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Guion Bluford

NASA astronaut, aerospace engineer, military officer, and senior engineering executive, Guion S. Bluford Jr. was born on November 22, 1942 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He was the eldest of three sons of Guion Bluford, Sr., a mechanical engineer, and Lolita Bluford, a special education teacher. Bluford graduated from Overbrook Senior High School in 1960 and went on to graduate from Pennsylvania State University in 1964 with his B.S. degree in aerospace engineering. He was also a distinguished graduate of the U.S. Air Force ROTC program and received his commission as an Air Force second lieutenant. Bluford graduated from the Air Force Institute of Technology with his M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in aerospace engineering in 1974 and 1978, respectively. In 1987, Bluford received his M.B.A. degree in management from the University of Houston at Clear Lake.

After receiving his Air Force pilot wings, Bluford was assigned to the 557th Tactical Fighter Squadron at Cam Ranh Bay, Vietnam. As an F4C fighter pilot, he flew 144 combat missions in Southeast Asia. From 1967 to 1972, he was a T-38 instructor pilot at Sheppard Air Force Base in Texas where he trained future U.S. Air Force and West German fighter pilots. Upon graduating from the Air Force Institute of Technology in 1974, Bluford was assigned to the U.S. Air Force Flight Dynamics Laboratory as Deputy for Advanced Concepts in the Aeromechanics Division and then as Branch Chief of the Aerodynamics and Airframe Branch. In 1978, Bluford was selected for the astronaut program and was officially designated a NASA astronaut one year later. In 1983, he became the first African American to fly in space and the first to receive the U.S. Air Force Command Pilot Astronaut Wings. Bluford was also the first African American to return to space a second, third, and fourth time when he flew on STS-61A in 1985, STS-39 in 1991, and STS-53 in 1992. He has logged more than 688 hours in space.

In 1993, he retired from NASA and the United States Air Force to become the Vice President/General Manager of the Engineering Services Division of NYMA Inc. He led the research support effort in aeropropulsion, satellite systems, microgravity and advanced materials. In 1997, he became the Vice President of the Aerospace Sector of the Federal Data Corporation and led the company’s NASA business. Finally, in 2000, Bluford became the Vice President of Microgravity R&D and Operation for Northrop Grumman Corporation and led the industry team in the development of two experiment facilities currently on the International Space Station. Today, Bluford is the President of the Aerospace Technology Group in Cleveland, Ohio.

Bluford has been awarded the Department of Defense Superior Service and Meritorious Service Medals; the Air Force Legion of Merit and Meritorious Service Medal; the NASA Distinguished Service and Exceptional Service Medals; the Pennsylvania Distinguished Service Medal; the 1991 Black Engineer of the Year Award and fourteen honorary doctorate degrees. He was inducted into the International Space Hall of Fame in 1997 and the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame in 2010

Guion Stewart Bluford, Jr. was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on May 9, 2013.

Accession Number

A2013.165

Sex

Male

Interview Date

5/9/2013

Last Name

Bluford

Maker Category
Marital Status

Married

Middle Name

Stewart

Schools

Air Force Institute of Technology

University of Houston

Pennsylvania State University

Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania

Speakers Bureau

Yes

Speakers Bureau Availability

Any

First Name

Guion

Birth City, State, Country

Philadelphia

HM ID

BLU01

Speakers Bureau Preferred Audience

Any

Speakers Bureau Honorarium

Yes - $4000-$7500

Favorite Season

Summer

Speaker Bureau Notes

For commencement speeches in which an honorary doctorate degree is confirmed, no honorarium is charged,

State

Pennsylvania

Favorite Vacation Destination

None

Favorite Quote

Do what you love and love what you do.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Ohio

Birth Date

11/22/1942

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Cleveland

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Steak, Lobster

Short Description

Astronaut and military officer Guion Bluford (1942 - ) , flew 144 combat missions in Southeast Asia as an F4C fighter pilot and served as a Branch Chief in the Air Force Flight Dynamics Laboratory. He became the first African American astronaut to fly in space on STS-8 (1983, shuttle Challenger), and the first African American to return to space a 2nd, 3rd, and 4th time on STS-61-A (1985, shuttle Challenger), STS-39 (1991, shuttle Discovery) and STS-53 (1992, shuttle Discovery). Bluford retired from NASA and the Air Force in 1993 to become a senior aerospace industry executive.

