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Tim Van Winkle, '67, 1949-2021
Fluor
Bob Fluor was an Anaheim High School graduate, Class of 1939. To show you what kind of a human being Mr. Fluor was, when his own mother was very old and ailing, Mr. Fluor got on a helicopter at Fluor Headquarters in Irvine every afternoon, flew to

see her. Bob was in my uncle's class, one year before my mom, 2 before her sister. 

 

J. Robert Fluor with wife Lillian and son Peter J. Fluor '70, MBA '72 in the 1980s

 
 
J. ROBERT FLUOR IS DEAD AT 62; BUILDER OF ENERGY COMPLEXES
 
 
UPI
Sept. 10, 1984
 
J. Robert Fluor, the industrialist who helped expand the engineering and construction concern his grandfather founded into one of the largest companies in the nation, died today of cancer. He was 62 years old.
 
Mr. Fluor died at his home in this Orange County coastal community, according to David Tappan, president and chief operating officer of the Fluor Corporation. His illness had been disclosed a year ago.
 
Mr. Fluor, who joined the company in 1946, succeeded his uncle as president in 1962, and became chairman and chief executive officer in 1968, positions he held until his death. The company's board of directors was scheduled to meet Tuesday to discuss the appointment of a successor, Mr. Tappan said.
 
In the fiscal year 1983, the Fluor Corporation reported revenue of $5.3 billion and net earnings of $27.7 million. World War II Pilot
 
Mr. Fluor was born in Santa Ana, Calif., in 1921, a year before his grandfather began moving his small construction company into the business of building oil refineries.
 
Mr. Fluor attended the University of Southern California for 2 1/2 years, studying chemical engineering. In World War II he was as an Air Force pilot in the Pacific theater, winning the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Air Medal. Mr. Fluor was a former chairman of the National Association of Manufacturers, a board member of several companies, and held executive positions with United Way and the Boy Scouts of America. He was also a member and former chairman of the Board of Trustees of U.S.C.
 
In 1978 Mr. Fluor tried to establish a Middle East Center at the University of Southern California. The proposed research center was to be financed by a foundation whose major donors would be corporations such as Fluor that did business in Arab states. The foundation, not the university, was to choose the center's governing committee. South Africa Work Criticized
 
The American Jewish Committee complained that this could give Arab governments a veto over what was taught. The plan was altered and the controversy faded, but not before Mr. Fluor and his company underwent severe criticism.
 
In the late 1970's the Fluor Corporation had a contract with the Government of South Africa to build a multibillion-dollar plant to convert coal into oil products. Liberal groups protested the company's part in providing energy independence for South Africa, whose policy of strict racial separation they deplored.
 
Mr. Fluor insisted that corporations had no business making moral judgments. ''I think we have a lot of crazy standards,'' he said then. ''I would a hell of a lot rather be a black in South Africa than be a Russian of any kind.''
 
Mr. Fluor is survived by his wife, the former Lillian Breaux; two sons, John Robert II and Peter James; his mother, Mrs. Peter E. Fluor, and seven grandchildren.
Lillian Fluor, widow of former USC trustee J. Robert Fluor, died Sept. 2 at her home in Newport Beach. She was 87.
 
For more than 20 years, Fluor’s late husband headed the Fluor Corp., a Fortune 500 engineering, procurement, construction, maintenance and project-management firm that was founded by his grandfather as a construction company in 1912.
 
The company built USC’s Von KleinSmid Center for International and Public Affairs (dedicated on the University Park campus in 1966) and, together with the Fluor Foundation, has been responsible for more than $2.8 million in gifts to USC.
 
In 1976, the foundation endowed the John Robert Fluor Chair in Chemical Engineering, the first faculty chair created under the university’s Toward Century II fund-raising campaign. As the endowment grew in 2007, two additional chairs bearing the family name – the Fluor Professorship in Process Engineering and Fluor Early Career Chair – were created within the USC Viterbi School of Engineering.
 
The Fluor family also supported the construction of Heritage Hall, opened in 1971, whose Peter E. Fluor Wing is named in memory of J. Robert Fluor’s father. In 1984, the 11-story hall previously known as Residence West was rededicated as Fluor Tower in appreciation of the Fluors’ contributions to USC.
 
A Trojan alumnus, J. Robert Fluor was a member of the USC Board of Trustees from 1962 until his death in 1984 at the age of 62. He served as board chairman from 1972 to 1980. Lillian Fluor was a dynamic partner with her husband throughout this time, participating in university events, cheering on the football team and acting as an enthusiastic ambassador for the university.
 
Lillian Fluor was a member of the Recognition Court of Town & Gown and in 1986 was honored by Town & Gown for her continuing support. She was also a dean’s level member of the USC Associates.
 
The former Lillian M. Breaux, Fluor graduated from Marywood High School in Anaheim and attended Mount St. Mary’s College in Los Angeles. She married Fluor in 1944. The couple had two sons, John Robert Fluor II ’67 and Peter James Fluor ’70, MBA ’72, both of whom studied business at USC.
 
