Arthur I. Mendolia

Born: May 6, 1917 | Brooklyn, NY, US
Died: October 19, 2007 | New Castle, DE, US

After earning his BS in chemical engineering at Case Western Reserve University, Arthur I. Mendolia began to work at DuPont as a research engineer but later rose in managerial positions such as Vice President of Explosives. DuPont recommended Mendolia for a position in the US Department of Defense (DOD), where he learned more about management, organization, finances, and worked personally with President Gerald Ford. Mendolia later became involved in corporate ventures, becoming president of Halcon International and chairman of Oxirane, and later establishing his own chemical company, CasChem which would later be known as Cambrex Corporation. 

Access This Interview

The information listed below is current as of the date the transcript was finalized.

			

Interview Details

Interview no.: Oral History 0174
No. of pages: 62
Minutes: 230

Interview Sessions

James J. Bohning
12 November 1998
Titusville, New Jersey

Abstract of Interview

Arthur Mendolia begins the interview with a discussion of his family and childhood.  After graduating from high school in Youngstown, Ohio, Mendolia entered Case Western Reserve University in 1934, majoring in chemical engineering.  Financing education during the Depression was difficult, and Mendolia worked at Youngstown Steel Door Company to make money.  He received his B.S. in 1941 and began to work at DuPont as a research engineer.  Mendolia spent thirteen years in DuPont’s adiponitrile plant in Niagara Falls, occasionally commuting to a plant Charleston, West Virginia.  In 1954, Mendolia was named Assistant Director of Research of DuPont’s Electrochemicals Department, a position he held for two years before moving into sales as the Assistant General Manager.  In 1966, Mendolia became the Assistant General Manager of the Explosives Department.  There he sold DuPont’s chemical process for making acrylonitrile to Amoco Chemical Company.  DuPont recognized Mendolia’s exemplary management skills and promoted him to Vice President of Explosives in 1970.  In 1972, Mendolia met Ralph Landau while negotiating a purchase of ethylene glycol for DuPont.  Later that year, DuPont recommended Mendolia for a position in the U.S. Department of Defense [DOD].  There, Mendolia learned more about management, organization, finances, and worked personally with President Gerald Ford.  After two years with the DOD, Mendolia became president of Ralph Landau’s company, Halcon International.  Later, he became Chairman of Oxirane, a Halcon and Arco joint venture.  With Oxirane, Mendolia set up branch offices in Eton, England, and Houston, Texas, and set up Oxirane’s R&D department.  He worked to establish uniformity and standards within the company.  In 1981, Mendolia and Cy Baldwin bought their own chemical company, CasChem, Inc., a castor oil and polyurethane production company.  Then Baldwin and Mendolia purchased Cosan, a biocide company, in 1985.  In 1987, these companies officially had their names changed to Cambrex Corporation.  Mendolia concludes the interview with a discussion of purchasing chemical companies, management issues, his family, and hobbies.

Education

Year Institution Degree Discipline
1941 Case Institute of Technology BS Chemical Engineering

Professional Experience

E.I. du Pont de Nemours & Co.

1941 to 1954
Research Engineer, Electrochemicals Department
1954 to 1956
Assistant Director of Research, Electrochemicals Department
1956 to 1958
Assistant Director of Sales, Electrochemicals Department
1958 to 1966
Assistant General Manager, Explosives Department
1966 to 1970
Assistant General Manager, Explosives Department
1970 to 1973
Vice President and General Manager, Explosives Department

US Department of Defense

1973 to 1975
Assistant Secretary of Defense for Installation and Logistics

Halcon International, Inc.

1975 to 1978
President
1978 to 1980
Chairman, Oxirane International

CasChem, Inc.

1981 to 1987
Co-founder, Chairman of the Board, Chief Executive Officer, Chairman of the Executive Committee
1987 to 1995
Director of the Board, Cambrex Corporation

Honors

Year(s) Award
1979

Case Alumni Association Gold Medal Award as Outstanding Alumnus

1990

Winthrop-Sears Award for Entrepreneurship (with C. C. Baldwin)

Table of Contents

Early Years
1

Living in Brooklyn and Cleveland. Parents. Attending junior high school in Youngstown, Ohio. Decision to attend Case Western Reserve University. Working at Youngstown Steel Door Company. Majoring in chemical engineering. Carl S. Prutton. Case environment in 1930s. Financing college.

Career Beginnings
6

Working for DuPont in electrochemicals. Niagara Falls plant. Polyvinyl chloride research. Working in production department. Missing World War II draft. Bedaux System at DuPont. Successful communication. Effect of WWII on DuPont and career. Crawford H. Greenewalt. Adiponitrile.

Moving up in DuPont
16

Becoming Assistant Director of Research. Paul Austin. Learning experiences. Moving into sales. Annual reports. Chestnut Run Laboratory. Becoming Assistant General Manager. Don Notman. Gaining responsibility. Moving into Explosives Department. Finding a buyer for DuPont's acrylonitrile process. Becoming Vice President. Changing name from Explosives Department to Polymer Intermediates Department. Dan Flood.

Career Change
27

Meeting Ralph Landau. Resigning from DuPont. Accepting appointment with U. S. Department of Defense at Pentagon. Head of oil and energy. Bill Clements. Changing management style. Organization, management, and finances within the DOD. Energy crisis. President Nixon. Working with President Ford. Leaving the DOD.

Later Career
38

Offer from Ralph Landau. Becoming President of Halcon International. Adapting to working for small company. Oxirane. Bob Bent. Setting up Oxirane's R&D department. Uniformity. CasChem. Castor oil. Cosan. ETD Technologies. Cray Computer Company. Origin of Cambrex.

Final Thoughts
50

Chemical engineers as managers. Large companies vs. small companies. Family. Computer hobbies.

Notes
54
Index
55

About the Interviewer

James J. Bohning

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.