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Oral history interview with Catherine T. Hunt

  • 2009-Mar-26
  • 2009-Aug-28

Catherine T. Hunt grew up in Bronxville, New York, one of seven children. Her father was a chemist at Allied Chemical Company, and Katie often went to work with him and always had questions for him about why things are the way they are. A good chemistry teacher in high school only strengthened her determination to be a chemist. To that end she entered Smith College. She loved her classes and her professors, with whom she remains in close contact. During her summers she worked at Stauffer Chemical Company. She realized she needed a PhD, so she applied to the University of California system, choosing Davis. There she worked with Alan Balch and nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR). She met Linda Benner there, her lifelong friend. Hunt accepted a National Institutes of Health postdoctoral fellowship at Yale University, studying with Drs. Ian Armitage, Robert Shulman, and James Prestegard. She also joined a bicycle club, where she met her future husband. When she began to interview for jobs she found Linda Benner and several others from Davis at Rohm and Haas; she also found a friendly and supportive atmosphere there, and took the job. She later became a process chemist and then lab manager of the Bridesburg plant. In 1991, she gave birth to her son during her assignment at the plant. When downsized from Rohm and Haas in 1995 she moved back to Spring House in Analytical Research, ultimately becoming the director of the Analytical and Computational Competency Network. Persuaded to run for president of American Chemical Society (ACS), Hunt developed a platform emphasizing education in science, including legislators, the media, the public, and the next generation. ACS also increased its emphasis on outreach, collaboration, and innovation. After her year in office, Hunt returned to Rohm and Haas as the first Corporate Sustainability Director, as well as resuming her former role in Technology Partnerships. When Dow acquired Rohm and Haas on April 1, 2009, Hunt move into an expanded role in their External Technologies Group (ET); soon to be renamed: Innovation Sourcing and Sustainable Technologies. She has swapped management for leadership, finding excitement in new ways of thinking and in communicating to different audiences. Hunt discusses balancing her career and home life; keeping healthy and fit with her bicycling and yoga; and the many changes she has experienced in her life at Rohm and Haas, now Dow. She talks about mentoring and the importance of reaching out. She regards this latest transition as a time to reevaluate goals, strengths, possibilities. Hunt has been awarded many honors but feels especially proud of the Smith Medal. As the first ACS president from the University of California, Davis, she won the Outstanding Alumna award, of which she is also extremely proud, especially as it is a very large school.

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