Dick Robbins: 1933-2019
By Joe Sargent18 June 2019
The tunnelling world has received the sad news that Richard James Robbins, The Robbins Company’s President and CEO from 1958 to 1993, has passed away.
Affectionately known as Dick, he passed away surrounded by family on Thursday May 30, 2019 in Seattle, Washington, US. He is survived by his wife Bonnie and a son and daughter.
Dick Robbins established The Robbins Company as an industry leader, from the first Double Shield machine to modern-day disc cutters for hard rock, to his notable tunnel boring machine (TBM) innovations at the Channel Tunnel connecting the UK and France.
Dick took over the company at the age of 25 following the untimely passing of his father, James S. Robbins, in a plane crash.
In his time, he filed 11 US patents and 56 foreign patents in the field of underground mechanical excavation, and won the 2009 Benjamin Franklin Medal in Engineering for his contributions.
Robbins President, Lok Home, said, “In 1968 when I first had the chance to work for what was then known as James S. Robbins Co., I did not fully appreciate that I was getting a chance to work with the greatest innovator in the tunnelling industry,
“Dick was a great mentor as a boss and as a person. He was always pushing the limits of what could be done with TBMs. Dick’s integrity, energy, and passion improved the worldwide tunnelling industry, and his creations set many of the industry standards. It has been an honour to further the great name of Robbins in the industry.”
Long-time friend of the Robbins family, consultant and former International Tunnelling Association president, Harvey Parker, said, “Dick unselfishly gave back to his industry and to his community. He was very active in our industry’s professional associations both here in the US and internationally.
“I was honoured to work closely with Dick during his significant involvement in the International Tunnelling and Underground Space Association (ITA) where he served on the Executive Council for years, was elected First Vice President, and was a leader for the ITA Working Group on Mechanised Tunnelling.”
Dick’s many awards garnered over the years included numerous honorary degrees, memberships and directorships in a wide variety of organisations. In 1999, the Engineering News-Record selected him as one of the 125 top people of the past 125 years.