Robert Wood Tate, management consultant and civil engineer, dies at 90

Robert Wood Tate

Robert Wood Tate passed away on Jan. 14 at his home in Princeton after a brief illness. A loving husband, father, grandfather, respected colleague and friend, he was generous with his time and skills. He delighted in all levels of technical challenges, from fixing a neighbor’s plumbing to designing a seaweed harvester to setting up international manufacturing operations. Wood will be missed by friends and family near and far.

Son of Elizabeth Nelson Tate and Jack Bernard Tate, Wood was born on July 13, 1929, and grew up in Washington, D.C., where he attended Western High School. After graduating from Swarthmore College in 1950, he served as a second lieutenant in the U.S. Air Force, designing air bases in Morocco. It was in Morocco that Wood met Katharine Peterken, a fellow Swarthmore graduate. They married in 1956 in California, and he remained devoted to her until his death.

The Tates lived in Washington, D.C. from 1960 to 1968 before settling in Princeton with their five children. They welcomed more than 200 boarders and guests from around the world into their lively home, many of whom became lifelong friends. 

Trained as a civil engineer, Wood spent most of his career working as a management consultant in a wide variety of contexts. He enjoyed the strategic side of business projects and the international connections he made working on projects that took him to 23 countries.  

A dedicated community member, Wood served on the first Princeton Consolidation Committee in the 1970s and was active in the Princeton Middle East Society and the Princeton Independent Consultants. He volunteered as an election board worker for many years and was a devoted member of the local YMCA, where he swam regularly.

Beginning in the 1970s, the Tates spent summers in mid-coast Maine, and eventually, they bought land and a cabin on a small lake. Family and friends gathered at that favorite spot to celebrate Wood’s 90th birthday last July.

Wood is survived by his wife of 63 years, Katharine; children Jacques Tate, Anne Tate (Bob Massie), Thomas Tate, Laura Tate Kagel (Martin Kagel), and Carol Tate (David Schrayer); longtime friends François Bontoux and Christine Wüthrich; nieces Valerie Tate (Gregory Arms) and Louise Tate Hood (Murray Hood); and many grandchildren. He was predeceased by his parents, brother Toby, and daughter-in-law May Tate.

A memorial gathering will take place in Maine during the summer.