Ray Robinson named top Tri-Citian
This story was published March 21, 1999, Tri-City Herald
By Melissa O’Neil Herald staff writer
A man devoted to higher education and to finding a new mission for Hanford was honored Saturday as the 1999 Tri-Citian of the Year.
Ray K. Robinson of Richland futilely tried to suppress a smile during the surprise presentation. But after a few clues – like someone who grew up in the South and graduated from the University of Texas at Austin – he realized he was the recipient of the Tri-Cities’ highest honor.
The 20th annual award was presented by the five Rotary clubs for “service above self” and for contributions to Tri-City economic growth and quality of life. About 380 people attended the banquet at the Pasco Doubletree Hotel.
“The person who should be receiving this tonight is my wife, Marilyn Robinson,” Robinson said, on the stage with his partner of 37 years. “Any honor I may have tonight is a dual honor.”
Robinson, 60, came to the Tri-Cities in 1961 to work for General Electric. He was with the Battelle Memorial Institute from 1965 to 1969, then with Exxon Nuclear from 1973 to 1983. For 11 years he’s been president of Ray K. Robinson Inc. – known as RKRI – consulting firm.
The nomination essay considered by the selection committee describes Robinson as “zealous, hard charging, sometimes impatient, but extraordinarily compassionate and always dedicated to the community … (he) is a crowning example of what’s really great about our community, a beacon that keeps on shining and leads us forward.”
Robinson’s service and leadership ranges from 1993-94 president of the Blue Mountain Council of Boy Scouts of America to a Tri-City Industrial Development Council board member from 1991-94. He’s been an active member of Central United Protestant Church since first moving here.
Robinson was chairman of the Advisory Council Tri-Cities, set up by Washington State University in 1986. The council worked to bring the branch campus to Richland.
Marilyn Robinson also is deeply involved in WSU Tri-Cities, as well as the Tri-Cities Corporate Council for the Arts. She is a WSU Foundation trustee ambassador, having served six years as a trustee, and he is a trustee. They set up the Robinson Endowment Fund to provide a perpetual source of money for the branch campus’ discretionary endeavors.
The economy has been a priority for the Tri-Citian of the Year. He founded the Tri-Cities Commercialization Partnership to speed up the commercialization of Hanford technologies and to create new business and jobs in the area. The group voluntarily disbanded in fall 1997 after five years.
He now is a leader in the therapeutic nuclear medicine industry and in efforts to bring some of that business to the Tri-Cities by restarting the Fast Flux Test Facility to make medical isotopes.
Changes such as the ones the Robinsons helped bring to the Tri-Cities fit well with the points made by the keynote speaker. Jane Fenton, a business consultant with State Farm Insurance in Seattle, talked about welcoming the changes to come with the new millennium.
Her advice for adapting to the coming changes included staying cool, taking the initiative, using action instead of analysis, to “try easier” instead of trying harder and to spend energy on solutions rather than worrying.
“Have faith in the opportunities,” she said, warning the alternative is cynicism and disempowerment. “Create an environment of hope, expectancy and optimism.”