Former Chairman and CEO of Pioneer Hi-Bred International, Inc., and former Chair of the Carnegie Board of Trustees, Thomas Urban, died of mesothelioma at the age of 86 on July 10, 2020, in Des Moines, Iowa.

Urban joined the Carnegie Science board in 1986. He served as Chair from 1992 to 2003 and remained an active board member until 2007. Among his contributions as Chair, Urban undertook many fundraising initiatives to bolster the institution’s finances and expand Carnegie’s scientific agenda. During his tenure, the institution founded the Department of Global Ecology; built the Magellan twin 6.5-meter telescopes at Carnegie’s Las Campanas Observatory; and upgraded facilities including the construction of the Maxine Singer building for the Department of Embryology.

“Carnegie Science benefited greatly from Tom Urban's leadership. During his tenure as Chair of the board, Carnegie thrived. His business finesse, his passion for scientific progress, and his enthusiasm for our institution, were a winning combination that helped build a path that continues to generate a significant positive impact on our organization,” said Eric Isaacs, President of Carnegie Science.

Urban was involved in the hiring of former Carnegie President Maxine Singer in 1988. “During my presidency at Carnegie Science, Tom led with wisdom and grace. He was universally loved by the board and our staff. Tom oversaw a period of significant growth and was one of the driving forces behind the expansion of our institution for more than two decades. He will be greatly missed,” longtime friend Singer said. 

Born in 1934 in Des Moines, Urban attended Harvard University where he obtained an M.B.A. He then took a job vaccinating chickens in Minnesota for a Pioneer-owned company. Urban worked for Pioneer for over 30 years and was appointed CEO and Chairman of Pioneer Hi-Bred, now known as DuPont Pioneer. Under his leadership, the company grew into an international, agricultural powerhouse.

At age 33, Urban became mayor of Des Moines. It was 1968, a period of great social unrest and Urban was challenged with keeping peace in the community. He met with the militant Black Panthers and, when he retired as mayor, he was awarded for his service to the Des Moines Black community.

After Urban retired from Pioneer, he taught at Harvard business school. In addition to serving as Chairman of the Carnegie Board, he was Chairman of the National Tropical Botanical Garden along with serving on many other non-profit and corporate boards.

He is survived by his wife Mary, his children Bill Urban, Nina Urban, Tom Urban III, and Vikki Broer, their spouses, nine grandchildren, and three younger brothers.