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Monroe Spaght, former trustee and retired Shell Oil executive, dies at 83
Former Stanford trustee Monroe E. Spaght died Sunday, June 27, of a massive heart attack while on vacation in France. He was 83.
A Stanford chemistry graduate, Spaght in 1965 became the first American elected as a managing director of the worldwide Royal Dutch/Shell Group.
Spaght partially supported himself through Stanford by playing trombone with dance bands. He also performed with the Stanford Band. He earned his bachelor's degree in 1929, his master's in 1931 and a doctorate in 1933.
Spaght began his lifelong career with Shell Oil in 1933 when he joined the company as a research chemist in Martinez, Calif. After holding a variety of technical and research positions, he became president of Shell Development Co. in 1949. That led in 1960 to the presidency of Shell Oil Co. in America and eventually to the London-based job with Royal Dutch/Shell. He retired in 1970.
He served as chairman of the American Petroleum Institute, chairman of the New York State Science and Technology Foundation, chairman of the Institute of International Education and as international president of the Society of Chemical Industry. He was elected to the National Academy of Engineering in 1969 and was active in other professional groups.
He also served as director of several corporations, including The Boston Co., Wells Fargo Ltd., and the International Advisory Board of the Chemical Bank. Spaght was the author of several books and many journal articles; he was awarded seven honorary degrees and was decorated by several foreign countries as well.
In 1945-46, Spaght was a director of the U.S. Strategic Bombing Survey. His task was to survey damage to oil and chemical industries in Japanese cities, including Hiroshima and Nagasaki, just eight weeks after the Japanese surrender.
Spaght served as a Stanford trustee from 1956 to 1965, in the process developing a close friendship with university President J.E. Wallace Sterling and his wife, Ann.
One of his informal tasks as a board member was serving as university intermediary to Stanford alumnus and former U.S. President Herbert Hoover, who had been a trustee for many years. After each meeting, Spaght would visit "the Chief" at his New York City home to report on Stanford affairs.
Spaght was involved as a donor and volunteer in fund- raising efforts at Stanford. In 1990, he endowed a professorship in his name in chemistry, held by Edward I. Solomon.
He served on the National Executive Committee of the university's PACE (Plan of Action for a Challenging Era) Campaign in the early 1960s, and chaired the New York Major Gift Committee. He was also a founding member of the Stanford Club of New York.
Spaght delivered Stanford's commencement address in 1966.
During recent summers, Spaght left his London home to spend several weeks on campus, operating out of an office provided by Humanities and Sciences Dean Ewart Thomas.
Spaght loved to talk about his early years in Eureka in Northern California's Humboldt County, and in 1986 he wrote a memoir, The Long Road from Eureka. His remains are being returned to his hometown.
Services are scheduled for 10 a.m. Friday, July 2, at First Presbyterian Church in Eureka.
Spaght is survived by his wife, the former Joy Garraway, and three children from his previous marriage to Elizabeth Hull: Sara Spaght Brown of Washington, D.C.; Pearson Monroe Spaght of South Port, Conn.; and David Lewis Spaght of San Jose, Costa Rica. Five grandchildren also survive.
In lieu of flowers, the family prefers contributions to the Department of Chemistry at Stanford.
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