Hans Neukomm once stated, “I’m convinced that this country wouldn’t be what it is if we didn’t have volunteers. It’s part of what makes America great—committed citizens.” Hans demonstrated his conviction in the benefit of volunteerism by taking leadership roles in numerous professional societies and community service organizations. Hans was born May 19, 1936, in Burgdorf, Switzerland, to Hans Frederick Neukomm and Hermine Staempfli. His father, the seventh Hans Neukomm, came from a long line of jewelers; the jewelry business has been in the family for more than 200 years, and his brother Kurt is now an internationally known artist and jeweler. But Hans felt the need to break away and decided to become an engineer.
Hans earned a BSEE (Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering) degree from the Ingenieurschule Burgdorf, and in 1963, after working as an electrical engineer with the Power Company of the State of Bern, Switzerland and serving in the Swiss Army, he moved to San Jose, California, where two aunts had immigrated in 1908. In San Jose he worked for Pacific Gas & Electric as an electrical engineer until 1965 when he was hired by CH2M Hill in Corvallis.
Adele Anderson was born on March 5, 1941 in Greenbush, Minnesota. Her father, Axel Anderson, grew up on a Century Farm, which is still in the family. After he died of rheumatic fever when Adele was thirteen, her mother, Agnes Koglin Anderson, returned to teaching, and the family lived in several Minnesota communities. Adele graduated from high school in Crookston, Minnesota, and completed a special program at the University of Minnesota in medical technology. In 1961, she accept a position with the Oregon State University Student Health Center in Corvallis in 1961.
Hans and Adele met in 1968 and married on September 25, 1971. Their first child, Hans, was born on February 9, 1975, and their daughter, Heidi, was born October 19, 1978. Adele ran the Medical Technology department of the Student Health Center for ten years, switching to a part-time position once she was married and raising children. As Adele describes it, “My hands were full helping Hans,” but she still managed to help with the English as a Second Language classes at Linn-Benton Community College and tutoring in the German department at Crescent Valley High School. Adele is active with Grace Lutheran Church and works with volunteers at Assisted Living.
Although Hans originally imagined living in the United States only temporarily to expand his horizons before returning to Switzerland, the opportunities at CH2M Hill were promising enough to keep him in Corvallis. He remained with the company for thirty-five years, starting as a project engineer and taking on increasing responsibility until he was appointed vice president and director with Electric Utility Services, a position with nationwide responsibilities that allowed him to remain in Corvallis. He first announced his retirement in 1993, but several projects kept him busy for the next four years. He maintained an office at CH2M Hill following his actual retirement in 1997, where he had consulted in ongoing projects.
Hans cited five specific areas where he thought his contributions to the community have had the most impact: Leadership Corvallis, the Benton County Budget Committee, the Corvallis Airport Industrial Park Development Task Force, the Corvallis-Benton County Economic Development Partnership, and Boy Scouts of America. Economic development activities have always been a major part of his community involvement. Appointed in 1990 by the Corvallis Area Chamber of Commerce, Hans served as a board member, treasurer, chair of the finance and marketing committees, and vice chair before serving two terms as chair of the Corvallis-Benton County Economic Development Partnership. He began service as chairman of the Benton County Economic Diversification Task Force in 1997.
In 1993, the Economic Development Partnership formed a task force to implement plans to develop and market City owned properties at the Corvallis Municipal Airport for industrial use. As chair, Hans created a team of local engineers, contractors, developers, accountants, lawyers, financial experts, and business leaders to formulate strategies for development. The resulting master plan was intended to provide employment opportunities for about 1,500 people. His other governmental service includes chairing the Benton County Budget Committee, the Benton County Financial Planning Panel, the Corvallis-Benton County Library Budget Committee, and the Vineyard Mountain Water District.
Hans’ long-time association with the Corvallis Rotary Club became more intense when he was elected district governor for the 2003-2004 term, a position that involved much travel throughout Oregon and northern California working with training efforts. He joined Corvallis Rotary in 1982 and served as its president in 1998–1999. He also served as a board member and program chairman and was a member of District 5110 Leadership Academy. He has served as assistant district governor, initiating and organizing a Group Study Exchange with Rotary District 1990 in Switzerland.
Hans’ commitment to Rotary—and to the many organizations with which he has associated himself—comes from the values instilled by his father: “unquestioned honesty, hard work, and helping others.” As Hans described, his father provided the perfect example of active citizenry and community participation. “I found Rotary exemplifies those principles I grew up with, values that are true and right no matter where you are,” Hans explained. Adele and Hans were both named Paul Harris Fellows and Rotary Benefactors.
In line with his strong belief in volunteerism, Hans founded Leadership Corvallis in 1992 to increase the community’s base of informed citizens for volunteer assignments in public and private institutions in Corvallis and Benton County. By “providing a broad educational experience to interested citizens on how the community works and prepare them to become more involved and effective in shaping the destiny or our area,” Leadership Corvallis builds community across the areas of business, government, social services, and the arts. More than 225 “graduates” have served on a wide variety of committees and boards since the program’s inception. The organization incorporated in 1998 and was granted tax-exempt status in March of 2000. Hans served as president of the organization.
Hans first became active in the Boy Scouts when his son, who achieved the rank of Eagle Scout, first joined in 1982. He first served as an assistant pack master and troop committee chairman before becoming chair of the Benton District from 1990 to 1998. Under his leadership, the District developed a plan to meet the needs of youth in the nineties. He established leadership training programs, recruiting programs to improve access to the organization, and career development programs in Corvallis and Philomath High Schools. He also helped establish an Explorer Program for young adults as well as a support program for boys in single-parent families. As a result, Benton County ranked in the top two percent of Scout districts in the nation and received the coveted Quality District Award from the Boy Scouts of America in 1994 and 1997. For his leadership and accomplishments, Hans received the 1991 President’s Award, the 1993 Award of Merit, and was named Honoree of the Eagle Class of 1993. In 1996, he received the highest award Boy Scouts of America can bestow to adult leaders—the Silver Beaver Award. Hans has served as a member of the Council Endowment Committee and as vice president of the Oregon Trail Council for Boy Scouts of America.
Hans and Adele established this fund to benefit the Boys Scouts. “If we can support good programs, we’re doing a service. Youth have a tough time these days,” explained Hans. Hans passed away Monday, January 3rd, 2011, at Corvallis Manor, after a courageous five-year-long battle with cancer.