Robert A. Plane (Evansville, IN 1927 -) was a chemistry professor and college administrator.
Plane graduated with a B.A. degree from Evansville College in Indiana in 1948, and he received a Ph.D. degree from the University of Chicago in 1951. For a short while he was a research chemist at Oak Ridge National Laboratory. During his tenure at Cornell, he co-wrote the most widely used general chemistry text in the world, Chemistry.
Robert Plane joined the faculty at Cornell in 1952 as a professor of chemistry. In 1967 he became the chairman of the Department of Chemistry, and in 1969 was elected as a faculty trustee to the Board of Trustees. He served as Provost (the chief educational officer) from 1969 to 1973. The late 1960s were turbulent on many college campuses, because many students were deeply concerned over the course of the war in Vietnam. Plane led efforts under the COSEP Program (Committee on Special Educational Projects) to admit to Cornell black students who had the potential to succeed academically. Problems in management, such as the assimilation of such students into the campus community, resulted in an increased awareness of latent racial prejudice.
After serving as Provost, Plane returned to his professorship in chemistry, saying that "in short, at Cornell I have had more fun being professor than provost." He subsequently became a member of the Cornell Center for Environmental Quality Management. In 1974, Plane accepted the position of president and chief executive officer of Clarkson University.
In 1985 he retired from Clarkson. He established Plane's Cayuga Winery and became a part-time winemaker. The following year, he assumed the leadership of the New York State Agricultural Experiment Station at Geneva. He retired from Cornell in 1990, but in the following year, he accepted the position as 16th President of Wells College, staying there until 1995. Bob Plane's tenure as president was a turning point for Wells. As Jane Dieckmann states in her history of Wells: "He was in effect coming out of retirement to put Wells College, a place with a sinking enrollment and rising costs, a disappearing endowment, a recent leadership crisis, and a commitment to what many considered a lost cause back on her feet." Serving from 1991 to 1995 he revived self-confidence in Wells among her alumnae and even among her faculty and staff. In 1993, Wells opened with the largest first-year class in a decade and a total enrollment of 415 students.
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