Cisler, Walker L. (Walker Lee), 1897-1994

Alternative names
Dates:
Birth 1897-10-08
Death 1994-10-18

Biographical notes:

Walker Cisler was a member of the Cornell University Class of 1922, a Trustee from 1949 to 1969, and a Presidential Councillor from 1968.

From the description of Walker Cisler papers, 1965-1975. (Cornell University Library). WorldCat record id: 64083976

Detroit Edison executive, advocate of the need to develop peaceful uses for nuclear power.

Walker Lee Cisler was born in Marietta, Ohio, in 1896. After graduating from Cornell in 1922 with a degree in mechanical engineering, he accepted a cadet position with the Public Service Electric and Gas Company of New Jersey. During this two year appointment, on-the-job training was augmented by participation in company study groups and evening courses in business and economics at New York University.

Over the next two decades, Cisler rose through the ranks and eventually became Assistant General Manager of Power Plants.

In 1941 Cisler was appointed to the Office of Production Management (OPM), a division of the War Production Board (WPB). The OPM was composed of three industry consultants working in conjunction with federal planners to coordinate production for civilian and military consumption. As a member of the Power Division, Walker Cisler was responsible for balancing allied demands for electricity against domestic power requirements.

While engaged in this war service, Cisler accepted a position as Chief Engineer of Power Plants with the Detroit Edison Company. Effective October 1, 1943, this appointment was not actualized immediately as Cisler was first commissioned as a Lieutenant Colonel in the United States Army and sent to the Mediterranean theatre to survey electrical facilities. This three-month term of service was repeatedly extended and a promotion to full Colonel followed.

In 1944, on the recommendation of the Secretary of the Army, Walker Cisler was appointed to General Eisenhower's staff as Chief of the Public Utilities Section, Supreme Headquarters, Allied Expeditionary Forces (SHAEF). In this position, he assumed primary responsibility for the restoration of electrical services in recently liberated areas.

With the cessation of hostilities in Europe, Cisler served in Berlin as Chief of the Public Utilities Section in the Office of Military Government in Germany. Even with the termination of his active duty status in late 1945, Cisler continued his involvement in European reconstruction as principal advisor to the State Department on electrical power issues.

He also worked as chief consultant on electrical power to the Economic Corporation Administration (ECA) and successor organizations, the Mutual Security Agency (MSA), the Foreign Operations Administration (FOA), and the International Cooperation Administration (ICA). Cisler was officially discharged from military service in 1952.

Upon his return from Europe in 1945, Cisler assumed the duties of Chief Engineer of Power Plants with the Detroit Edison Company. By 1947 he had also been appointed Vice President of Employee Relations. In 1948, his expanded duties were consolidated under the title executive vice presidnet. In 1951, he was appointed to the Board of Directors and subsequently promoted to President and General Manager.

Upon the retirement of Prentiss M. Brown in 1954, Walker Cisler was confirmed as Chief Executive Officer of Detroit Edison. He served in this capacity until 1971 at which time he was succeeded by William G. Meese. In 1964 Walker Cisler was elected Chairman of the Board of Directors, a post he held until 1975.

While at Detroit Edison, Walker Cisler focused a great deal of attention on the development of atomic power as a commercial resource. To this end he served as Executive Secretary to the Industrial Advisory Board of the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) beginning in 1947. Under his direction, the board issued a report to the AEC in 1951 requesting permission to begin industrial development of a fast neutron breeder reactor.

This report led directly to a feasibility study conducted by the newly formed Nuclear Power Development Department of the AEC. By 1953, twenty-six power utilities and large corporations nationwide had expressed interest in collaborating on the project. And in 1954, Congress amended the Atomic Energy Act and thus empowered the AEC to license the distribution of fuel for commercial nuclear development and to exercise oversight of construction and safety standards.

Having cleared all legal obstacles to the construction of a commercially managed nuclear reactor, a consortium of electric power systems, engineering, and manufacturing firms established in 1954 the Atomic Power Development Corporation (APDA). Recognized as a leader in the field, Walker Cisler agreed to serve as President and to work to cordinate collaboration in the research and development of a fast neutron breeder reactor.

Power Reactor Development Associates (PRDC), a companion corporation to APDA was established to handle actual construction and operation of the first commercially managed nuclear reactor. With Walker Cisler as President in 1956, PRDC functioned as a legal buffer in limiting the liability of APDA's member organizations.

Under Cisler's guidance, APDA and PRDC jointly constituted a vehicle for national participation in the development of the Enrico Fermi Nuclear Power Plant at Lagoona Beach, Monroe County, Michigan.

As a member of both APDA and PRDC and through the involvement of its managerial and technical personnel, Detroit Edison participated in the construction and operation of Fermi. Detroit Edison also owned and operated the steam generators and steam turbine facilities needed to convert heat generated by the reactor into electrical power suitable for distribution.

