I was a chemical engineering major with plans to graduate in the spring of 1967. At that point in life, I hadn’t given much thought to the conservative or liberal political descriptors.
During the winter of 1966–67, individuals appeared outside the Engineering Building protesting against Dow. I didn’t have a problem with that — we all like to express ourselves. It didn’t make sense to me, but that’s OK. For several weeks, they didn’t bother me and I didn’t bother them.
Then one day, I was exiting the Engineering Building and a long-haired dude shook his finger at me and verbally ranted about why I should not interview with Dow. I hadn’t even considered Dow as a possible employer until then. But this confrontational edict truly raised my ire. This is America. I respected their right to protest, but it looked like they were attempting to dictate my life choices. I had worked hard for my chemical engineering degree, including holding a part-time job. Having just recently married, my primary focus was on securing my first professional job.
Despite the disruption the protesters were causing the Engineering Placement office, I interviewed with Dow without incident. Dow offered me a research position, which was my preferred career path. I accepted and have worked for Dow about 34 years as a full-time employee and six years as a contractor.
The topic of napalm never came up in my interview, and I never had anything to do with it during my years at Dow. One of my first activities was contributing to commercializing N-Serve, a growth stimulant to improve crop yields. After about eight years, I became a recruiter for Dow and went on to recruit at UW for about a decade. There were no protester incidents on any of my visits.
Today, I’m probably a conservative by most people’s assessment. I’m still good with freedom of speech, I’m just not good with dictating life choices to other people.
I tell people that the only reason I ended up at Dow was because of those protesters. That’s probably not what the protesters want to hear. I hope their life choices have worked out as well for them as my choosing Dow Chemical for my first and only professional job has worked out for me.