Employment

Aerospace Technology Group

Northrop Grumman Information Technology

Federal Data Corporation

NYMA Inc.

Johnson Space Center

Air Force Flight Dynamics Laboratory

3630th Flying Training Wing

12th Tactical Fighter Wing

Favorite Color

Beige

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Guion Bluford's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Guion Bluford lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Guion Bluford describes his mother's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Guion Bluford talks about his mother's education and her career as a teacher

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Guion Bluford talks about growing up in a non-segregated environment in Philadelphia, and talks about his mother's career, personality and interests

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Guion Bluford describes his father's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Guion Bluford describes his father's education, and how his parents met at Alcorn A&M College in the 1930s

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Guion Bluford describes his father's employment as an engineer, and his family's early life in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Guion Bluford describes his parents' personalities and who he takes after

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Guion Bluford talks about his brothers, and about growing up in Philadelphia

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Guion Bluford describes the demographics of West Philadelphia during his childhood years and describes his interests as a child

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Guion Bluford talks about his childhood interest in airplanes as well as joining the Boy Scouts

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Guion Bluford describes his experience at the YMCA and what influenced his childhood interest in becoming an aerospace engineer

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Guion Bluford describes his experience in elementary school and junior high school in Philadelphia

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Guion Bluford describes his experience in high school in Philadelphia

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Guion Bluford talks about his role models in engineering and his interest in pursuing a career in aeronautical engineering

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Guion Bluford talks about his teachers in school, his decision to attend Pennsylvania State University and his encounter with a college counselor

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Guion Bluford talks about his father's struggle with epilepsy, his mother career as a school teacher, and his grandfather's influence on his life

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Guion Bluford talks about his interest in solving puzzles and his decision to attend Pennsylvania State University for his undergraduate studies

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Guion Bluford talks about his graduating class at Overbrook High School in Philadelphia

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Guion Bluford describes his experience as an undergraduate student at Pennsylvania State University

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Guion Bluford describes his family's involvement in the Christian Science church

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Guion Bluford describes his fear of heights and hospitals

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Guion Bluford describes his social experience at Pennsylvania State University in the 1960s

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Guion Bluford talks about his decision to enroll in the Air Force Advanced ROTC Course and join the U.S. Air Force as an engineer

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Guion Bluford talks about how he met his wife, Linda Tull

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Guion Bluford talks about his decision to become a pilot in the U.S. Air Force

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Guion Bluford describes his senior year at Penn State University

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Guion Bluford talks about graduating from Penn State University

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Guion Bluford talks about Professor Leslie Greenhill and Professor Barnes McCormick, who were his mentors at Penn State University

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Guion Bluford talks about his early married life and the few months following his graduation from Penn State University

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Guion Bluford talks about his initial experience on Williams Air Force Base

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Guion Bluford describes his pilot training experience on Williams Air Force Base in 1965

Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Guion Bluford talks about Air Force pilot Chappie James and his first assignment out of pilot training in 1966

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Guion Bluford talks about the low percentage of black pilots in the U.S. Air Force

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Guion Bluford describes his service as a U.S. Air Force fighter pilot in Vietnam, from 1966 to 1967 - part one

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Guion Bluford describes his service as a U.S. Air Force fighter pilot in Vietnam, from 1966 to 1967 - part two

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Guion Bluford talks about his fighter plane being shot at while he was in Vietnam

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Guion Bluford shares his perspective on the Vietnam War

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Guion Bluford talks about his decision to become an instructor pilot and his experience at Sheppard Air Force Base

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Guion Bluford talks about his decision to pursue graduate school

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Guion Bluford talks about Robert Lawrence

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Guion Bluford describes his experience in the master's degree program at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Guion Bluford describes his decision to pursue a Ph.D. degree in aerospace engineering

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Guion Bluford describes his experience as a doctoral student in aerospace engineering

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Guion Bluford discusses his doctoral dissertation on determining a numerical solution to describe the flow around a delta wing at hypersonic speeds

Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Guion Bluford describes his decision to apply for the NASA astronaut program in 1977

Tape: 6 Story: 7 - Guion Bluford describes his selection to the NASA astronaut program in 1978

DASession

1$1

DATape

5$2

DAStory

2$5

DATitle
Guion Bluford describes his service as a U.S. Air Force fighter pilot in Vietnam, from 1966 to 1967 - part one
Guion Bluford describes his experience at the YMCA and what influenced his childhood interest in becoming an aerospace engineer
Transcript
So, I got--$$So after--(simultaneous)--$$--I graduated from pilot training [at Williams Air Force Base, Mesa, Arizona], F-4Cs, frontline, Moc II, fighter bomber, Vietnam, Southeast Asia. That was my assignment.$$You were a bomber pilot?$$Fighter pilot. This is fighter pilot--(simultaneous)--$$Fighter pilot, okay.$$This is fighter pilot.$$All right, and you were flying the, what was the plane that you--$$F-4C Phantom.$$F-4C, okay.$$F-4C Phantom, brand new fighter airplane. It used to be a [U.S.] Navy airplane. Then the [U.S.] Air Force liked it and made it an Air Force airplane, "C" version. So after pilot training, I went to, left the wife [Linda Tull] and kids in Phoenix, went to Reno, Nevada to stay there for a space for three weeks of survival school. And then from there, I went down to Davis-Monthan [Air Force Base] in Tucson [Arizona], wife and kids, we all went down to Tucson for two or three months for radar school. And then we went to MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, Florida, and I flew the machine, learned to fly it, take off, land, refuel, drop bombs, all that sort of stuff, about six months flying, six months. In October of '65 [1965] I sent the wife, and took the wife and kids to Philadelphia [Pennsylvania], got them situated and in October of sixty--not '65 [1965], October of '66' [1966], excuse me, October of '66 [1966], I went to Vietnam. My orders were to go to Ubon Air Base, 433rd Tactical Fighter Squadron. And if I had gotten there, I would have flown for [Daniel] Chappie James [Jr; fighter pilot in the U.S. Air Force, who in 1975 became the first black American to reach the rank of four-star general] and Robin Olds [fighter pilot and general officer in the U.S. Air Force], two fighter pilots who ran the wing up there. And this would have been primarily, I would have flown Air cap over North Vietnam, primarily, you know, shooting down MiGs, defending thuds [fighter bomber], F-105s, that sort of thing.$$You said, "if" you had gotten there?$$Yeah, I didn't get there. I'll tell you why.$$Okay.$$But that's where I was assigned. So, once I got the wife and kids up in Philadelphia, matter of fact, I left and they were still living with my parents [Harriett Lolita Brice Blueford and Guion Bluford, Sr.] 'cause they had--we didn't have enough time to get an apartment for 'em, and then I left. I was gone for nine months. I went from there to, I flew from there to Travis Air Force Base in California. I hopped a transport with, full of military guys going to Vietnam. The airplane flew from California to Hawaii. We got off the airplane in Hawaii just long enough to stretch our legs, and then we flew from there to Clark Air Force Base in the Philippines, great big Air Force base in the Philippines. I got to Clark Air Force Base in the Philippines, got off the airplane and they said, have you gone through jungle survival training? And I said, no. So they slowed me up about a week or so, and I took a jungle survival course at Clark, which was exciting, you know, learn how to eat, how to live in the jungle, took classes, did escape and evasion, how to escape and evade in the jungle, POW [prisoner of war] training, all that sort of stuff. While I was there, they changed my orders. They flipped me from there to 12th Tact Fighter Wing, Cam Ranh Bay [Vietnam]. 