Oral history interview with Harold A. Sorgenti

Oral history interview with Harold A. Sorgenti

  • 1998-May-12 (First session)
  • 1999-Mar-15 (Second session)
  • 1999-Jun-10 (Third session)
  • 2003-Jan-10 (Fourth session)
Photograph of Harold A. Sorgenti
Harold A. Sorgenti. Science History Institute Collections, Photograph by Douglas Lockard

Harold Sorgenti begins the interview by discussing his family background and childhood. He was able to find a job after college at Battelle Memorial Institute and while working in research there, Sorgenti received his masters in chemical engineering from Ohio State University.

After four years at Battelle, Sorgenti left to work in research for Atlantic Richfield Oil Corporation (ARCO). Sorgenti had a highly productive research career and invented several production processes, such as making benzene from toluene by hydrodealkylation. Because of his exemplary managerial skills and ability to take risks, Sorgenti was promoted first to director of development and then to head to research and engineering at ARCO. Eventually, he became the president of ARCO Chemical, a subdivision of ARCO. Sorgenti urged the company's CEO, Robert Anderson, to buy control of Oxirane, which Sorgenti later built in to a highly successful company. From the beginning of his presidency in 1979, to his retirement in 1991, Sorgenti increased ARCO's net worth by two billion dollars.

Sorgenti has always believed that a manager's most important job was to provide safety for his employees. He felt that shareholders were preventing him from accomplishing that task at ARCO, so he resigned and then co-founded the Freedom Chemical Company. There, Sorgenti helped organize many transactions, including one with the Kalama Chemical Company. When Freedom's investment partner, JLL, decided to sell the company to B.F. Goodrich, Sorgenti founded a new company named, Sorgenti Investment Partners. Throughout his career, Sorgenti has joined many corporate boards, and worked hard to make the selection of new executives and board members an open process. Sorgenti ends the interview by reflecting on his philanthropic involvements and family life.

Interviewee
Interviewer
Place of interview
Format
Original file type PDF, MP3, JPEG
Genre
Extent
  • 155 pages
Language
Subject
Rights Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License
Rights holder
  • Science History Institute
Credit line
  • Courtesy of Science History Institute

About the Interviewer

Arnold Thackray founded the Chemical Heritage Foundation and served the organization as president for 25 years. He is currently CHF’s chancellor. Thackray received MA and PhD degrees in history of science from Cambridge University. He has held appointments at Cambridge, Oxford University, and Harvard University, the Institute for Advanced Study, the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences, and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.In 1983 Thackray received the Dexter Award from the American Chemical Society for outstanding contributions to the history of chemistry. He served for more than a quarter century on the faculty of the University of Pennsylvania, where he was the founding chairman of the Department of History and Sociology of Science and is currently the Joseph Priestley Professor Emeritus.

Physical location

Department
Collection

Interviewee biographical information

Born
  • May 28, 1934
  • New York, New York, United States
Died
  • July 11, 2018
  • Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States

Education

Year Institution Degree Discipline
1956 City University of New York. City College BS Chemical Engineering
1959 Ohio State University MS Chemical Engineering

Professional Experience

Battelle Memorial Institute

  • 1955 to 1959 Research

Atlantic Refining Company

  • 1955 to 1959 Assistant Development Engineer
  • 1961 to 1966 Development Engineer

Atlantic Richfield Co.

  • 1966 to 1968 Development Engineer
  • 1968 to 1972 Manager of Process Development (Harvey, Illinois)
  • 1972 to 1975 Manager of Evaluation, Planning Coordination and Supply Department (Los Angeles, California)
  • 1975 to 1976 Vice President, Research and Engineering, Products Division (Los Angeles, California)

ARCO Chemical Company

  • 1976 to 1979 Senior Vice President, Chemical Department (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania)
  • 1979 to 1987 President
  • 1987 to 1991 President and Chief Executive Officer

Freedom Chemical Company

  • 1991 to 1996 Co-founder and Chairman

Sorgenti Investment Partners

  • 1996 to 2005 Founder and General Partner

Honors

Year(s) Award
1981 Leadership Award, Junior Achievement of Delaware Valley
1981 Business and Industry Award, Opportunities Industrialization Centers of America, Inc.
1981 Achievement Award, National Italian American Foundation
1982 Industrialist of the Year Award, Society of Industrial Realtors
1982 Beta Gamma Sigma Honoree
1982 Honorary Doctor of Law Degree, Villanova University
1982 Civic Achievement Award, American Jewish Committee Human Relations
1983 Benjamin G. Lamme Medal, Ohio State University, College of Engineering
1983 Honorary Doctor of Science Degree, Saint Joseph's University
1983 Distinguished Service Award, Opportunities Industrialization Centers of America, Inc. (OIC), Leon Sullivan, Founder
1984 "Commendotore" Order of Merit, Republic of Italy
1985 William Penn Award, Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce
1985 Drum Major Award for Corporate Justice, Martin Luther King Association for Non-Violence
1991 Memorial Award, Chemical Market Research Association
1991 Philip H. Ward Medal, Franklin Institute
1991 Honor Award, Commercial Development Association
1991 Business Leader of the Year Award, Drexel University
1991 Campaign for Citizen Power Award, League of Women Voters
1992 "Touching Lives" Award, Boys and Girls Club of the Greater Philadelphia Area
1992 Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters, Ohio State University

Cite as

Harold A. Sorgenti, interviewed by Arnold Thackray in Haverford, Pennsylvania on May 12, 1998. Philadelphia: Science History Institute, n.d. Oral History Transcript 0170. https://digital.sciencehistory.org/works/1z40kt97c.

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PDF — 19.7 MB
sorgenti_ha_0170_FULL.pdf

The published version of the transcript may diverge from the interview audio due to edits to the transcript made by staff of the Center for Oral History, often at the request of the interviewee, during the transcript review process.

Complete Interview Audio File Web-quality download

21 Separate Interview Segments Archival-quality downloads