Robert O. Anderson
December 7, 2007
Robert 0. Anderson, for many years chairman of the Atlantic Richfield Company and the Aspen Institute for Humanistic Studies, discoverer of the Prudhoe Bay Oil Field, rancher and philanthropist, died at home on Sunday, Dec. 2. He was 90 years old.In 1987, the British biographer Kenneth Harris wrote that Robert O. Anderson began in the oil industry with a one-third share in a small refinery employing a dozen or so men, and by a series of purchases and mergers built up what became the seventh largest oil company in the United States, with himself as chairman, chief executive and major shareholder.Beginning with no land at all, he became the largest individual rancher in the United States. He was twice asked to fill an unexpired term in the United States Senate, twice asked to serve as American ambassador to Great Britain, and once offered the position of Secretary of the Treasury. At one time or another he held every nonelective office in the national Republican Party. A personal friend of three American presidents, his advice was frequently solicited by other residents of the White House. Under his chairmanship, and with his financial backing, the Aspen Institute was transformed from an inward-looking academic institution into an international authority on world affairs. He was a patron of the theater, music and the opera. A museum was built and named for him. He was a famous breeder of cattle and horses, an avid sportsman and a pioneer environmentalist. His acquisition of a great British newspaper preserved its character and editorial independence.For these and other reasons, Harris concluded, it seems desirable that his life and activities be recorded.Born in Chicago on April 13, 1917, Robert Orville Anderson won an international reputation as an oil executive, rancher, environmentalist, diplomat, philanthropist and civic leader. The son of Hugo and Whiled Nelson Anderson, he was educated at The University of Chicagos Laboratory elementary and high schools and in 1939 was graduated from The University of Chicago. In the same year he married his college sweetheart, Barbara Herrick Phelps.While a college student, Mr. Anderson had worked during summer vacations as an oil pipeline maintenance worker near Corpus Christi, Texas, an experience that helped divert his interest from architecture to petroleum. From 1939 to 1941 he worked in the Chicago office of the American Mineral Spirits Company, a subsidiary of Pure Oil. In 1941 he acquired an interest in the Malco Refinery in Artesia, N.M., and over the next 15 years bought and improved other refineries as he explored for oil in the Southwest. In 1945 he established his corporate headquarters in Roswell, N.M., where he kept an office and home throughout his life.In 1957 Mr. Anderson discovered the Empire-Abo Field in southeastern New Mexico and in 1963 merged his own company into the Atlantic Refining Company of Philadelphia. He became a director of Atlantic Refining in 1963. In 1965 he was asked to also take up the duties of chairman and chief executive officer, and in those capacities led the company through two key mergers. The first of these, with Richfield Oil of Los Angeles, created the Atlantic Richfield Company (ARCO). A year later he acquired Sinclair Oil and placed Atlantic Richfield among the largest domestic integrated oil producers.In 1968, Atlantic Richfield announced the discovery of the Prudhoe Bay oil field on Alaskas North Slope. It was and is still the largest oil field yet discovered in North America. Under Mr. Andersons leadership, Atlantic Richfield and six other companies joined in the construction of an 800-mile, 48-inch pipeline from the Arctic Sea to the Gulf of Alaska. The Trans-Alaska Pipeline was at the time the largest engineering and construction project ever attempted. It was completed, with extensive environmental safeguards, after six years of preparatory work, three years of construction, and the negotiation of more than 2,000 permits. By the time the first oil was delivered in 1977, the pipeline had become a national economic and strategic priority, carrying one-fifth of the nations domestic oil supply. To the end of 2006 the Trans-Alaska Pipeline had supplied over 15 billion barrels of North Slope oil to refineries on the West Coast.Mr. Anderson led Atlantic Richfield Company as a director for 23 years, as chairman of the board for 21, and as chief executive officer for 17. He retired from the company in 1986 to organize an independent company, the Hondo Oil & Gas Company, based in Roswell. He served as chairman and chief executive officer of this company until he retired in 1996.Beginning in 1957, Mr. Anderson assembled a large farming and ranching enterprise that included the Big Bend Ranch in Texas, the Circle Diamond, South Springs, Diamond A, Latigo and Ladder ranches