12th Tact Fighter Wing had deployed all, the whole wing deployed to Cam Ranh Bay. And the, the members of the wing were all finishing up their assignment, and they were coming back. They needed people to replace 'em. And so instead of going to Ubon, Thailand, I went to Cam Ranh Bay and South Vietnam, Twelfth Tact Fighter Wing, a wing of maybe four squadrons and F-4C Phantoms. So we must have had eighty fighters, great, great big fighter base. It was also a transport base, lots of military transports go in there. We had a hospital there, a major hospital facility there, and the [U.S.] Navy had a port there. So it was a great, big--it was a major base. So I flew nine months in Vietnam, and I flew out of Cam Ranh Bay, 144 missions total, dropped bombs all over Southeast Asia, South Vietnam, North Vietnam, Laos. I had sixty-five missions over North Vietnam. Primarily, they were air cover. When I did fly that way, we would take off out of Cam Ranh Bay and fly North. We would refuel just, just below the DMZ [The Korean Demilitarized Zone] between North and South Vietnam, and go up and fly six hour mission, air cap, come back, refuel coming back and then come home, good six-hour mission, did long missions. So lots of triple A. I still remember being shot at by a 85 millimeter. I still remember my last mission where I got deployed, scrambled off the alert path. We had two or three fighters that sat on the alert pad. And as, and they would assign you to the alert pad, which would mean you live in trailers out near the runway, and they would scramble fighters in, if they had an emergency some place. I still remember being scrambled and dropping bombs on active, triple A site in the DMZ between the North and South Vietnam. I still remember seeing all those tracers and all that sort of stuff, still remember flying, coming home one day and having a wing, a bullet hole in the wing. The best missions flying out of Cam Ranh Bay were ground support and supporting the ground guys. You'd fly in--see the [U.S.] Army guys all ready to take a piece of real estate, and you drop bombs on 'em, you drop 500-pound slicks as well high drag bombs, fired rockets. We had, the airplane didn't have a internal gun. So if we had to stray, we had to carry a gun pod which worked some of the time and which didn't work some of the time. It was nine months of doing that.$I was also very involved with the YMCA [Young Men's Christian Association]. In the summertime, my mother [Harriet Lolita Brice Bluford] would give me some money. I would hop the bus and L [subway] and go to the Central Y [YMCA], downtown Philadelphia [Pennsylvania]. And, and that was a major event, you know, in the summertime. I learned how to swim at the Y. I worked out, and they had calisthenics and gym activity, played basketball. I learned to play checkers and chess and ping pong, and I got good enough at checkers--at ping pong and chess that when I was in high school, I was on the Chess Team and on the Ping Pong Team. So it had that. The YMCA was also a major factor in my life because I learned how to make model airplanes, part of being at the Y. We'd get on, I'd get up and go to the Y every day. It would be a full-day activity. But part of it was, I made model airplanes and ships and so forth and so on. So my model building developed at the Y, and that led to my strong interest in airplanes and my desire to eventually, to be an aerospace engineer. Plus, the fact that I liked math, I really like--I'm a math guy. So a combination of all of that just drove me towards being what I wanted to be, an aerospace engineer. And then you copy--you put on top of that the fact that I had a father [Guion Bluford, Sr.] who was a mechanical engineer. Not only was he a mechanical engineer, but he loved what he did. He loved what he did.$$Yeah, I read that he would come, he would leave the house excited every morning.$$Oh, he was, he, he enjoyed--he never brought the, he never brought his work home, but I knew he loved what he did. And that was, that was a very motivating factor for me because that's why I sort of said, "Do what you love, and love what you do," you know, so. So I grew up in that world.

