Robert King, ex-chair of community college

WHEN the Community College of Philadelphia acquired the old U.S. Mint building on Spring Garden Street, one of the people who made the move happen was Robert Samuel King.

Robert, a college board member since 1968, was chairman of the board in 1972 when the school moved into the great stone fortress of a building that had been a Philly landmark since 1901.

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“Robert made a difference in the lives of many, and provided opportunity for them to access affordable education,” his family said.

Robert King, who, while devoting his spare time to the community college and other civic and educational endeavors, was working as a nuclear physicist for the Naval Air Engineering Center in Philadelphia, died April 19 at age 90.

He was an Army combat engineer in World War II who served from the Normandy invasion through the Rhine and Central Europe campaigns and who was in the Philippines in the Pacific Theater when the war ended. He attained the rank of technical sergeant.

While in the Army, he attended West Virginia State College in an Army program to train African-American enlisted men as officers.

“He said he met the finest group of black men he could ever imagine,” his family said. “It was an experience that changed the course of his life.”

Robert was born in Philadelphia, the second son of the four children of Samuel James King and the former Hermine Mary Zimen. He excelled at math and science at Overbrook High School, from which he graduated in 1939. It was in high school that he met his future wife, Rosale Ernestine Olivier, whom he married in 1949.

Robert was drafted in 1943. After the war, he took advantage of the GI Bill to attend the University of Pennsylvania, from which he graduated with a bachelor’s degree in physics in 1956. He also took graduate courses at Temple University.

He worked as an insurance underwriter for the Veterans Administration and as an inspector for the Philadelphia Ordnance District before joining the Naval Air Engineering Laboratory and Center in 1956.

During his 18 years with the installation, he worked as a supervisory mechanical engineer, and ultimately became supervisor in the weapons/ship branch. The NAEC moved to Lakehurst Naval Air Station in 1974.

That year, Robert became affirmative-action officer for the Philadelphia College of Pharmacy and Science and served as director of development and head of student affairs until 1981.

In 1969, he became a member of the board of the University City Science Center. He also served as a director of the West Philadelphia Corp. and as a member of the executive committee.

He was a member of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the American Academy of Political and Social Science, among other affiliations.

Besides his wife, he is survived by a daughter, the Rev. Gwendolyn S. King; two grandchildren and a great-grandson. He was predeceased by another daughter, Nancy G. King-Strand.

Services: Were Friday. Burial was in Rolling Green Memorial Park, West Chester. Donations may be made to the Robert S. King Scholarship Fund, Community College of Philadelphia.

Contact John F. Morrison at 215-854-5573 or morrisj@phillynews.com, or on Twitter @johnfmorrison.