Robert A. Roland

Born: January 14, 1931 | Philadelphia, PA, US
Died: January 31, 2013 | Alexandria, VA, US

Robert Roland describes his family background and upbringing in Upper Darby, PA, as well as his education at Villanova University and the University of Pennsylvania School of Law. Roland also reflects on his career in the US Navy as General Counsel and Contract Administrator, and his appointment as president of the Chemical Manufacturers Association. Roland discusses his role in developing the industry's standards for safety, health, the environment, management training, and finally the industry's future. 

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Interview Details

Interview no.: Oral History 0138
No. of pages: 52
Minutes: 165

Interview Sessions

James J. Bohning
14 March 1995
Chemical Manufacturers Association, Washington, DC

Abstract of Interview

The interview begins with Robert Roland describing his family background and early years in Upper Darby, Pennsylvania, and the influence of his Catholic grade school and high school education. Next follows a brief account of Roland's years at Villanova University and the University of Pennsylvania School of Law, where Dean Jefferson B. Fordham played a strong role as Roland's mentor. The interview also examines Roland's career in the U. S. Navy, where his eventual experience as General Counsel and Contract Administrator influenced his professional views and development. The central portion of the interview focuses on Roland's appointment as president of the Chemical Manufacturers Association (CMA), the conditions under which he accepted that position, and the changes he made there. The interview emphasizes Roland's influence in making the CMA the focal point for the chemical industry in the U. S. and abroad, and his role in developing the industry's standards for safety, health, the environment, and management training, particularly CAER and Responsible Care. The closing discussion focuses on Roland's views on the industry's future, CMA's role and status, and his professional accomplishments and retirement. 


Year Institution Degree Discipline
1952 Villanova University BS Economics
1955 University of Pennsylvania LLB

Professional Experience

US Navy

1955 to 1957
Ensign, USS Stribling, Destroyer Fleet Atlantic
1957 to 1959
Lieutenant Jr. Grade, Contract Administration, General Stores Supply Office

National Paint and Coatings Association

1959 to 1961
1961 to 1971
Executive Vice President
1971 to 1978

Chemical Manufacturers Association

1978 to 1993


Year(s) Award

International Medal, Society of Chemical Industry

Table of Contents

Childhood and Early Education

Family background. Father's business. Grade school and high school education. Academics and athletics at West Catholic High School.

College and Law School

Business major at Villanova University. University of Pennsylvania School of Law and influence of Dean Jefferson B. Fordham. Work with Fordham on American Bar Association Municipal Law Service Letter.

U. S. Navy

Boot camp and Supply Corps School. Ensign, U. S. S. Stribling. Motion sickness and transfer to Naval Defense Counsel position. Contract Administration, General Stores Supply Office. Influence of experience in management and defending AWOL cases.

Making Changes at Chemical Manufacturers Association (CMA)

Views on recruitment and fostering creativity. Importance of physical and professional environment and member involvement. Change of name from MCA (Manufacturing Chemists Association) to CMA. Handling of Love Canal incident and need for uniting chemical industry.

Leadership and Training at CMA

John Henske and Paul Oreffice as CMA leaders. Environmental movement and subsequent CMA training program. Importance of CMA as focal point for industry. George Sella as CMA chair; Superfund. Creation of budgeting system.

CMA and Global Chemical Industry

Impact of incident in Bhopal, India. CMA and proactive advocacy, reaction toward regulatory activity. Creation of CAER, Community Awareness Emergency Response, and the professional performance standards of Responsible Care. Media's impact.

Final Views and Comments

Views on criteria for sucess in industry. Dealing with regulations. Roles of gut instincts and morality. CMA public relations campaign. NAFTA and International Counsel of Chemical Associations, (ICCA). Work at National Paint and Coatings Association. Society of Chemical Industry International Medal, personal accomplishments. Retirement. Status of CMA.


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.