Cornell University

  Professional Experience

Union Carbide Corporation

1955 - 1956 Edgewater Research Laboratory, National Carbon Division

Union Carbide Corporation

1956 - 1963 Sales and Marketing, National Carbon Division

Union Carbide Corporation

1963 - 1971 Marketing Management, National Carbon Division

Union Carbide Corporation

1971 - 1975 European Products Director, National Carbon Division

Union Carbide Corporation

1975 - 1977 Senior Vice President, Union Carbide, Europe

Union Carbide Corporation

1977 - 1982 President, Linde Division

Union Carbide Corporation

1981 - 1982 Senior Vice President

Union Carbide Corporation

1982 - 1985 Executive Vice President

Union Carbide Corporation

1985 - 1986 President and COO, Chemicals and Plastics

Union Carbide Corporation

1985 - 1985 Member, Board of Directors

Union Carbide Corporation

1986 - 1995 President and CEO

Union Carbide Corporation

1986 - 1995 Chairman of the Board


1991 International Palladium Medal, Société de Chimie Industrielle, American Section
1995 Chemical Industry Medal, Society of Chemical Industry (American Section)
1998 Henry Laurence Gantt Medal, American Society of Mechanical Engineers

  Table of Contents

Title and Description Page

Early Years 1

Growing up in Pittsburgh and New York. Going to boarding school. Family's influence on studying engineering. Attending Cornell University.

Career Beginnings 3

Decision to work for Union Carbide. Chemical innovation. Scientific teamwork. Working at Union Carbide's European Headquarters in Geneva. Returning to the United States.

Union Carbide 6

Becoming head of Linde Air Products Company. Management styles. Research and funding. World War II innovations. Growth of petrochemical industry. Developing process technology.

Industry and the Environment 10

Bhopal incident. Stock market changes. Company reorganization. Becoming CEO of Union Carbide. Bhopal settlement. Chemical Manufacturers Association. Responsible Care program.

Conclusion 20

Winning Chemical Industry Medal. Involvement with education. Goals 2000. Thoughts on family.

Index 24

  About the Interviewer

James G. Traynham

James G. Traynham is a professor of chemistry at Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge. He holds a Ph.D. in organic chemistry from Northwestern University. He joined Louisiana State University in 1953 and served as chemistry department chairperson from 1968 to 1973. He was chairman of the American Chemical Society’s Division of the History of Chemistry in 1988 and is currently councilor of the Baton Rouge section of the American Chemical Society. He was a member of the American Chemical Society’s Joint-Board Council on Chemistry and Public Affairs, as well as a member of the Society’s Committees on Science, Chemical Education, and Organic Chemistry Nomenclature. He has written over 90 publications, including a book on organic nomenclature and a book on the history of organic chemistry.

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