Richard F. Sullivan


OHS Class of 1947

Richard F. (Dick) Sullivan was born December 26, 1929 in Olathe to Fred and Laura Sullivan.  His father was a farmer and Montrose County Commissioner (1938-1962); his mother was a science and math teacher at Olathe High School for many years.

Growing up in a farming community, Dick’s first job experience was as a farm laborer. His summer job during his college years was as an assistant at the Montrose County Assessor’s office.

Sullivan spent his elementary years at the Frost country school, and graduated as valedictorian from Olathe High School in 1947. He attended Western State College, University of Colorado at Boulder, and the University of Minnesota.  He received both a BA degree and a Ph.D. (physical chemistry) from the University of Colorado. While in graduate school, he had a fellowship from the E.I. duPont de Nemours Company.

Sullivan spent his entire professional career (1955-1992) at a subsidiary of Chevron in Richmond, CA as a research scientist. The wide variety of projects on which he worked ranged from fundamental studies of reaction mechanisms in catalytic hydrocracking to pilot-plant studies of the refining of petroleum. Much of his work is published in books and journals, including Journal of the American Chemical Society, Journal of Physical Chemistry, Journal of Catalysis, and the Advances-in-Chemistry series.  Chevron holds about 20 patents in Sullivan’s name, the most recent being a formulation for low-emissions diesel.

Sullivan served as Project Manager for a contract with the US Department of Energy to study both the feasibility and the cost of refining synthetic crudes from oil shale and coal. Most of this information is published in government reports and summarized in an extensive series of papers which, in today’s world, are posted on the internet. In addition to editing a book on the subject for the American Chemical Society, he wrote a review paper titled “Refining Coal Liquids: Where We Stand.”

Sullivan was president of the California Catalysis Society (1987-1988).  In 1990, he served as a consultant for the United Nations Industrial Development Organization at the National Chemical Laboratory in India. After retiring from Chevron, he worked briefly as a consultant for Dow Chemical Company.

Sullivan met his wife, Judy Jones, when they were next-door neighbors on Russian Hill in San Francisco. At that time she was an editor for Mortimer Adler, the well-known philosopher who developed the Great Books and the Great Ideas programs. The couple married in 1968 and have two daughters, Erin and Amy. They continue to live in their Marin County home in San Rafael, California.

“As a western Colorado native, I was born with a love of the outdoors,” says Sullivan. “While still in college, I climbed all of Colorado’s 14,000-foot peaks and, later, did a lot of backpacking and skiing in the California Sierra.  I’ve made numerous trekking trips in the Himalayas (Nepal, Tibet, Pakistan), to base camps of most of the world’s highest mountains. In recent years I’ve hiked in the European Alps and the British Isles – coast- to-coast in England, the entire border between England and Wales, and highlands of Scotland.”

The Sullivans say they were born to travel.  They have visited over a hundred countries and all seven continents.  They continue to enjoy retirement.