Marcus Hobbs Bio



Chemist was instrumental in founding of Research Triangle


Marcus E. Hobbs, Ph.D., a former provost and professor emeritus of chemistry and University Distinguished Service Professor at Duke, and Distinguished Governor Emeritus of RTI International, died on Aug. 12 at The Forest at Duke. He was 98.

Instrumental in the creation of the Research Triangle Park, the Research Triangle Institute now known as RTI International (RTI), and the growth of Duke as a national research university, Hobbs was born in Chadbourne, NC on Aug. 11, 1909, the son of the late Julius C. and Maude Player Hobbs. He spent his childhood in Wilmington.

After graduating high school, Hobbs enrolled at Duke and was one of the rare individuals to spend his entire academic career at the university. He received his undergraduate, masters and doctoral degrees at Duke, prior to being appointed to the chemistry department faculty in 1936.

Beginning in 1951, Hobbs served consecutively as chairman of the chemistry department, dean of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, dean of the university, vice provost, and provost. He also was a member of the "Troika" created by the board of trustees to manage the university during an interim period before the late Governor Terry Sanford was appointed President. Hobbs was named University Distinguished Service Professor in 1998, a professorship created to recognize faculty members "who have made outstanding contributions to the university in administrative positions and in teaching and research."

When he was awarded the University Medal for Distinguished Meritorious service at a University Founder's Day ceremony in 1989, Hobbs was cited for having "strongly influenced the crucial middle years of this institution's development as a university."

He was also cited for "his central role in the development of the Research Triangle Institute" as well as the Research Triangle Park.

While dean of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, Hobbs was appointed by Gov. Luther Hodges to a committee that laid the basis for the Research Triangle Park. As a member of the committee, he assumed responsibility for generating an inventory of scientific research being conducted at N.C. State University, UNC-Chapel Hill, and Duke University. The inventory, a three inch thick document, became the basis for brochures that economic development recruiters used throughout the country to encourage research-oriented companies to relocate to the developing Research Triangle Park, where today about 40,000 persons are employed.

The Park's first tenant was RTI, an independent, non-profit research organization founded by N.C. State University, UNC-Chapel Hill, and Duke University. Hobbs became a charter member of RTI's board of governors in 1958 and was chairman of the executive committee from 1958-68, and again from 1971-1998.

Hobbs retired from the RTI board of governors in 2003 as distinguished governor emeritus. RTI also honored Dr. Hobbs in 1987, naming its 15th building, a $4 million research facility, in his honor.

In 1999, the board of directors at the Research Triangle Foundation presented Dr. Hobbs its Archie K. Davis Award, in recognition of outstanding service to the Research Triangle Park.

Hobbs was instrumental in the 1951 creation at Duke of the Office of Ordinance Research, which later became the U.S. Army Research Office (Durham). For his service as adviser to the office and as acting chief scientist, he was awarded the Army's Outstanding Civilian Service Medal. Earlier, he had been awarded an Army- Navy Certificate of Merit for his work during WWII for the Office of Scientific Research and Development.

A member of the Rotary Club of Durham, Hobbs was a past President, and was honored in 1981 by having the Marcus E. Hobbs award named for him. Dr. Hobbs was also a member of Duke Memorial United Methodist Church.

The North Carolina section of the American Chemical Society, which he had chaired in 1946, made him the first recipient of its Marcus Hobbs Award in 1988.

Hobbs was a director of North Carolina Blue Cross and Blue Shield Inc., from 1967- 1981, and chairman of the executive committee from 1978-1981. In addition to authoring or co-authoring more than 50 research papers, he was a fellow of AAAS, a member of the American Chemical Society, American Association of University Professors, Phi Beta Kappa, Sigma Xi, Phi Lambda Upsilon, Sigma Pi Sigma, and Sigma Chi.