Born in New Bloomfield, Pennsylvania in 1928, Walter Lee Robb developed a love of chemistry and mathematics in high school and won a scholarship to Penn State, from which he graduated with a degree in chemical engineering in 1949. Desiring a career in research, he then received his doctorate from the University of Urbana-Champaign. With an interest in nuclear chemistry, Walt joined the Knolls Atomic Power Laboratory in 1951, run by General Electric, in Niskayuna, NY. Following roles of increasing responsibility at GE Research and Development, GE Silicone Products, as head of GE Medical Systems and, finally, as GE’s Chief Technology Officer, Walt retired after 42 years to become an active entrepreneur, business owner, mentor and philanthropist.
As the founder and president of Vantage Management, Walt invested in, nurtured and led dozens of start up and existing businesses including Celgene Corporation, Cree, Inc. Mechanical Technology, Inc., Signature Concepts, MeOH Power and the minor-league sports franchises: the Albany River Rats hockey team and the Albany Conquest arena football team. He served on the boards of over ten national labs, universities and corporations including Lawrence Livermore Nationa Laboratory and Johns Hopkins University. His philanthropy included positions of guidance and leadership in Proctor’s Theater in Schenectady Ellis Hospital, the Double H Ranch in the Adirondack Mountains and Penn State’s College of Engineering. His professiona awards are too numerous to mention or give credit to here.
Walt’s involvement in Tire Conversion Technologies began with his introduction, eventua friendship and investment with inventor and founder Joseph Coffin. Mr. Coffin formed the company in 1998, originally manufacturing DuraBoard TM from recycled tires. TCT reinvented itself in the late 2000s by acquiring the rights to manufacture the ENVIROform line of recycled rubber, compression molded products from RL Bates of Geneva, NY. It was at this time that Walt became the majority shareholder in TCT and, subsequently, Chairman of the Board where he oversaw their gradual growth and eventual expansion overseas as TCT Europe Ltd. He vigorously maintained his position as chairman, working out of Vantage Management’s co-located offices in Latham, NY, unti the Friday before his death, in March 2020, at the age of 91.
He is survived by his beloved wife, Anne and their three sons: Rich, Steve and Lindsey The entire TCT community: employees, their families shareholders, alumni and the local business ecosystem are indebted to Walt for his unwavering support, guidance, vision and good humor throughout the years. He was passionate about the importance and value of good, well-paying jobs to society and the responsibility of employers to their workers. He is missed but the values he instilled in this business, the other businesses he touched and the local community will carry on and continue to thrive.