ROBERT N. RICH

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RICH--Robert N. Age 84, of Stamford, CT, passed away after a brief illness at his home in Shippan Point on November 17, 2012. A life-long resident of Stamford, Mr. Rich was graduated in 1944 from Stamford High School and in 1948 from Princeton University. His entire career, spanning nearly 65 years, was spent at F.D. Rich Company, a construction and real estate development firm founded by his father in 1921. The company became one of the largest construction firms in the nation; its projects spanned the continent from Alaska to the Caribbean with both private and public clients. The firm constructed major office buildings, shopping centers, research and office parks, industrial plants, airport terminals and hangars, flood control projects, pavilions at New York's 1964 World's Fair, schools and hospitals. The firm also constructed military and not-for-profit housing. In 1960 Mr. Rich's company was selected as the sole redeveloper of the downtown Stamford urban renewal project. The project was led by Mr. Rich in partnership with his late brother, Frank D. Rich, Jr., and the firm's chief counsel, the late Lawrence Gochberg. Construction commenced in 1968 on three architecturally-distinctive apartment buildings known as St. John's Towers. This was followed by the signature 21-story One Landmark Square, which for 35 years was the tallest building in the City and a symbol of its rebirth. Construction of the world headquarters of GTE Corporation, the Stamford Town Center mall, the Marriott Hotel and many other office and apartment projects soon followed. Between 1970 and 2000, Mr. Rich's leadership transformed Stamford from a fading industrial town suffering from severe urban blight to a thriving city which has emerged as an important center for commerce, culture, education and recreation. Mr. Rich employed world-class architects and designers such as Victor Bisharat, Moshe Safdie, Cesar Pelli, Mitchell/Giurgola, Hugh Stubbins and Arthur Erickson in order to create bold designs for the new Stamford skyline, well before the term "starchitects" was coined. Mr. Rich and his brother are credited with bringing a branch of the University of Connecticut to downtown Stamford, which features the Rich Concourse as its central public space. The family's involvement with the University began when his father's company constructed the Wilbur Cross Library at the Storrs campus in 1934. The relationship continued to grow when Frank D. Rich, Jr. served for over twenty years on the University's Board of Trustees. The Rich brothers were also credited with creating the Stamford Center for the Arts, which includes the Rich Forum and the Palace Theatre. Mr. Rich was a long-standing member of the Regional Plan Association and Stamford's State Street Debating Society, which in 2009 named him its Man of the Year. Mr. Rich was a member of the Stamford Yacht Club since 1951, which recently honored him with an award for his many contributions during his lengthy service on the Board of Directors when he was head of its Long-Range Planning Committee. Mr. Rich was a supporter, both personally and through the Rich Foundation, of many community organizations including the Boys and Girls Club (whose building is named in honor of his late mother) and the Stamford Hospital, which includes the Jeanne S. Rich Professional Office Building. Mr. Rich was a voracious reader, an inveterate traveler and a theater aficionado. He enjoyed spending as much time as possible at his second home in Tenterden, England. Asked recently what his proudest accomplishment was, Mr. Rich replied without hesitation and with his customary modesty, "That's simple. I am most proud of my wonderful family." He loved to plan reunions not only for the benefit of his family and many friends, but also for his school mates. A few years ago, one of these gatherings took place in Stamford in honor of his fellow classmates from Burdick Middle School. Born in Stamford on February 13, 1928, he was preceded in death by his wife, Jeanne Slavin Rich; his daughter, Amy Louise Rich; his parents, F.D. Rich, Sr. and Mary Prisco Rich; his brother, Frank D. Rich, Jr., and his sister-in-law, Jean Hopkins Rich. He is survived by his loving partner of more than thirty years, Valerie A. Wiltshire of Stamford; his daughters Priscilla A. Rich of Boone, NC, and Martha Rich Andrus (David) of Boulder, CO; and his sons Christopher M. Rich (Elizabeth) of Roanoke County, VA, and Thomas L. Rich (Suzanne Van Nostrand) of Stamford. Ten grandchildren and one great-grandchild also survive him. A memorial service in honor of Mr. Rich will be held at 11am on Friday, November 30, 2012, at the Stamford Yacht Club. In lieu of flowers, the family requests contributions to the Boys and Girls Club of Stamford (online at: bgcastamford.org or by mail to the Mary C. Rich Clubhouse, 347 Stillwater Ave, Stamford, CT 06902).

Published in The New York Times on Nov. 21, 2012
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