Benefactor Mourned - Robert B. Pamplin Sr.

Robert B. Pamplin Sr., Lewis & Clark life trustee who had served as board chair twice during his long association with the college, died June 24 at his home in Portland.

Robert B. Pamplin Sr., Lewis & Clark life trustee who had served as board chair twice during his long association with the college, died June 24 at his home in Portland. He was 97.

The service and philanthropy of Pamplin and his family have helped shape Lewis & Clark since he first joined the Board of Trustees in 1956. His son, Dr. Robert B. Pamplin Jr. ‘64, ‘65, ‘66, also became a member of the board and served as chair for the first half of the 1990s. He is currently a life trustee.

Pamplin Sports Center, named for the elder Pamplin, has for four decades hosted stately, festive, scholarly, and competitive events. The building, which opened in 1969, has seen Lewis & Clark community members applaud hundreds of college, graduate, and law students as they walked across the stage at commencement; cheer for the Pioneer basketball teams; dance the hula at the annual Hawaiian lu’au; contemplate weighty issues of the day during special symposia; and pursue fitness in the gym, weight room, and aerobics room. The facility also houses a training room, theatre-style classroom, locker rooms, and staff offices.

Born in Virginia, Pamplin graduated from Virginia Tech University in 1933 and went to work as an accountant for a small start-up company named Georgia Hardwood Lumber. He retired in 1976 as CEO, having led the enterprise to international prominence as Georgia-Pacific Corporation. He and Robert Pamplin Jr. then started the R.B. Pamplin Corporation, a holding company whose operations include concrete, sand, and gravel mining; asphalt paving; and textile manufacturing.

Pamplin Sr. has been credited with helping to establish the modern era of the forest products industry in Oregon; the Oregonian called him “among the last of a generation of Northwest timber industry titans.” He was the recipient of many honors, among them Lewis & Clark’s Aubrey Watzek Award, honoring citizens who pioneered in their respective fields and who enriched the Pacific Northwest, particularly Oregon.

As former President Tom Hochstettler noted, “The Pamplin name is synonymous with distinctive philanthropy in support of excellence. Mr. Pamplin believed deeply in the power of education to transform lives. His legacy challenges each of us to use and develop our skills in ways that fulfill the promise of education.”

Pamplin served on Lewis & Clark’s Board of Trustees from 1956 to 1968 and again from 1969 to 1979, chairing the board during the years 1963-68 and 1977-79.

“Bob was a very supportive and strong-minded individual,” remembers Fred Fields, life trustee and retired president and CEO of Coe Manufacturing Company. “I always admired his business acumen and his generosity. He played a key role in helping Lewis & Clark move into a stronger position in the educational field.”

Survivors include his son and daughter-in-law, Robert B. Pamplin Jr. and Marilyn Pamplin; two granddaughters, Amy Pamplin North and Anne Pamplin-Evenson, and their husbands; and three great-grandsons. His wife, Katherine Reese Pamplin, died in December 2008.

A memorial service took place in Agnes Flanagan Chapel on June 26.

Donations in Robert B. Pamplin Sr.’s memory may be made to Agnes Flanagan Chapel.