Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI)

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The Passing of Robert O. Swanson '58

From the President's Desk

To: The Rensselaer Community
Re: The Passing of Robert O. Swanson '58

It is with great sadness that I write to inform you of the passing of Honorary Trustee Robert O. Swanson ’58 on Aug. 18, 2021. He was 84.

Mr. Swanson was a retired executive vice president and director of Mobil Corporation and Mobil Oil Corporation. He had responsibility for Mobil’s businesses in the Asia/Pacific region, Africa, and the Middle East, as well as for Mobil’s chemical and technology endeavors. Mr. Swanson was also Mobil’s executive steward of global diversity and inclusion.

Mr. Swanson earned his bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering from Rensselaer and joined Mobil as a process engineer shortly thereafter. In 1993, he was named senior vice president, responsible for the chemical, mining and minerals, and land development operations, and research, engineering, environmental affairs, and global diversity. He was a member of the Mobil Oil and Corporation Boards and Executive Committees, and also served as President and CEO of the Container Corporation of America, a Mobil acquisition.

Mr. Swanson was an active member of the Rensselaer Board of Trustees from 1997 to 2001, and served as an adjunct trustee from 2001 to 2011. 

Mr. Swanson and his wife, Ms. Cynthia Shevlin, are strong supporters of the Institute, and members of the esteemed Stephen Van Rensselaer Society. They were major benefactors of  the establishment of the O.T. Swanson Multidisciplinary Design Laboratory, a distinctive, first-class facility that enables students to work in cross-disciplinary teams on a variety of industry and service organization-sponsored and entrepreneurial projects. They have also provided generous scholarship support for women and minority students majoring in engineering and science, and are loyal supporters of the Rensselaer Annual Fund.

Our deepest thoughts go to his wife, Cynthia, and his family and friends, as we honor the contributions he made to both the Rensselaer community and to the world. He is survived by his wife, four sons, four grandchildren, and brother.