Kenneth C. Frazier

Pharmaceutical executive, lawyer, and corporate general counsel Kenneth C. Frazier was born on December 17, 1954 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania to janitor and former sharecropper Otis Tindley Frazier and homemaker Clara Elizabeth Frazier. The second of three children, Frazier grew up in the deeply impoverished neighborhood of North Philadelphia. Frazier’s parents strongly encouraged education and hard work, ensuring that each of their children knew what it took to succeed. In 1966, when Frazier was twelve, his mother passed away, leaving Otis Frazier to raise three children alone. Frazier graduated from Northeast High School in Philadelphia before attending Pennsylvania State University. Upon completing his B.A. degree in 1975 with highest honors, Frazier enrolled at Harvard Law School, receiving his J.D. degree in 1978.

For the next fourteen years, Frazier worked as a lawyer and, eventually, partner at the Philadelphia law firm of Drinker, Biddle, & Reath. There he represented many corporate clients, including AlliedSignal and Merck & Co., Inc. However, the case which brought Frazier the most praise during this time was the pro bono work he contributed to freeing the innocent Willie “Bo” Cochran after twenty-one years on death row. Frazier accepted a position at Merck & Co., Inc in 1992. Frazier has served in various capacities at Merck, including general counsel, secretary, and vice president. During his tenure as general counsel, Frazier achieved great success in leading the company through more than 5,000 lawsuits regarding the alleged harmful effects of Vioxx.

In 2007, Frazier accepted the role of president of Merck & Co., Inc, and was given the additional roles of CEO and chairman in 2011, making him the first African American to serve as CEO of a major pharmaceutical company. Frazier has served on the boards of several organizations, such as Exxon Mobil, Penn State University, and Cornerstone Christian Academy, a private charter school serving at-risk youth in Philadelphia, which he also co-founded. Due to his professional success and his position on the board of trustees, Frazier was selected to lead the investigation of the allegations against former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky and university officials. Frazier has received numerous awards, including the 2001 Penn State Alumni Fellow Award, the Association of Corporate Counsel’s 2004 Excellence in Corporate Practice Award, and the Equal Justice Initiative’s 2009 Equal Justice Champion award.

Frazier lives in Pennsylvania with his wife, Andréa, and their son, James. Their daughter, Lauren, is an engineer.

Frazier was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on August 2, 2012.

Accession Number

A2012.124

Sex

Male

Interview Date

8/2/2012

Last Name

Frazier

Maker Category
Marital Status

Married

Middle Name

C.

Schools

M Hall Stanton Elementary School

Northeast High School

Pennsylvania State University

Harvard Law School

First Name

Kenneth

Birth City, State, Country

Philadelphia

HM ID

FRA09

Favorite Season

Summer

State

Pennsylvania

Favorite Vacation Destination

Bermuda

Favorite Quote

You Can Be Anything You Want To Be.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

New Jersey

Birth Date

12/17/1954

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Whitehouse Station

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Pizza

Short Description

Pharmaceutical executive, lawyer, and corporate general counsel Kenneth C. Frazier (1954 - ) was the first African American to serve as CEO of a major pharmaceutical company and was known for his success in corporate law.

Employment

Merck & Co.

Astra Merck Group

Drinker Biddle & Reath

Favorite Color

Blue

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Kenneth C. Frazier's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Kenneth C. Frazier lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Kenneth C. Frazier describes his mother's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Kenneth C. Frazier describes his father's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Kenneth C. Frazier lists his siblings

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Kenneth C. Frazier describes his household growing up

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Kenneth C. Frazier describes the sights, sounds and smells of his childhood

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Kenneth C. Frazier remembers an influential teacher

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Kenneth C. Frazier describes the Julia R. Masterman Laboratory and Demonstration School in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Kenneth C. Frazier remembers his mother's death

Tape: 1 Story: 11 - Kenneth C. Frazier recalls the role of his maternal aunts after his mother's death

Tape: 1 Story: 12 - Kenneth C. Frazier talks about his early understanding of race

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Kenneth C. Frazier remembers North East High School in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Kenneth C. Frazier talks about his influences at Nort East High School in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Kenneth C. Frazier recalls his admission to Pennsylvania State University in University Park, Pennsylvania

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Kenneth C. Frazier remembers entering college at sixteen years old

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Kenneth C. Frazier recalls his decision to study political science and history

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Kenneth C. Frazier describes the racial discrimination at Pennsylvania State University

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Kenneth C. Frazier remembers his graduation from Pennsylvania State University

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Kenneth C. Frazier talks about his social life at the Harvard Law School

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Kenneth C. Frazier recalls his accomplishments at the Harvard Law School

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Kenneth C. Frazier remembers his club football team at the Harvard Law School

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Kenneth C. Frazier talks about the school busing crisis in Boston, Massachusetts

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Kenneth C. Frazier remembers his mentors at the Harvard Law School

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Kenneth C. Frazier remembers his first legal case

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Kenneth C. Frazier remembers the case of Cochran v. Herring

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Kenneth C. Frazier talks about African Americans in the law profession

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Kenneth C. Frazier remembers being one of two black partners at Drinker Biddle and Reath LLP

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Kenneth C. Frazier talks about his role as general counsel for a joint pharmaceutical venture

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Kenneth C. Frazier recalls his promotion to vice president of public affairs at Merck and Co., Inc.

