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Papers of Robert R. Owen

Identifier: ARRO

Scope and Contents

The Papers of Robert R. Owen consists of documents dated 1952 to 2009, with the bulk falling from 1970 to 1976. The collection includes personal papers, working papers, daily desk notes, scrapbooks, numerous publications related to sugar production, photographs, and artifacts from Owen's personal life and his time with the Great Western Sugar Company.


  • Creation: 1952-2009
  • Creation: Majority of material found within 1970-1976


Restrictions on Access

There are no access restrictions on this collection. However, the collection is stored off-site, so advance notice is required.

Restrictions on Use

Not all of the material in the collection is in the public domain. Researchers are responsible for addressing copyright issues.


Robert R. Owen served as an engineer and president of Great Western Sugar Company (GWS) and numerous other companies. At GWS, he was instrumental in the formation of the cooperative which tried to buy out the company in the mid-1970s. Owen was a member of professional groups including the American Society of Agricultural Engineers, the Society of Automotive Engineers, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and the Reserve Officers Association.

Owen was born on August 9, 1921, in California, where he spent his childhood. Following high school, he attended the University of California at Davis (UCD) and earned his degree in agricultural engineering in 1943. He then joined the United States Army as part of the engineer corps, ultimately attaining the rank of Brigadier General. When World War II ended, he continued to serve with the Army Reserve and was appointed as division commander of the 70th USAR division. He remained in that position until his retirement from the military on June 1, 1973.

While serving as a reserve officer, Owen was hired as an agricultural engineer by the Del Monte Company, which sent him to Honolulu, Hawaii, where he played a role in the invention of the pineapple harvester. In 1949, Owen was hired by the DuPont Company as a tech representative in Delaware, but he returned to Honolulu just one year later. Upon his return, Owen was appointed as a manager and engineer for the Pineapple Research Institute, where he remained until 1956. During this period he married Barbara Burton Owen. The Owens had five daughters: Jennifer, Rebecca, Tina, Claudia, and Melinne.

Owen's next position was with Ford Motor Company in Michigan, as an engineer in their tractor and implement division. His work with Ford took him to Europe (where he set up factories and worked to improve postwar manufacturing) and to Australia. While at Ford, Owen ascended through the ranks from engineer to product planning and programming manager, to assistant chief engineer, equipment product development manager, and finally general manager of equipment operations. An engineering scholarship was established under his name at his former college at UC Davis in 1966. His engineering and managerial skills led Great Western Sugar to designate him as their next president and he moved to Denver, Colorado.

Officially hired on February 19, 1968, Owen was tasked with turning the company around. Previous internal conflicts had hurt GWS profits, and Owen was seen as someone who could tackle this problem. However, the company continued to struggle, and talks of an employee-owned cooperative began to spread through the company. Owen was in favor of this position and was appointed president of the cooperative. In 1971 he began negotiating the buyout with GWS shareholders and tried to secure funds for it. By 1975 the cooperative had successfully negotiated to buy out the company, but in the final months the deal fell through when the billionaire Hunt brothers outbid the cooperative. Owen stepped down from GWS, and the company went bankrupt within the next decade.

Owen became part owner of Eversman Manufacturing in Denver, where he remained until he retired. After his retirement, his expertise in agricultural engineering was sought after by the World Bank to aid the Ivory Coast and China in the modernization of their agribusinesses. In addition, he served on the boards of directors for groups throughout Colorado, including the Colorado Philharmonic and Friends of the Center for Human Nutrition. Robert Roy Owen passed away on July 17, 2011, at his home in Evergreen, Colorado.


3.25 linear feet (2 record cartons, 1 document box)

Language of Materials



Robert R. Owen served as president of Great Western Sugar Company (GWS) from 1968 to 1975. He was instrumental in the formation of the cooperative which tried to buy out the company in the mid-1970s. The collection includes personal and working papers, daily desk notes, scrapbooks, numerous publications related to sugar production, photographs, and artifacts from Owen's personal life and his time with GWS.


The collection consists of 4 series in 2 record cartons and 1 document case:

Series 1: Papers, 1952-2009

Series 2: Publications, 1959-1971

Series 3: Clippings, 1971-1977

Series 4: Scrapbooks, 1971-1974


The collection was donated to the Colorado State University Libraries on March 18, 2013, by Owen's daughter Jennifer Rutherford.

Related Collections

Other collections in the Agricultural and Natural Resources Archive at Colorado State University Libraries that relate to the sugar beet industry include the Records of the Great Western Sugar Company and the Records of the Colorado Agricultural Experiment Station. The CSU Libraries Special Collections department also preserves copies of the Great Western publications Through the Leaves, Upbeet, and The Sugar Press.


Processing was completed in March 2019. All materials were re-housed using acid-free folders and boxes. Metal fasteners were removed as necessary, and photographs and slides were sleeved. Duplicates were removed from the collection. The materials were organized by material type and subject matter.

Inventory Note

Note: All folder titles supplied by the archivist.

Guide to the Papers of Robert R. Owen
Edited Full Draft
Prepared by Spencer Lopes
Copyright 2020
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English.

Repository Details

Part of the CSU Libraries Archives & Special Collections Repository

Fort Collins Colorado 80523-1019 USA