Oral history interview with Vincent L. Gregory, Jr.

Oral history interview with Vincent L. Gregory, Jr.

  • 1995-Feb-14
Photograph of Vincent L. Gregory Jr.
Detail of Image, Science History Institute Collections

Vincent L. Gregory begins this interview with a description of growing up in a family of nine during the Depression. While deciding between entering the priesthood and a business career, Gregory opted to study economics at Princeton University. He finished a year at Princeton before enlisting in the U.S. Army Air Force at the start of World War II, and served as a fighter pilot in Europe during the war. After the war, Gregory simultaneously gained both a Bachelor's degree at Princeton University and a Master's degree at Harvard University. Then in 1949, he began his career at the Rohm and Haas Company by conducting internal auditing in three plants. After three years, Gregory was transferred to France to start up the first Rohm and Haas plant outside the United States. He then ran Rohm and Haas' agricultural-chemical operations in England before becoming Director of European Operations. Under his leadership, Rohm and Haas-Europe's share of total company profits increased from one to thirty percent, building on postwar conditions and Rohm and Haas' quality products and customer service. Gregory then returned to the United States to head operations in Latin America and the Pacific. In 1970, F. Otto Haas chose Gregory as the first non-family president of Rohm and Haas. Gregory instituted such changes as a ten percent across-the-board downsizing, adding board directors from outside Rohm and Haas, and revamping the company's management system. The oil crisis, along with DuPont Lycra's increasing market share in polyesters, led to Gregory's decision to withdraw Rohm and Haas' stretch fabric, Anim-8, from the market. Gregory then focused the company's product lines on polymers, plastics, and agricultural chemicals. Additionally, he tightened the company's environmental controls when bis-chloromethyl ether was discovered to cause cancer in rats and participated in hearings leading to the passage of the Toxic Substance Control Act [TOSCA]. Gregory's support of R&D led to the development of Vacor, which was later taken off the market, and Blazer. Here, Gregory discusses the CEO's role in supporting R&D, his views on teamwork, and the future of innovation in the chemical industry. He ends the interview by describing his work with the Chemical Industry Institute of Toxicology [CIIT] and the Center for Cancer Prevention at Harvard University.

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  • 54 pages
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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

James J. Bohning was professor emeritus of chemistry at Wilkes University, where he had been a faculty member from 1959 to 1990. He served there as chemistry department chair from 1970 to 1986 and environmental science department chair from 1987 to 1990. Bohning was chair of the American Chemical Society’s Division of the History of Chemistry in 1986; he received the division’s Outstanding Paper Award in 1989 and presented more than forty papers at national meetings of the society. Bohning was on the advisory committee of the society’s National Historic Chemical Landmarks Program from its inception in 1992 through 2001 and is currently a consultant to the committee. He developed the oral history program of the Chemical Heritage Foundation, and he was CHF’s director of oral history from 1990 to 1995. From 1995 to 1998, Bohning was a science writer for the News Service group of the American Chemical Society. In May 2005, he received the Joseph Priestley Service Award from the Susquehanna Valley Section of the American Chemical Society.  Bohning passed away in September 2011.

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Interviewee biographical information

Born
  • June 10, 1923
  • Oil City, Pennsylvania, United States
Died
  • June 03, 2019
  • Hampshire, United Kingdom

Education

Year Institution Degree Discipline
1949 Princeton University BA Economics
1949 Harvard University MBA

Professional Experience

United States. Army

  • 1941 to 1942
  • 1942 to 1945 Fighter Pilot, 374th Fighter Group, U.S. 8th Air Force, U.K.

Rohm and Haas Company

  • 1949 to 1952 Plant Accounting Supervisor, Finance Division
  • 1952 to 1955 Financial Manager, Société Minoc, France
  • 1955 to 1958 Assistant Managing Director, Lenning Chemicals, England
  • 1958 to 1964 Managing Director, Lenning Chemicals
  • 1964 to 1968 Director, European Operations
  • 1968 to 1970 Assistant General Manager, Foreign Operations
  • 1970 to 1978 President and Chief Executive Officer
  • 1970 to 1978 Member, Board of Directors
  • 1978 to 1988 Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer
  • 1988 Retired

Honors

Year(s) Award
1984 Public Service Award, Harvard School of Public Health
1988 Chemical Industry Medal, Society of Chemical Industry (American Section)
1989 Alumni Achievement Award, Harvard Business School

Cite as

Vincent L. Gregory, interviewed by James J. Bohning in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on February 14, 1995. Philadelphia: Science History Institute, n.d. Oral History Transcript 0133. https://digital.sciencehistory.org/works/bwo4022.

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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

6 Separate Interview Segments Archival-quality downloads