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Kenneth C. Frazier remembers his promotion to general counsel of Merck and Co., Inc.

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Kenneth C. Frazier talks about the recall of Vioxx by Merck & Co., Inc.

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Kenneth C. Frazier explains his strategy as general counsel of Merck and Co., Inc.

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Kenneth C. Frazier talks about his perserverance during the Vioxx trial

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Kenneth C. Frazier remembers becoming the CEO of Merck and Co., Inc.

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Kenneth C. Frazier talks about his accomplishments at Merck and Co., Inc.

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Kenneth C. Frazier remembers being named CEO of Merck and Co., Inc.

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Kenneth C. Frazier talks about his performance as the CEO of Merck and Co., Inc.

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Kenneth C. Frazier talks about his role as the CEO of Merck and Co., Inc.

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Kenneth C. Frazier talks about his family

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Kenneth C. Frazier describes his involvement at Pennsylvania State University

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Kenneth C. Frazier talks about his interest in education

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Kenneth C. Frazier reflects upon his life

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Kenneth C. Frazier describes how he would like to be remembered

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Kenneth C. Frazier describes his hopes and concerns for the African American community

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Kenneth C. Frazier shares a message to future generations

Tape: 5 Story: 9 - Kenneth C. Frazier narrates his photographs

DASession

1$1

DATape

1$4

DAStory

10$7

DATitle
Kenneth C. Frazier remembers his mother's death
Kenneth C. Frazier remembers being named CEO of Merck and Co., Inc.
Transcript
So then high school, name of your high school?$$Was Northeast High School [Philadelphia, Pennsylvania]--the academic high school in Philadelphia [Pennsylvania] is called Central High School, but Northeast High School had just started a program for scientifically gifted children who were interested in the space exploration effort and I really was very interested in space and science. And so I chose to go Northeast High School to this program within there that was again sort of a magnet program for scientifically strong children.$$Now are your parents encouraging you in this regard?$$Well there's an important fact that we've not covered in the academic thing which is that, when I was in the seventh grade, my mother [Clara Frazier] passed away. So at this point, I had only my father [Otis Frazier] who raised me.$$And your father is raising two other children in addition to you?$$Correct.$$So in seventh grade, that's you're what you're twelve?$$Something like that.$$Twelve, thirteen, something around that age?$$Uh-hm.$$That had to be devastating?$$It was, it was, I have to say the most pivotal moment in my life because my mother died of a blood clot that was secondary to a hysterectomy. So she went into the hospital to have a pro- a procedure that I wouldn't call routine, but it was also not something that where we thought she was sick and in jeopardy of her life. And I can still remember my father, we came downstairs to go to school and my father said, "There's something I need to tell you kids and it's that your mother died last night." And I sa- you, know, I can still remember it like was yesterday, how devastating that was.$$And you made it through the seventh grade even this, I mean academically well and in spite of (simultaneous)--$$(Simultaneous) Oh yes.$$And was that because of your father?$$Yes.$$Tell us a little bit, what your father did. How he kept you guys, how he moved you guys through this?$$Well let me just put it this way. My father was a wonderful man, but he was not very sentimental about his children. And he had very high standards and I remember, I didn't finish the story. We were all devastated when my mother died and I remember he said, "You guys, you kids go up to your room and you can cry a little bit, but when you come down, we're going to have to keep going in life." And we did cry a little bit, but we came down and we had breakfast. And my father said, "Life goes on." And my father was very distant man before then because I think like many families of that time, the mother was the nurturer, the one that raised us. My father, his job in the family was to work and earn money and to hand out the discipline when my mother encouraged him to do that. He taught us obviously how to throw a baseball and things like that. But, like unlike modern parenting where I think my children [Lauren Frazier and James Frazier] feel like they know me, I didn't feel like I knew my father. I knew my mother, my mother was the, was the nurturing parent. And then when she died suddenly my father had to step into that role, and I think that for him it was a great opportunity. Years later he would say, "I would not have even known my children had my wife died." But he, he became the mother and the father. He had no domestic skills but he learned to cook, he learned to do all the things that you needed to do to raise children.