Keith R. McKennon
The information listed below is current as of the date the transcript was finalized.
Abstract of Interview
Keith McKennon begins this interview by discussing the origins of his interest in research and chemistry and the impact of growing up in Pendleton, Oregon, and attending Oregon State University. He then describes his early career at Dow Chemical Company and his decision to leave Dow for a sales position with Shell Chemical Company. Next, McKennon explains the process development and sales work he undertook upon his return to Dow and the research management strategies he employed as he later moved through Dow's management ranks. In recalling his decision to change career directions and take a position as a Director of Government Relations and Public Issues, McKennon views external influences on the chemical industry and the impact of environmental activism. He examineshis relationship with Paul Oreffice, the change from Zoltan Merszei to Oreffice, and his own role on the board of directors. Next, McKennon describes his second major career turn—dealing with public concern about dioxin in Agent Orange, and later, at Dow Corning, with the silicon implant affair. Finally, he ends the interview by reflecting on the chemical industry, its future, and the need for quality research management.
|1955||Oregon State University||BS||Agricultural Chemistry|
Dow Chemical Company
Shell Chemical Company
Dow Corning Corporation
Paul Harris Fellow, Rotary Clubs
Distinguished Citizen Award, Boy Scouts of America
Chemical Industry Medal, Society of Chemical Industry
Table of Contents
Influence of family background and growing up in Condon and Pendleton, Oregon. Oregon State University. Linus Pauling's legacy. Summer research at OSU Agricultural Experiment Station. Interests in chemistry and research.
Training in Special Assignments Program. Supervisors and work environment. Interests in development and sales. Leaving Dow for sales position at Shell.
Returning to Dow in Technical Service & Development. Selling process and technology. Work in secondary oil recovery. Views on decision making and intracompany competition. Business management.
Dow and chemical industry reaction to the environmental movement. Government relations in the plastics department. Minnesota milk container ban. Relationship with Paul Oreffice. Dow USA. Public and internal perceptions of Dow.
Influence on Board of Directors. Agent Orange and Times Beach. Dow Corning and silicon implants affair. Relationship with media.
Future of chemical innovation. Research budgeting. Value of and need for research managers.
About the Interviewer
James J. Bohning was professor emeritus of chemistry at Wilkes University, where he had been 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 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 CHF’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. In May 2005, he received the Joseph Priestley Service Award from the Susquehanna Valley Section of the American Chemical Society. Bohning passed away in September 2011.