Hamline News

Alumnus works to eradicate chemical weapons


Ambassador Robert Mikulak was warmly welcomed back to campus this past weekend. The Hamline alumnus from the Class of 1964 is the United States Permanent Representative to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons located in The Hague, The Netherlands. He returned to his alma mater to deliver the 14th Annual 3M/Ronald A. Mitsch Lecture in Chemistry entitled “Recent Developments in the Peaceful Use of Chemistry: Eliminating the Chemical Weapons Threat.” Mikulak spoke about the obstacles and challenges he encounters when trying to achieve the elimination of chemical warfare.

“Today the biggest question is how to prevent the use of chemical weapons in Syria,” Ambassador Mikulak said.

Syria has taken center stage in foreign policy discussions in recent months because of the apparent use of chemical weapons from the Syrian government against its people.

“One of the things about the situation in Syria is it helps to have a broader understanding of the background of the uprisings in the Middle East,” Ambassador Mikulak said. “We really need to think about the kind of regime that has existed in Syria. The hard thing to know is what the United States should do. There is no simple solution.”

The subject of chemical and biological weapons has long been a major issue at the forefront of international politics and media coverage. With the continued threat to the safety of people all around the globe, Ambassador Mikulak has dedicated his career to stopping the proliferation of these weapons with the ultimate aim of eradicating them altogether.

“There is a treaty that prohibits chemical weapons such as nerve gas and mustard gas. I actually helped negotiate the treaty that we are now trying to enforce. We want the elimination of chemical weapons around the world,” Ambassador Mikulak said.

Ambassador Mikulak ’64 previously served in the State Department and the U.S. Arms Control and Disarmament Agency in a series of increasingly responsible positions related to the prohibition of chemical and biological weapons. During the decade-long negotiation of the 1992 Chemical Weapons Convention, he was the deputy U.S. negotiator and senior U.S. expert. In 1992, Ambassador Mikulak received the Hillard Roderick Prize in Arms Control from the American Association for the Advancement of Science. In 2001, he was awarded an honorary doctorate by Hamline University. Ambassador Mikulak received his undergraduate education at Hamline and his Ph.D. in organic chemistry from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

The 3M/Ronald A. Mitsch Lectures in Chemistry are part of the 3M/Ronald A. Mitsch Endowed Fund in Chemistry, established in 1998 by the 3M Foundation in recognition and appreciation of Dr. Mitsch. Mitsch, a 1956 graduate of Hamline University’s College of Liberal Arts, began his career at 3M in 1960 as a research chemist and earned 19 patents. In 1998, he retired from 3M as vice chairman of the board and executive vice president of the industrial and consumer sector, corporate services. Mitsch is a Hamline University life trustee. The 3M/Ronald A. Mitsch Endowed Fund is intended to promote new connections and pioneering efforts between education and industry as an essential basis for the education of chemists who are prepared to meet the challenges and opportunities of the 21st century and beyond.