Aspen Institute icon R.O. Anderson dies
December 4, 2007
ASPEN ” Robert O. Anderson, the man who inherited the reins to The Aspen Institute in 1957 and nearly moved it out of Aspen two decades later, reportedly has died. He was 90 years old.
Friends of the family have declined comment on Anderson’s death, citing the wishes of the family. A statement from the family is expected in the next day or so.
Anderson, who was a friend of Chicago industrialist and Aspen Institute founder Walter Paepcke, earned a bachelor’s degree in art from the University of Chicago and immediately began working in the oil industry.
In 1941, according to information on the website of the New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology, where he served as regent from 1987 to 1992, he acquired an interest in a New Mexico oil refinery and moved to the state with his family.
Over the next decade and a half, according to the website, he purchased and expanded several refineries.
Anderson ultimately joined the Atlantic Richfield Co., later known as ARCO, and presided over ARCO for 17 years as CEO, serving 21 years as chairman of the board and as a member of the board for a total of 23 years. He presided over the company’s discovery of oil in Alaska that led to the construction of the controversial Alaska pipeline in the early 1970s.
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Among other accomplishments, including developing a reputation for environmental and humanistic endeavors, he served as president or chairman of the board of the Aspen Institute for approximately two decades.
In the late 1970s, following a dispute with the city of Aspen over a proposal to build a hotel on the Institute’s campus, Anderson made the opening moves to transplant the Institute to a new home in Baca, Colo. Although that move fizzled, the resultant ill will between the city and the Institute is credited with the establishment of new Institute headquarters on the eastern shore of the Chesapeake Bay in Maryland and later in Washington, D.C. Anderson also reportedly spearheaded the early expansion of the Institute’s scope from its initial role as mainly Aspen-focused to one with a much broader, international influence.
At one point in the 1960s, Anderson owned the Brand Building in downtown Aspen, when it housed a number of young artists working under the aegis of the Aspen Center for Contemporary Art, according to the booklet, “A History of Aspen,” by Sally Barlow-Perez.
No further information on Anderson, his family or his death was available Monday evening at press time.