The Oregon State University Sesquicentennial Oral History Project

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Bob Lundeen Oral History Interviews

Four life history interviews conducted by Chris Petersen.

July - August 2013


Robert West Lundeen was born in Astoria, Oregon in 1921. When he was eight, he and his family moved to the company town of Westport, Oregon, where his father worked for the Westport Lumber Company. His mother was a teacher and was instrumental in forming the town's library. As a teenager, Lundeen was heavily involved in Boy Scouts and Sea Scouts, attending the 1937 National Scouting Jamboree in Washington, D.C.

In 1938, following the completion of his high school studies, Lundeen enrolled at Oregon State College. (His father was an alumnus of Oregon Agricultural College, having graduated in 1917 with a BS in Forestry.) Lundeen lived in Buxton Hall for most of his first year before joining the Kappa Sigma fraternity and moving accordingly. He met his eventual wife Betty during his very first class as an undergraduate.

While at OSC, Lundeen was the advertising manager for the Tech Record engineering journal. He also joined Tau Beta Pi, an engineering honorary fraternity, and was its president during his senior year. At that time, two years of ROTC was mandatory for all male students and Lundeen's focus was in field artillery. He graduated from Oregon State in 1942 with a bachelor of science degree in Chemical Engineering. Betty graduated that same year and the couple married in December 1942.

After graduating, Lundeen worked in a shipyard in Vancouver, Washington for a few months, then enlisted in the Army Air Corp. He initially went to the University of Chicago for an accelerated course in weather forecasting, then he was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant and stationed at Santa Ana, California. From there, he was shipped overseas where he served in China as a weather officer in the 10th Weather Squadron and tasked with forecasting weather patterns for U.S. aircraft. He was later promoted to Operations Officer and eventually reached the rank of Major. He earned a Bronze Star for meritorious wartime service.

In 1945, when the war ended, Lundeen left China and moved to Concord, California with Betty, who herself had spent the war years as a radio broadcaster in Eureka, California. Before 1946 was over, Lundeen had joined Dow Chemical Company, in Pittsburg, California, as a research and development engineer. Lundeen eventually became more involved in the administrative side of the company and found that he enjoyed management so much that he would pursue it for the remainder of his career. Later, Lundeen was presented with the opportunity to join Dow Chemical International, at which point the Lundeen family - which now consisted of Bob, Betty and three children - moved to Midland, Michigan.

Lundeen was appointed president of Dow Pacific in 1966 and relocated to Hong Kong, charged with building Dow's interests in East Asia. After twelve years in that position, Dow moved Lundeen back to the U.S., where he managed Dow Latin America from a home base in Coral Gables, Florida. This proved to be a short-lived appointment, as Lundeen was promoted to Executive Vice President of Dow in 1978. In 1982, he became Chairman of the Board. The following year, he received the OSU Distinguished Service Award and became a member of the OSU Foundation Board of Trustees.

In 1985, Lundeen joined the board of directors of Tektronix, an industrial equipment manufacturing company with headquarters in Beaverton, Oregon. A year later, Lundeen retired from Dow after thirty-nine years with the company, and he and Betty moved to Orcas Island, Washington.

Though retired from Dow, Lundeen continued to serve on the board at Tektronix, and in 1987 he was named board chairman, a title that he would hold until 1991. Lundeen became Chief Executive Officer of Tektronix in 1990, during which time he helped to lead a financial turnaround for the company. He retired again the following year.

In 1997, Lundeen received the E.B. Lemon Distinguished Alumnus Award from the OSU Alumni Association, and in 1998 he was inducted into the OSU College of Engineering Hall of Fame. In 2006, Lundeen received the Lifetime Trustee Award from the OSU Foundation. He established several scholarships at OSU and was instrumental in raising funds for the renovation and expansion of the Valley Library. As a philanthropist, Lundeen was also active in many other organizations, including the University of Washington School of Medicine, the Monterey Bay Aquarium, and the Orcas Island Community Foundation.

Robert Lundeen passed away on April 13, 2016 at the age of 94. He was preceded in death by Betty, his wife of fifty-five years, who died in April 1998.