in New Mexico, and the Hatchet Ranch in Colorado. Based on the plans of a lost New Mexico Territorial house, he built his principal home at the Circle Diamond Ranch, on the Hondo River, in 1968. Among his other business interests, he counted investments in manufacturing, mining and banking. He was an owner of ski areas in New Mexico and Colorado and built the Sierra Blanca Ski Area (now Ski Apache) at Ruidoso, N.M.Mr. Andersons long sponsorship of the Aspen Institute for Humanistic Studies began in 1953, when he bought a summer home in Aspen. In 1960, at the urging of his friend Walter Paepcke, he became chairman of the board of trustees, serving in that role until his retirement almost 30 years later.Mr. Andersons other philanthropic interests were diverse. He was an early supporter of the environmental movement, founding the International Institute for Environment and Development (London). He helped establish the John Muir Institute of the Environment (Davis, Calif.) and the World Watch Institute (Washington). He was a director or active supporter of the World Wildlife Federation, the Renewable Resources Foundation, the American Farmland Trust, The Nature Conservancy and the American Land Trust. He was active in the seminal United Nations conference on the environment, convened in Stockholm in 1972.Other organizations that have enjoyed his support and leadership are the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, Junior Achievement, the Boy Scouts of America, the Lovelace Medical Foundation and the Lovelace Respiratory Research Institute, the California Institute of Technology, The University of Chicago, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Eisenhower Exchange Fellowships organization, the Santa Fe Institute, the Roswell Public Library, the New Mexico Museum of Natural History, the University of New Mexico, and the Lincoln County Heritage Trust, which he founded.Mr. Anderson has been honored by the governments of the United States, the United Kingdom, Germany, Sweden and Native American Tribes. Among his other honors, he holds the American Petroleum Institutes Gold Medal, the Independent Petroleum Associations Roughneck Award, the Charles A. Lindbergh Award, the Eisenhower Medal of Excellence and many other awards bestowed by local and regional governments and charitable organizations.He has been awarded honorary degrees by the Colorado College, the University of New Mexico, New Mexico State University, the University of Alaska, Wesleyan University, the University of Denver, Dartmouth College, the Colorado School of Mines, Babson College, Williams College, Occidental College, Brandeis University, and the New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology. In 1975, the University of New Mexicos Schools of Management were named for him.Mr. Anderson was married for 68 years to Barbara Herrick Phelps, who survives him. Together they have seven children, 20 grandchildren and five great-grandchildren. His children are Katherine Denton of Tucson, Ariz.; Maria Anderson and Beverley Crane of Santa Fe, N.M.; Barbara Kryder and her husband Dr. Christian Kryder of Waban, Mass.; Julia Smith and her husband Morgan Smith of Santa Fe, N.M.; Phelps Anderson and his wife Ann Stege Anderson of Roswell, N.M.; and Robert Bruce Anderson and his wife Susan Nelson Anderson of Albuquerque, N.M. He is survived by his 20 grandchildren: Kate Denton of Tucson, Ariz.; Kelsey Denton of Houston; Jay Smith and his wife Jenny Leavell of Denver; Julia Slonestreet Smith and her husband Ian MacLellan of Denver; Nelson Smith, of Denver; Alicia Sardy and her husband Travis Andersen of Bozeman, Mont.; Adrienne Sardy and Marin Sardy of Santa Fe, N.M.; Tom Sardy of Anchorage, Alaska; Dr. Nelson Anderson of Atlanta; Benjamin Anderson of Los Angeles; Lauren Anderson of Denver; Christopher Anderson and his wife Rebecca Pitts Anderson of Fort Collins; Jennifer Anderson of Albuquerque, N.M.; Lieutenant Briggs Anderson of Twenty Nine Palms, Calif.; Christian Kryder of Washington; Margaret Kryder of San Francisco; William Kryder of Boston; and Emma Crane and William Royce Crane of Santa Fe, N.M.. He is also survived by his brothers Donald Anderson of Roswell, N.M., and Hugo Anderson of Loveland; and by his sister Helen Anderson Cooney of Des Moines, Iowa; and by his great-grandchildren, Audrey Smith, Walker Smith, Chet MacLenan and Elke MacLellan, all of Denver, and Mikey Andersen of Bozeman, Mont.In lieu of flowers, Mr. Andersons family asks that contributions in his name be made to the Roswell Artist-in-Residence Foundation, to the Conquistador Council of the Boy Scouts of America, to the Robert O. Anderson Schools of Management Foundation, or to any appropriate educational or charitable organization. The family plans a memorial service on Saturday, Jan. 19, at St. Andrews Church in Roswell, N.M.