A prominent Tri-City energy executive, philanthropist and business leader died Aug. 12 at the age of 89.
Robert L. “Bob” Ferguson, a longtime resident of Richland, died after suffering a stroke in August 2021 in north Idaho. He was most recently living in the Chicago area in an assisted care facility to be close to his family.
Mark Smith, who collaborated with Ferguson on a 2019 book, “Something Extraordinary: A Short History of the Manhattan Project, Hanford and the B Reactor,” called Ferguson one of the most important figures in the history of Hanford and the Tri-Cities for his leadership roles within the Hanford site, the U.S. Department of Energy and Energy Northwest.
Ferguson was born in Dover, Idaho, and studied physics at Gonzaga University before being commissioned as an officer in the Army in 1956. His late wife, Catherine “Katie” Crosby, was the niece of another Gonzaga alumni: Bing Crosby.
While in uniform, Ferguson served in the Army Ordinance Corps, including posts at the Pentagon and in Australia for guided missile testing.
He would spend 60 years working in the nuclear industry. He was the first deputy assistant secretary for DOE’s Nuclear Energy Programs, serving from 1978-90 under President Jimmy Carter. He also served as chief executive officer for Energy Northwest, then known as the Washington Public Power Supply System. He stepped in after the infamous WPPS bond default.
In retirement, he wrote several books and was co-founder of Clean Up Hanford Now, a nonprofit that is currently advocating for cleanup of the Hanford reservation and promoting a clean energy mission for the site.
He joined Gonzaga’s Board of Regents in the early 1980s and received its Distinguished Alumni Merit Award in 1981.
At home in the Tri-Cities, he was a generous philanthropist.
In 2020, he was the lead donor for the Ferguson Education Center, a Montessori school at Christ the King Catholic School in Richland. The project honored the memory of his late wife, who taught at Christ the King and was its first lay principal. She died in 2018.
In 2021, he provided $500,000 to endow a faculty position in energy and environment at Washington State University Tri-Cities. At the time, he told the Tri-Cities Area Journal of Business the Tri-Cities had always been a strong candidate to lead the energy industry thanks to its past, present and future focus on nuclear energy coupled with abundant solar, wind and hydro power.
“This community has such potential,” he said.
WSU Tri-Cities posted a full news obituary at bit.ly/WSUTCBobFerguson.
Ferguson is survived by two daughters, numerous grandchildren and other relatives.
A Mass was celebrated in August at St. Daniel the Prophet Catholic Church in Wheaton, Illinois.
Memorials are suggested to the Ferguson Education Center, Christ the King School, Richland.
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