Lillian Fluor is survived by her sons and their wives, eight grandchildren, two great-granddaughters, sister-in-law Elizabeth Fluor Taylor and numerous nieces and nephews.
 
The family has asked that, in lieu of flowers, memorial donations be made to support scholarships at USC.

 

OPINION
Column: Veteran Newport-Mesa trustee Martha Fluor candidly discusses term limits
 
Martha Fluor, in a 2014 photo, has served on the Newport-Mesa Unified School District board for 26 years.
 
By PATRICE APODACA
AUG. 7, 2017 1:05 PM PT
 
Last month I wrote about an impassioned speech delivered by Newport-Mesa Unified School District trustee Martha Fluor at a board meeting earlier this summer.
 
Fluor, who has served on the board for 26 years, had lashed out at critics who are campaigning for term limits, asking, “Where were you?” when she sacrificed birthdays, anniversaries and other events to attend to district business.
 
If others are so intent on change, she suggested, they should step up and run for the board.
 
While I empathized with Fluor’s frustration over being a repeated target of harsh commentary, I also expressed the view that her emotional response was counterproductive. The division seems wider than ever between the board and community activists who are pressing for term limits and demanding other changes at the district.
 
I think it’s safe to say that Fluor wasn’t thrilled with my column, but to her credit she met with me afterward for a long interview, during which I found her to be candid, highly knowledgeable about district history and education policies, and willing to concede that mistakes have been made.
 
We might not always agree, but I greatly appreciated that she didn’t flinch under tough questioning.
 
A little background on Fluor: Due to her father’s globetrotting business assignments, she spent a good part of her childhood living abroad, in Venezuela, Chile and Liberia. That experience informs her passion for education, she said, because she understands what it feels like to be an outsider.
 
Fluor is a former special education teacher, former president of the California School Boards Assn., the mother of five grown children and grandmother to eight (including some current Newport-Mesa students). She said she was initially motivated to run for the school board in 1991 when she grew incensed at Mesa Water District’s plan to install a 10-million-gallon water tank at Kaiser Elementary.
 
“Someone said, ‘If you don’t like it then run.’ And I did,” she said.
 
Over the years, she has at times run unopposed for her Area 3 seat, although in last year’s election she nudged out challenger Amy Peters, who advocated for term limits.
 
Fluor isn’t wholly opposed to the idea of term limits — “None of us is irreplaceable,” she said — and she maintains that she has at times tried to recruit new candidates. She also conceded that a couple of trustees have grown less engaged in recent years.
 
But she also worries that term limits will not lead to a more independent board, as proponents believe they would, but will instead rob the district of institutional knowledge and experience. Until new board members are “up to speed,” she said, “authority will revert to the district.”
 
Fluor was also blunt in her assessments of the superintendents she has overseen.
 
Former Supt. Mac Bernd, who left the district in late 1997, “was a dictator,” while his successor, Robert Barbot, was “a phenomenal human being. He treated everyone with respect.”
 
Jeffrey Hubbard, who took over for Barbot in 2006 but was fired amid legal woes linked to his tenure at another district, “thrived on controversy … and discord.”
 
The current superintendent, Fred Navarro, who was hired to restore stability after the tumultuous Hubbard years, “was not my first choice,” Fluor acknowledged.
 
Navarro has been involved in his own set of controversies, including lawsuits brought by former district administrators.
 
One of those complaints, filed in January 2016 by former district spokeswoman Laura Boss and former asst. Supt. Ann Huntington, alleged that Navarro created a workplace culture of fear and intimidation. That lawsuit was dropped through a settlement in March, with the district stating that no money was paid out.
 
Another legal action, by former Human Resources director John Caldecott, is pending.
 
In addition to claiming a hostile work environment, Caldecott has alleged that the district engaged in financial improprieties regarding the reporting of some salary information to the state.
 
Fluor was dismissive of Caldecott’s claims, asserting that the particular reporting at issue wasn’t his area of expertise. She also took issue with board critics who believe that she and other trustees have a too-cozy relationship with Navarro and give him a free pass when disputes arise.
 
“I think people perceive that a 7-0 vote is cozying up with him,” she said. “We do our homework. If we’re not comfortable, we keep pressing. If I have a problem with something, I call him.”
 
Nonetheless, Fluor maintains that the superintendent has “done a remarkable job. He’s a true instructional leader.”
 
As for the troubled history associated with NMUSD’s use of Swun Math — a Common Core-aligned program that was riddled with errors — Fluor acknowledged that the episode could have been handled better, but she believes the district is now on the right track with the implementation of new curriculum.
 
“Were there some missteps? Absolutely,” she said, “but we’ve moved on.”
 
I doubt such assertions will do much to quiet the highly motivated group of critics who believe the board hasn’t pressed Navarro hard enough on Swun and other problems, nor will they stem the push for term limits. I’ll be among those who continue to try to hold the board and administration to account.
 
But at the least, Fluor’s willingness to calmly discuss contentious issues was a welcome respite from the acrimonious atmosphere that has plagued the district for too long. More — and more open — communication is always a good thing.
 
PATRICE APODACA is a former Newport-Mesa public school parent and former Los Angeles Times staff writer. She lives in Newport Beach.