John W. Johnstone
The information listed below is current as of the date the transcript was finalized.
Abstract of Interview
John W. Johnstone begins the interview with a description of his childhood days in the boroughs of New York City. While in high school, he was encouraged by John McManus to study chemistry. After graduating from Far Rockaway High School, Johnstone attended Hartwick College, receiving a BA in chemistry and physics in 1954. He sought a career in the petrochemicals industry. After interviewing with several companies, Johnstone's physics professor set up an interview for a sales assistantship with Oldbury Electrochemical Company. He began working there in 1954. When Hooker Chemical Company acquired Oldbury Electrochemical Company in 1957, Johnstone joined the staff of Hooker. Johnstone rose through the ranks at Hooker from a sales representative to Group Vice President in Niagara Falls. While employed by Hooker, he attended the Harvard Advanced Management Program. Occidental Petroleum acquired Hooker in the early 1970s, and in 1975, Johnstone made the difficult decision to join Airco, Inc. He served as president of their alloys division until 1979 when he left Airco, Inc. to join the Olin Corporation. While with Olin Corporation, Johnstone worked for successful re-engineering and expansion of the company. He developed the Olin Moral Rock and Responsible Care programs in order to address rising environmental concerns. Johnstone concludes his interview with a discussion of the future of research and development in the chemical industry, reflections on winning the 1996 Chemical Industry Medal, and thoughts on his family.
|1954||Hartwick College||BA||Chemistry and Physics|
|1970||Harvard University||Advanced Management Program|
Hooker Chemical Company
Honorary DSc, Hartwick College
Silver Beaver Award, Boy Scouts of America
Winthrop-Sears Medal, Chemists' Club
Chemical Industry Medal, Society of Chemical Industry (American Section)
Table of Contents
Growing up in New York. Boy Scouts. High school years. Playing basketball. Influence of John McManus in education.
BA in chemistry and physics. Looking for a job in petrochemical industry. Sales assistantship at Oldbury Electrochemical Company. Acquisition of Oldbury by Hooker Chemical Company.
District manager at Hooker. Promoted to manufacturing, sales and marketing manager and then assistant division manager. Attending Harvard Advanced Management Program.
Leaving Hooker Chemical Company for Airco Inc. Customer relations. President of alloys division. Traveling. Love Canal. Decision to leave Airco.
President of industrial chemicals. Corporate shift from agriculture to chemicals. Research and development. Electronics. Executive Vice-President. Company restructuring.
Olin Moral Rock. Responsible Care. Chairman of Chemical Manufacturers Association. Environmental issues.
Downsizing. Chlor-alkali and biocides. Research and development. Chemical innovation. Winning Chemical Industry Medal. Leadership. Research Corporation. Hartwick College board.
Reflections on career and family.
About the Interviewer
James G. Traynham is a professor of chemistry at Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge. He holds a PhD 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.