Robert B. Stephenson

For his outstanding technical and executive leadership within a premier corporation in the power-generation industry, the Schools of Engineering are proud to present the Distinguished Engineering Alumnus Award to Robert B. Stephenson.

President and CEO
Siemens Power Corporation
BSME '65

On choosing mechanical engineering

The combination of my family and background made it natural for me to go into mechanical engineering. My father was a mechanical engineer. He started his career after the Second World War as a professor at Tulane University. My mother was a math teacher. My grandfather on my father's side was a professor at the University of Michigan and happened to collect old tools. I often assisted my other grandfather, who was a master plumber back in the days of oakum and earth pipe. We worked our way up through the years to copper and plastic. My father taught me how to frame and wire, and a guy next door taught me how to finish concrete. We spent years doing projects at a summer cottage in Michigan.

My nuclear emphasis came about as a result of my involvement in a naval ROTC plan. In my first summer, an ROTC friend introduced me to submarines. I n those days the only way you could get into the submarine service was to pass through Admiral Rickover and go into nuclear-powered submarines. So I planned my time at Purdue so that when I got into the Navy I would have done the right things to end up in the nuclear submarine service.

On his experience at Purdue

At Purdue I changed my work ethic from just getting by to proving I could do anything I put my mind to. Also, my background had been one of constant relocation after my father was called back into the Air Force. I attended 14 schools before graduating from high school, so there was little opportunity for strong friendships to develop. Purdue was the first time in my life that I actually generated deeper relationships with a handful of people.

But I didn't have much of what's considered to be a social life. I was in class 37 hours a week, taking 21 credit hours each term. I also worked at least 20 hours a week in the dormitory kitchen.

My social life revolved around football games and the gala shows afterward. Purdue used to bring in big-name entertainers for the evenings after football games-Johnny Mathis, Earl Grant, Nat King Cole. My roommate and I even met Nat King Cole. We went to a little diner in West Lafayette after one of those shows, and his bus pulled up, and the whole band came in to eat. He recognized that we must be college students, so he sat at a table with us and we talked for a couple of hours.

On HIS life AS a submarine officer

My initial intent had been to make the Navy a career, which I probably would have done if I had not gotten married. I spent 85 percent of three consecutive years at sea submerged in the Western Pacific, with no means of communication, not knowing if my family was all right or not. In those days, unfortunately, that had been the pattern for the past 15 years for nuclear-trained submarine officers. I liked what I was doing, and I thought it was worthwhile and interesting, but I didn't think I could spend 15 years pulling back into port after another year of 85 percent of the time at sea, and turning to somebody next to me and saying, "Point out my wife so I can wave." So I got out.

On his MANAGEMENT philosophy

I have a strong philosophy that you manage large organizations by making people understand they are all part of it, no matter what task they've been asked to do and where they fit. That philosophy extends to professionalism. There are too many people who look at a garbage man and think, "He is beneath me." You can be a professional garbage man or you can be a lousy one. You can be a professional doctor or a lousy one. What you do for a living is not the issue. It's how you perform the task.

1992- :
President, CEO, and Member, Board of Directors, Siemens Power Corp., a provider of power generation products to U.S. utilities, independent power producers, and industrial customers. Company employs 2,200 workers at six sites. Annual revenues top $600 million.
1995- :
Acting General Manager, Fossil Division (Milwaukee), the global center for the Siemens 60-cycle gas turbine.
President and CEO, Advanced Nuclear Fuels Corp., later renamed Siemens Nuclear Power Corp.
Vice President, Commercial Division, Advanced Nuclear Fuels Corp. (owned by Siemens). Responsible for worldwide sales and marketing.
Vice President, Administration, Exxon Nuclear Co. Responsible for uranium operations, accounting, finance, tax, legal issues, employee relations, public affairs, and corporate planning.
President, CEO, and Chairman, EPID Inc., Exxon Office Systems Components, a high-tech operation that manufactured flat displays for laptop computers. Operation sold in 1986.
Regional Sales Manager, U.S., and Manager, Marketing Analysis, Exxon Nuclear Co.
Managing Director, Exxon Nuclear G.m.b.H., Lingen, West Germany. Managed plant and site operations, nuclear fuels manufacturing.
Manager, Exxon Nuclear Co. Worked in R&D, construction management, plant and facilities engineering, and manufacturing management for a nuclear fuels manufacturing facility.
Engineer, Jersey Nuclear Co. Worked on laser isotope separation proje ct.
Officer, U.S. Navy Submarine Service.

BSME '65, Purdue; MSNE '71, MBA '72, U. of Michigan.