Robert C. Poe
2009 Business Leader
Robert C. Poe’s life is a portrait of incremental accomplishments bridged together as if by design. Such a well-plotted journey seems fitting for a mechanical engineer whose stalwart business legacy began with a two-person firm he founded in the 1960s.
Courage, common sense, and unrelenting determination are often attributed to Poe’s professional success. The same can be said for his progress in the economic development realm where he has been a lifelong champion of Oklahoma.
Born in Oklahoma City in 1938, Poe was the No. 2 graduate in the University of Oklahoma’s class of 1960 before earning master’s degrees from the University of Pittsburgh and OU. Perhaps his best win during his college years was that of Jackie Kalman’s hand in marriage. Married for 51 years, they have a daughter, Susan Poe Dixon of Tulsa, and son, Richard Poe of California.
With one draftsman, Poe started the engineering consulting firm Poe & Associates in McAlester. The company grew to become a nationally recognized designer of such public works projects as water systems, highways, and bridges. Poe has served as the Oklahoma Turnpike Engineer, and following the Interstate 40 bridge collapse in 2002, his firm was selected to lead the repair efforts. Currently 105,000 rural Oklahomans receive their domestic water from systems designed by the firm, which has offices in Tulsa, Oklahoma City, Wichita, and Topeka, Kan. They are the overall consultants on the widening of Skelly bypass currently under construction in Tulsa.
In addition to founding an architectural company with Frank Davies, Poe also took up golf, but not in the traditional sense. His golf course and golf community design company, Pittman-Poe Land Planning Company, did extensive work around the country with such golf greats as Jack Nicklaus. Poe also founded Penterra Company, a residential and commercial property development company focused on the development of Marina Bay that includes a property with 2.5 miles of waterfront on the San Francisco Bay.
In 1989, Poe’s first-hand knowledge of small-business lending made him a natural buyer of Community Bank and Trust in Tulsa, a bank with a history of helping the new and striving small business.
Poe’s civic service began in 1965 when he was elected to the Norman City Council. He has served as chairman of the board of the Tulsa Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce in addition to other economic development bodies. He is cochairman and founder of the Center for Legislative Excellence (CLE), a bipartisan public policy political action committee whose mission is to promote state funding for health care, higher education and transportation in the Tulsa region.
Poe is currently chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Oklahoma State University Medical Center, the teaching hospital for the OSU Osteopathic School of Medicine. Saving this hospital so it can continue to serve OSU and the Tulsa community was one of the CLE goals he has worked on for the last eight years.
In recognition of the value of scholarships to him in earlier years, Poe has awarded scholarships to engineering students at the University of Oklahoma and Oklahoma State University for more than 20 years.