Robert H RAU
August 21, 1936 – February 1, 2019
Robert H. Rau passed away at his home in Rancho Sante Fe at the age of 82, after battling several health issues. Rau was President and Chief Executive Officer of Rohr Inc., in Chula Vista, California, and won national awards and recognition for the leadership skills that helped turn the struggling aerospace manufacturer around in the mid-90s.
Rau was born at home in tiny Colwich, Kansas, the second of nine children. His father had a 5th grade education and worked as a mechanic before moving the family to western Kansas to farm. The family lived in a two bedroom home, with Bob’s six sisters sharing one bedroom, his parents and two baby brothers another; his father built a bedroom for Bob from the screened porch. As a boy, Bob nearly lost his index finger in a farming accident, and it would be forever deformed.
Rau worked on an assembly line at Cessna Aircraft in Wichita after high school, but after six months, he was searching for something more. He joined the Air Force in 1954 and was sent to North Africa, where they discovered his intelligence and a special aptitude for math. At 6’5” tall, he was introduced to a basketball coach at Whittier College and offered a partial scholarship. He entered school at age 23, majored in business administration and was president of the Lancers Society. He met his first wife, Eleanor, at Whittier, graduating in 1962.
After college, he went to work at Hoffman Electronics and Litton Industries in Los Angeles before taking the job as controller at Parker Hannifin in 1969. When the company moved to Irvine, the family, which included two young daughters, moved to Newport Beach. Bob rose through the corporate ranks at Parker Hannifin, eventually becoming President of Parker Bertea Aerospace in 1982, and Executive Vice President of Parker Hannifin Corporation, then the 10th largest employer in Orange County. His marriage to Eleanor ended amicably in 1979, and in 1980 he married Mercedes Baker.
In 1992, Rau left Parker Bertea to head up struggling Rohr. The Orange County Register referenced Parker Bertea’s “savvy president” and highlighted his many accomplishments, including keeping the company profitable during an airline industry downturn.
At Rohr, Inc., Rau made changes that would set San Diego’s only Fortune 500 company on a path to recovery, such as eliminating executive perks and all jobs not directly related to producing the product, such as corporate lawyers. Those changes helped win back the confidence of customers, suppliers and Wall Street. Within four years, the company was on solid footing again, and was purchased by BF Goodrich & Company in 1997, yielding shareholders a 40% per year increase in four years.
After retirement, Rau served on a variety of boards, and enjoyed traveling, golf and socializing with long-time friends. He was part of the Conquistadors, an exclusive club of aviation and aerospace executives from around the world. After Mercedes passed away in 2017, he found a final chance for love, fun and romance with his third wife, Sofia Coppola.
Despite a lifetime of achievements that included career successes and multiple industry and management awards, including from the Wall Street Journal, Rau will be remembered for his extraordinary humility.
No services are scheduled at this time. Receive a notification when services are updated.
Robert H RAU
February 19, 2019
I worked as Bob's Human Resources leader for around 15 years at both Parker Aerospace and Rohr, Bob was a gentleman to all from the Chairman of the board to the technician on the shop floor. I remember at Parker, Bob in his office with his calculator and paper working on how to grow the business. He had wonderful handwriting and to watch him write as he was left handed was special. He was an inspiring leader to all.
February 17, 2019
My sincere sympathy to Bob's family.
One of my fondest memories was when I was working in Human Resources at Parker Hannifin Corp., and found out that Bob was my neighbor's roommate at Whittier College. I went upstairs and Bob was coming out of his office and I said, "Hi Wheats"! He stopped dead in his tracks and said, "how did you know that?" I then told him that my neighbor, Jerry Hester, told me. My neighbor, Bob, and Steve Hay's all roommates at Whittier College. RIP Bob.
February 14, 2019
Some of the best and most happy memories of my life were the many years as Bob’ s secretary at Parker Hannifin. He and Mercedes were always kind and made my working for him a pleasure. I considered him a friend and even though retirement made it difficult to keep in touch, the memories will always be special. My sincere sympathy to his girls, and his extended family and friends. I pray that they will be surrounded with God’s peace and comfort as they grieve his loss.
Blessings, Evie Olson