PORTLAND- Dr. Robert Allan Summers had a long and distinguished career with the federal government, notably in treaty verification and nuclear counter-proliferation. He retired as Chief of Verification and Intelligence from the U.S. State Department Arms Control & Disarmament Agency in 1995, having worked on the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) between the U.S. and the Soviet Union, as well as on START 2. His expertise on defense conversion brought him to Russia and China to work with nuclear scientists on converting military technology for civilian use. The workshops promoted peace by reducing incentive for scientists to find work developing weaponry for other countries.
Born April 15, 1926 in New York, Robert was the only surviving child of Louis and Sidonia (Lubell) Summers. (The Summers family name was originally Sukovice.) At age 15, he graduated from Townsend Harris High School, class of 1941. At age 18 he graduated from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) with a BS in Aeronautical Engineering, Sigma Xi, class of 1945. He studied Aeronautical Engineering- Instrumentation at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), graduating with a MS in 1946 and ScD in 1954.
In between RPI and MIT, Robert served his country’s WW2 efforts via Glenn L. Martin Company, where he worked on design and flight testing of the carrier-based dive-torpedo bomber which LTJG George W. Bush would have flown during the land invasion of Japan - were that to have been necessary. He received the Army Navy Award for Excellence in War Production, 1944-1945.
At the Institute of Naval Studies, 1960-64, he was Technical Manager for the Starlight Program, assessing the impact of satellite technology on the future Navy. At NASA during 1964-71, he worked on remote sensing programs including Earthsat. As Vice President of Civil Systems at System Planning Corporation, 1971-75, he initiated and directed AID-funded applications of remote sensing in Africa, Asia, and Latin America. He worked for the U.S. Department of Energy, 1975-82, on energy for developing countries and programs to counter nuclear proliferation. Over the years, his work took him to many countries throughout Africa and Latin America, as well as India, China, Russia, Korea, and many other countries.
After retiring from the U.S. Senior Executive Service, he started Technology and Systems International, consulting on international technology and national security. He was active in the MIT Club of Washington DC for 30 years as President, member of the Board of Directors, and Director Emeritus.
Robert continued to play tennis until age 82. Keenly interested in history, geography and politics, he enjoyed traveling, meeting and hosting people from around the world. Appreciative of jazz and classical music, one of his last requests was to hear Beethoven.
In addition to a career of service to his country and the greater good of humanity, Robert was a loving husband to his wife of over 55 years, Sherma Nancy (Spires) Summers, caring for her during a long struggle with Parkinson’s disease. Sherma passed away in 2017. He was a devoted father to son Robert Louis Summers and daughters Kathleen Sidonia Summers and Suzanne Summers LaPierre. He is survived by his three children, his cousin Fred Mann, their supportive partners, and three grandchildren: Sidonia Lauren Summers, Carter Lee Summers Hanewinckel, and Nathan Riley Summers LaPierre.
Robert passed away February 10, 2021 in Maine, where he moved in 2012 so his wife could be closer to family. He was 94. A small memorial gathering will be held at a later date. Those who wish to honor his legacy are encouraged to donate in his name to one of MIT’s scholarship funds or any cause supporting education for students in need.
Arrangements have been entrusted to Chad E. Poitras Cremation and Funeral Service, Buxton, www.mainefuneral.com