Robert R. Nathan – 1927 (Special Recognition)

Robert NathanRobert Nathan lived a long, productive life. He and his twin brother Lawrence were born in Dayton, Ohio on Christmas Day in 1908 to Polish immigrant parents. There were another brother and three sisters in the total family. Robert was a bright student at Patterson Elementary and continued his academic success at Stivers where he was active in the Debate Club and was the managing editor of the Stivers News, with brother Larry as the sports editor. Since the family was poor (his father was a fruit peddler), the twins had to scrabble at many odd jobs for spending money. Both boys attended the University of Pennsylvania, living with their older brother to reduce costs, and working their way through school. Robert stayed at the university, receiving his master’s degree in science and economics at the Wharton School of Finance in 1933. At that point in time, he left for an illustrious career in Washington, D.C.

Robert began his career as an economist for the Department of Commerce, eventually becoming chairman of the War Production Board’s planning committee in 1942 at age 33. He also found time to earn a law degree from Georgetown University in 1938. In 1940 he was named one of the 10 outstanding young men in the United States by the Junior Chamber of Commerce and joined the National Defense Advisory commission to become one of the nation’s earliest figures in America’s defense program. However, he did have his lighter moments: Life magazine described him as a tall lanky pipe smoker who liked to drive his red Pontiac convertible around the Washington area on a Sunday afternoon. Robert refused to seek a deferment during the war, was drafted into the army as a private, but medical issues prompted his medical discharge in late 1943. He then became the No.2 man in the Office of War Mobilization and Reconversion and played a key role in the transition back to peacetime economy. In the spring of 1946, he resigned to head Robert R. Nathan Associates, a Washington economic consulting firm. He continued active participation in many studies, trusts and surveys, even participating in both Hubert Humphrey’s and John Kennedy’s election campaigns.

Robert married and he and his wife Mary lived in Bethesda, Maryland, rearing their three children: Richard, Ann and David.


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