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Robert E. Warr

BA ’49 Physics, Fisk University
MS ’51 Physics and Astronomy, Purdue University
(Nominated by: College of Science)

"Purdue had a tremendous impact on my life personally and professionally. I received a world-class education in physics, engineering, and critical thinking. A quality education is the great equalizer and the key to a better life."

Robert Warr served as a radio operator/gunner in the US Army Air Corps during World War II. After his service, Warr received his bachelor’s degree from Fisk University before pursuing a master’s degree in Physics at Purdue, where he was one of a few African American students studying on campus.

Not only did Warr endure a rigorous course of studies at Purdue, he also experienced racism as the campus represented a microcosm of racial segregation laws and practices that existed in our country at that time. With these obstacles, Warr worked hard and excelled in his studies to eventually receive the Sigma Pi Sigma Award (Honors in Physics) in 1951.

After he received his Master’s degree, he pursued the opportunity to receive his PhD at Purdue but was not accepted. Despite the rejection, Robert continued to persevere and had a rewarding 40-year career in professional engineering and public service. He has also dedicated his life and career to improving racial justice in America.

Warr was the first African American to become an engineering consultant at corporate GE, where he was responsible for consulting on all new GE products to assure product reliability. He helped develop GE’s first smoke alarm, microwave and point of sales unit. Warr was also responsible for training GE Engineering and Production personnel in the development and production of reliable products. In the performance of this task, he visited all GE plants in the U.S. as well as international plants.

Warr has been published many times including papers in GE technical journals as well as a paper for the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers. He also contributed to the Microelectronic Reliability and Design Review Center.

Warr credits the assistance and consulting advice he received from Professor Hugh Yearian, which helped him devise laboratory apparatus for X-ray analysis of metals that led to his successful thesis topic for his master’s degree.

When he wasn’t in the lab, Warr excelled on the golf course. He has played for more than 60 years, where he has shot seven hole-in-ones.

CAREER HIGHLIGHTS

  • 1977-1987 - Engineering consultant for GE Corporate headquarters
  • 1974 - Winner of the GE Gerald L. Phillippe Award for public service
  • 1970-1977 - Managed Microelectronic Reliability & Design Review Center at GE Electronics Laboratory

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