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John Haas Dies At 92

by Susan J. Ainsworth
April 18, 2011 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 89, Issue 16

Credit: Douglas A. Lockard/CHF Collections
Credit: Douglas A. Lockard/CHF Collections

John C. Haas, 92, retired chairman of Rohm and Haas and a lifelong champion of community service, died on April 2 at his home in Villanova, Pa.

Born in Haverford, Pa., Haas was the second son of Otto Haas, cofounder of Rohm and Haas. He earned an A.B. degree at Amherst College in 1940 and an M.S. in chemical engineering at Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1942.

Haas then began his career as a process engineer at Rohm and Haas’s Bridesburg plant in Philadelphia. Shortly thereafter, during World War II, he was called to active duty as a U.S. naval officer. He returned to Bridesburg after his discharge in 1946. With a natural affinity for what he often termed “the people side of the business,” he enjoyed subsequent managerial assignments at the company’s production facilities in Knoxville and Houston.

In 1953, Haas was appointed vice president of personnel before later assuming the additional responsibilities of purchasing and logistics. He was named vice chairman of the board in 1959 and served as chairman beginning in 1974. He retired from day-to-day operations in 1978 and from the board in 1988.

In 1960, after the death of his father, Haas was named chairman of the charitable foundation established by his parents in 1945, which is now known as the William Penn Foundation. Under his 32-year leadership, the foundation’s grants budget grew dramatically. After the sale of Rohm and Haas to Dow Chemical in 2009, Haas directed a significant portion of the family’s charitable assets from that sale to the foundation.

Together with his wife, Chara, whom he married in 1952, Haas founded the Stoneleigh Foundation to address the needs of vulnerable and underserved children and youth. He was active in the United Way of Southeastern Pennsylvania and was also a former director of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Philadelphia. For 50 years, he was a staunch advocate of the Opportunities Industrialization Center of America, a national nonprofit organization that provides job training to disadvantaged and underskilled people.

Haas played a crucial role in the establishment of the Chemical Heritage Foundation’s predecessor organization, the Center for the History of Chemistry, in 1982. He later served the foundation as a member of advisory boards and development committees and through a six-year term on its board of directors. He created three Haas Fellowships for visiting scholars at the Chemical Heritage Foundation: one in the history of chemical industries and two in public understanding of science. Haas was an emeritus member of ACS who joined in 1947.

He was a founding leader of the Balch Institute for Ethnic Studies, a member of the Board of Governors of Temple University Health System, and a trustee emeritus of MIT. Given his lifelong passion for hiking and the outdoors, he was an avid supporter of Natural Lands Trust.

Haas is survived by his wife; daughter, Barbara; sons, David, Leonard, Frederick, and Duncan; and 10 grandchildren. He was preceded in death by his brother, F. Otto Haas, in 1994.



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