$Let's move on to the day that you become chairman of this company. You've been here what (simultaneous)--$$(Simultaneous) CEO.$$CEO.$$First I became CEO and then chairman$$CEO and then chairman. But you've been at Merck [Merck and Co., Inc.] about what seventeen years when you become the CEO?$$Yes.$$Tell, tell me about that day. What was that when the announcement was made, and how you felt and what it meant, what's your thought?$$I felt overwhelmed by the announcement. I've never been a person to feel glad that I got somewhere. My wife [Andrea Wilkerson Frazier] always says, you don't enjoy anything because you're always on to the next thing. So when I became CEO, I was worried about whether or not I could run this company in a way that I would make a very satisfactory mark as CEO. I knew I felt really good when, I can't lie when the announcement came out and I looked at it and I realized I'm the CEO of Merck and my father [Otis Frazier] had a third grade education and was a janitor, I felt really good about that. My family felt really good about that. But I really am honest when I say that it's really not about me. This company Merck is no ordinary place. The work that we do here is incredibly important to mankind. And so, if you step into that CEO role. My office, I feel like I'm renting that office and that it's my obligation to leave this company better than I found it. And so, I think my overwhelming feeling was a feeling of huge, awesome responsibility. And if you knew the scientific enterprise of this company and the people who comprise it, the quality of the scientists and the physicians who make up the core of our research labs. In some ways, you're saying, I'm a mere mortal. How can I be the CEO of people that are that sort of otherworldly smart? And so, I also say, how can I do my job so that I can enable great science since I'm not a scientist. So it's not a kind of thing that you feel very--at least I don't feel very egotistical about it. I feel like I have to prove to the world that my tenure here put this company back on track to greatness.$$Well let's talk a little bit about the symbolic torch at, at Merck that gets passed from one CEO to the next CEO. You, you were telling me a little bit about that previously. Tell us about that on the record?$$Well I think--again I say this is not the ordinary company and one of the exemplars of that is that the modern day founder of Merck is a guy named George W. Merck and he had a saying that every Merck employee knows by heart. He said, "Medicine is for the people, not the profits," and the more we've remembered that the better the profits have been and then he went on to say that, "It's our obligation to ensure that our finest achievement," meaning the medicine and vaccines we created, "are made available to everybody." So everybody knows that and there is a Time magazine article from I believe it's 1951 [sic. 1952] where he made, a, a medical school commencement speech in which he uttered those words. He became a cover story of Time in 1951. And that Time magazine (simultaneous)--$$(Simultaneous) The year you were born. No sorry, I'm wrong sorry.$$No, I was born in 1954, but it's, that, that Time magazine, the original magazine is preserved in a, in a glass case and that glass case is handed from one CEO to the next CEO and you're supposed to display it prominently in your office as a reminder that, that's what this company is about. It's about the people, not the profits. And although, we're under the same pressure any other publicly traded company is, I think it's my obligation all the time to remember that while I have to do the short term performance that drives the stock price. What I'm really here is to create long term medical value and societal value. If I do that, that would drive the economic value, which in term will drive the stock price.$$So when you say this is no ordinary place. Then for you, it's a very special place.$$It is, I mean you just look at any indicator of the number of Nobel Prize winners. The work that was done to commercialize penicillin. The work that was done to commercialize the corticosteroids. The work--something like thirteen of the seventeen vaccines that are required for American children are made by this company. So the, the nation trust its newborn to us. The work that we've done in past on HIV [human immunodeficiency virus], which I've talked about a few minutes ago. Work that we're doing on cardiovascular and infectious diseases. What this company has done single handily to expand life expectancy. The work that we've done in Africa where by donating products, we've almost eradicated a horrible series of diseases exemplified by river blindness. When you come to work in a company like that and you realize that the company exists to alleviate human suffering, if you just say that, the company's reason for existing is to apply cutting edge science to develop medically important products, vaccines, and medicines that alleviate human suffering and improve and extend human life. It is no ordinary place.