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Paul F. Oreffice

Paul Oreffice

Dow Historical Collection, CHF Collections

  • Born: November 29, 1927, Venice, Italy

  Interview Details

Interview no.: 0143
Interview Date: March 31, 1995
Location: Scottsdale, Arizona
Interviewer: James J. Bohning
No. of pages: 50
Sponsor: Society of Chemical Industry
Society of Chemical Industry

  Abstract of Interview

Paul Oreffice begins this interview with a discussion of his early education and interests in science and business. He describes his desire to enter a commercial career and his first positions at Dow. He next moves to his relationships with Clayton Shoemaker and Ben Branch, their influence in his early career at Dow International, and the impact of his association with Carl Gerstacker. Oreffice then examines the development of Dow International, its impact on Dow USA, and Dow in general as a place for world innovation in plant engineering and product development. Next, he describes his views of management, making decisions and developing personnel. He also provides some insight into his views and handling of public issues such as environmental concerns and government regulations. Towards the middle of the interview, Oreffice focuses on the chemical industry as a whole, discussing changes within Dow in the context of industry changes. He emphasizes the internationalization of the industry and the market, mentioning consolidation and licensing, the impact of nonchemical companies, and buying and developing technology. He also discusses the future of the industry, stressing the importance of basic research and developing public perceptions of the industry. Oreffice ends the interview by describing his feelings about winning industry awards and retiring, and looking back on the impact of his career at Dow.


1949 B.S., Chemical Engineering, Purdue University

  Professional Experience

Dow Chemical Company

1953 - 1955 International Sales, Midland

Dow Chemical Company

1955 - 1956 Sales Manager, Mediterranean Area, Milan, Italy

Dow Chemical Company

1956 - 1963 General Manager, Dow Quimica do Brazil

Dow Chemical Company

1963 - 1966 Commercial Director, Dow Unquinesa, Bilbao, Spain

Dow Chemical Company

1966 - 1969 General Manager, Dow Chemical, Latin America

Dow Chemical Company

1969 - 1970 Director, Financial Services

Dow Chemical Company

1970 - 1975 Vice President, Corporate Finance

Dow Chemical Company

1975 - 1978 President, Dow Chemical USA

Dow Chemical Company

1978 - 1987 President and Chief Executive Officer, Dow Chemical Company

Dow Chemical Company

1986 - 1992 Chairman of the Board


1966 Encomienda del Merito Civil, Spain
1976 Honorary Doctor of Engineering Degree, Purdue University
1978 Grand Ufficiale Honor, Italy
1979 Honorary Degree, Business Administration, Tri-State University
1981 International Palladium Medal, Société de Chemie
1982 Honorary Degree, Industrial Management, Lawrence Institute of Technology
1982 Sagamore of the Wabash Award, State of Indiana
1982 Honorary Degree, Science, Saginaw Valley State College
1983 Chemical Industry Medal, Society of Chemical Industry
1984 Honorary Degree, Business Administration, South Dakota School of Mines
1985 Man of Vision Award, Eye-Bank for Sight Restoration
1987 Honorary Degree, Management, General Motors Institute
1987 Centenary Medal, Society of Chemical Industry
1987 Man of the Year, Brazilian-American Chamber of Commerce
1988 Honorary Doctor of Laws, Clemson University

  Table of Contents

Title and Description Page

Early Education 1

Influence of third grade teacher and father on interests and personality. High school education in Ecuador and emphasis on science and math.

Early Career Development 2

Decision to work for Dow International. Sales position and effects of shyness. Move to Dow offices in Europe and Brazil. Relationships with Clayton Shoemaker, Ben Branch, Carl Gerstacker. Views of Dow International. Relations between Dow USA and Dow International; personnel practices. Influence in changing composition of the Board.

View of Innovation 7

Importance of being best internationally. New product discovery, plant engineering, product improvement, business products. Competition. Influence of World War II. Innovation and personnel.

View of Management 11

Adoption of management techniques. Deal with personnel. Example of polycarbonates development. Gut instinct and example of chlorine cells. Loyalty and creativity. Individual personalities and strategies for developing personnel.

View of Public Issues 20

Environmental concerns and the Superfund. Dow's support for his public stance. EPA and government/industry relations. Dow's relations with the CMA, the Business Roundtable, the Business Council, and Congress.

View of Changes at Dow and in the Chemical Industry 25

Effects of stockholders on Dow and other companies. Internationalization and the global economy. Decline of integrated chemical companies, competitors. Consolidation and licensing. Dow and the pharmaceutical business. The FDA, Seldane, and other products. Marion Merrell-Dow. Dow's research emphasis and internal reward system. Diversification vs. solidification of the core business. The future vitality of chemical innovation. The vulnerability and importance of basic research. Problems with the public perception of the industry.

Meaning Attributed to Public Awards 33

Society of Chemical Industry (SCI) Award, Palladium and Centenary Medals, Spanish government award. SCI Medal address and view of legal profession.

Closing Comments 36

Retirement activities. Professional life, board activity, horse racing, and travel. Opportunities in the U.S. Diversification in Dow and the industry. Carl Gerstacker, Ben Branch; ethical integrity at Dow and corruption in international chemical industry. Personal impact on Dow culture. Gambling at Dow.

  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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