Robert M. Carlson

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[ Stanford News Obituary]
[ Stanford News Obituary]  

Revision as of 10:36, 12 April 2013

Long Biography


Stanford News Obituary

Robert C. Carlson (1939-2011), a professor in the School of Engineering for more than four decades, passed away on Sept. 6, 2011.

Carlson was born in Granite Falls, Minn., on Jan. 17, 1939. He earned his bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering at Cornell in 1962, followed by a master's degree in operations research in 1963 and a doctorate in mathematical sciences in 1976, both at Johns Hopkins University.

From 1962 to 1970, Carlson worked at Bell Labs in Holmdel, N.J., where he was a member of the technical staff in the Operations Analysis and Economic Studies Department.

He came to Stanford in 1970, serving until 2011. His primary areas of interest in both teaching and research were production and capacity planning; new product development; manufacturing and operations strategy; and sustainable product design, development and manufacturing. Carlson served two stints as chairman of the Department of Industrial Engineering and Engineering Management, first in 1987-88 and again from 1992-1993.

In addition to his professorship in the School of Engineering, Carlson was a Professor by Courtesy in the Stanford Graduate School of Business. He held visiting faculty positions at the University of California-Berkeley, at the Amos Tuck Business School at Dartmouth College and at the International Management Institute in Geneva, Switzerland.

Among his prouder achievements, Carlson was a recipient of the prestigious Stanford School of Engineering Tau Beta Pi Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching and, by student and alumni vote, the Eugene L. Grant Teaching Award. He was also very accessible to both undergraduate and graduate students. He made it an unfailing routine to be in his office for the better part of every day. Seeing him standing at his computer or sitting at his desk combing the day's newspapers for examples to use in his classes became a cornerstone of normalcy for students and staff alike.

Carlson authored some 60 articles and technical reports. He also created and conducted numerous executive seminars in the United States, England, Germany, Switzerland, Puerto Rico, Japan, Spain and Canada. At Stanford he directed several executive programs: Engineering Economy for Public Utilities, Manufacturing Strategy for Competitive Advantage, and Product Development and Manufacturing Strategy, and taught in a number of programs offered by the School of Engineering and the Graduate School of Business. In all these executive classes Bob was well known for his ability to stimulate class discussion, as well as his very lively sense of humor. He enjoyed leading class discussions with groups of executives and then guiding them to an often-surprising case conclusion.

Carlson was enthusiastic about his calling. He told the San Jose Mercury News that, "Some people believe that being involved in manufacturing means being in a dirty shop room. On the whole, a lot of people don't understand manufacturing, but if they did, they would be more interested."

Bob provided very valuable assistance when the Stanford Department of Industrial Engineering and Engineering Management reconfigured itself from a traditional industrial engineering department into a more broadly focused department that helped to redefine the field.

On the personal side, Bob had a great deal of joie de vivre. He particularly enjoyed fine wine and travel to France, and had an extensive wine cellar. He was a member of the Confrérie des Chevaliers du Tastevin, an exclusive club of Burgundy wine enthusiasts. He could often be found socializing after work at the Vin Vino Wine shop. He also appreciated classical music, enjoying string quartet performances at Stanford and beyond.

Carlson is survived by his wife, Judith Kincaid of Palo Alto; sons Brian Carlson of Truckee, Calif., and Andy Carlson of Bellevue, Neb.; his stepdaughter, Jennifer Warkentin, and her family of Chandler, Ariz.; and his sisters Vicki Wiltgen of Minneapolis and Barbara Coffin of Los Angeles. He was preceded in death by his daughter, Christina Carlson Viotti.

Mr. Chairman, I have the honor, on behalf of a committee consisting of Jim Adams, Margaret Brandeau, Kathleen Eisenhardt and myself, Warren Hausman, to lay before the Senate of the Academic Council a Resolution in the memory of the late Robert C. Carlson, Professor of Management Science and Engineering, in the School of Engineering.

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