Dr. Calvin B. Cobb grew up in St. Joseph, Missouri, born of Depression-era parents. His father was a high school graduate, his mother only finished grade school but they had the wisdom to point Calvin and his brother Tom down the right path. It was simply assumed they would go to college to make “a better life” and find a way to give something back to the world around them.
Calvin’s father owned a business and his mother worked by his side. He observed their work ethic everyday around the house and in the community and realized at a young age that the long, hard hours his parents worked strengthened their character.
Calvin entered high school in 1956 near the time the Russians launched Sputnik. Many thought that Russia might have a technological advantage on the United States so U.S. kids who were good in math and science were encouraged to study science, technology and engineering.
Calvin recalls that in St. Joseph, “you never ran across an engineer in daily life.” Calvin’s father was a farm boy and even bought a farm when Calvin was a freshman in high school. From this vantage point, the field of engineering might be machine design or mechanical engineering for Calvin. His high school sweetheart’s sister had married a mechanical engineer from “Rolla” [then the Missouri School of Mines and now the Missouri University of Science and Technology (Missouri S&T)]. But Calvin’s high school chemistry teacher – Miss Moore – had a strong influence on Calvin so he pursued chemical engineering. “I hired chemical engineers for much of my career,” recalls Calvin. “When I asked them how they became chemical engineers, most say it was because of the connection they had with their high school chemistry teacher. It was a bond that clicked for Calvin, and the rest – as they say – is history for Dr. Cobb, Past President of the American Institute of Chemical Engineering (2001).
Calvin Cobb recently retired from a 35 year career as a consultant. The major part of his consulting career was spent as President of Wright Killen & Co., a partner at Ernst & Young, and with Cap Gemini Ernst & Young. He was the recent chair of the AIChE Institute for Sustainability and serves as chairman of the board for the Pearl Fincher Museum of Fine Arts in Houston, TX.