Former Clarkson trustee, 92, dies of COVID-19


SCHENECTADY — Former Clarkson University trustee and General Electric research executive Walter L. Robb died Monday after contracting the novel coronavirus. He was 92, and resided in the town of Niskayuna with his wife Anne.

Last week, Mr. Robb called his son asking for help with caring for Anne, who is also believed to have contracted the viral disease COVID-19, the Albany Times Union reports.

After being admitted to an Ellis Medicine hospital Friday, Mr. Robb was placed on a respirator. His family was notified around 11 p.m. Sunday that his health was quickly deteriorating, and he died at 5 a.m. Monday.

“Our team at Ellis is fortunate to have had a man of Walt’s stature and character in our midst,” President and CEO of Ellis Medicine Paul A. Milton said in a statement. “He was a mentor to many of us here, an inspiring leader and a generous supporter — just as he was to many individuals and organizations throughout the Capital Region.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention lists people 65 and older as being at higher risk for severe illness from the novel coronavirus, which was first detected in December and has now reached 463,387 confirmed cases and 20,912 deaths globally as of Wednesday, the World Health Organization reports.

Of the more than 60,000 cases in the United States, over 30,000 had been confirmed in New York Wednesday, with more than half of those cases reported in New York City.

Mr. Robb’s death marked the first COVID-19 fatality in New York’s Capital Region.

“Even beyond his philanthropy, Walt gave generously of his time, experience and vision to a countless number of entrepreneurs and leaders,” Mr. Milton said. “The indelible mark he has left on all of us as a community cannot be overstated. He will be missed.”

Mr. Robb joined the Clarkson community after the 2016 merger of Clarkson’s Capital Region Campus and Union Graduate College, where he had been a trustee, and served as a Clarkson trustee through 2019. Following the merger, Clarkson began offering graduate degrees in the Capital Region with programs in business, engineering, education, health and science.

Mr. Robb started at General Electric in 1951, as a chemical engineer at the Knolls Atomic Power Laboratory in Schenectady, after receiving his bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering from Pennsylvania State University, and his master’s and doctoral degrees from the University of Illinois.

He left New York to serve as the general manager of GE Medical Systems in Milwaukee, which grew into one of the world’s leading producers of medical diagnostic imaging equipment, including ultrasound, nuclear medicine, CT, MR and other X-ray technology.

He then returned to the Capital Region as GE’s senior vice president for corporate research and development from 1986 to 1992. In that role, Mr. Robb directed the Schenectady-based GE Research and Development Center.

During his career, which spanned more than five decades, Mr. Robb was recognized by several national engineering and technology organizations.

He was awarded the National Medal of Technology from President Bill Clinton in 1993, for his leadership in the medical imaging industry, and he received honorary engineering degrees from the Worcester Polytechnic Institute in Massachusetts and the Milwaukee School of Engineering.

“As I look back on my own career, all of my real successes were because somebody took a risk with me,” Mr. Robb told students on a visit to his alma mater, the University of Illinois, in 2015. “And I took a risk doing something to be different.”

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