Over the next seventeen years, from 1955 to 1972, Cisler and the Fermi plant were closely associated in the public's mind. Despite the ultimate failure of the plant (the reactor was decommissioned in 1972), Cisler never wavered in his espousal of the need to develop peaceful uses for nuclear power. He also saw the need to involve the international community in this effort.

He was among the founders of the World Power Conference (WPC) and its successor organization, the World Energy Conference (WEC). In 1968, Cisler was elected chairman of the International Executive Council of WEC, and in 1974, under his leadership, Detroit hosted the meeting of the full body of the WEC.

Cisler retired from Detroit Edison in 1975, but remained active in the international energy scene primarily through his work with Overseas Advisory Associates Inc. (OAAI), which he had founded in 1972 to utilize the expertise of retired energy executives for overseas consulting. OAAI functioned globally, but focused on activity in the Middle and Far East. The most intensive OAAI contracts involved the establishment of a modern energy infrastructure in Saudi Arabia.

In addition, Cisler was active in scientific, civic, political, and business affairs throughout his career. He served as the long-time Chairman of the Thomas Alva Edison Foundation. He also served on the boards of directors of a wide range of organizations devoted to revitalizing Detroit and improving the public welfare. He presided over many programs sponsored by the Economic Club of Detroit and served as a member and interim Chairman of Fruehauf Corporation's Board of Directors.

Walker Cisler remained active in his many endeavors until his death on October 18, 1994, at the age of 97.

From the description of Walker L. Cisler papers, 1899-1994 (bulk 1943-1987) (University of Michigan). WorldCat record id: 78545582

Walker Lee Cisler was born in Marietta, Ohio in 1897, the son of a country doctor. At the age of four his parents divorced, and Cisler was subsequently raised by his mother in Wallingford, Pennsylvania. In 1917, following his graduation from Westchester High school in 1913, Cisler enrolled in Cornell University. Interrupting his schooling, Cisler saw brief service in the infantry during the First World War. He returned to Cornell in 1919 where he majored in mechanical engineering. He graduated in 1922.

After college, Cisler accepted a cadet position with the Public Service Electric and Gas Company of New Jersey. Cadets were groomed for upper level administrative positions within the company. During this two year appointment, on-the-job training was augmented by participation in company study groups and evening courses in business and economics at New York University. Over the next two decades, Cisler rose through the ranks and eventually became Assistant General Manager of Power Plants.

In 1941 Cisler was appointed to the Office of Production Management (OPM), a division of the War Production Board (WPB). The OPM was composed of three industry consultants working in conjunction with federal planners to coordinate production for civilian and military consumption. As a member of the Power Division, Walker Cisler was responsible for balancing allied demands for electricity against domestic power requirements.

While engaged in this war service, Cisler accepted a position as Chief Engineer of Power Plants with the Detroit Edison Company. Effective October 1, 1943, this appointment was not actualized immediately as Cisler was first commissioned as a Lieutenant Colonel in the United States Army and sent to the Mediterranean theatre to survey electrical facilities. This three-month term of service was repeatedly extended and a promotion to full Colonel followed. In 1944, on the recommendation of the Secretary of the Army, Walker Cisler was appointed to General Eisenhower's staff as Chief of the Public Utilities Section, Supreme Headquarters, Allied Expeditionary Forces (SHAEF). In this position, he assumed primary responsibility for the restoration of electrical services in recently liberated areas.

With the cessation of hostilities in Europe, Cisler served in Berlin as Chief of the Public Utilities Section in the Office of Military Government of Germany. Even with the termination of his active duty status in late 1945, Cisler continued his involvement in European reconstruction as principal advisor to the State Department on electrical power issues. He also worked as chief consultant on electrical power to the Economic Cooperation Administration (ECA) and successor organizations, the Mutual Security Agency (MSA), the Foreign Operations Administration (FOA), and the International Cooperation Administration (ICA). Cisler was officially discharged from military service in 1952.

Upon his return from Europe in 1945, Cisler assumed the duties of Chief Engineer of Power Plants with the Detroit Edison Company . By 1947 he had also been appointed Vice President of Employee Relations. In 1948, his expanded duties were consolidated under the title executive vice president. In 1951, he was appointed to the Board of Directors and subsequently promoted to President and General Manager. Upon the retirement of Prentiss M. Brown in 1954, Walker Cisler was confirmed as Chief Executive Officer of Detroit Edison. He served in this capacity until 1971 at which time he was succeeded by William G. Meese. In 1964 Walker Cisler was elected Chairman of the Board of Directors, a post he held until 1975.

While at Detroit Edison, Walker Cisler focused a great deal of attention on the development of atomic power as a commercial resource. To this end he served as Executive Secretary to the Industrial Advisory Board of the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) beginning in 1947. Under his direction, the board issued a report to the AEC in 1951 requesting permission to begin industrial development of a fast neutron breeder reactor. This report led directly to a feasibility study conducted by the newly formed Nuclear Power Development Department of the AEC. By 1953, twenty-six power utilities and large corporations nationwide had expressed interest in collaborating on the project. And in 1954, Congress amended the Atomic Energy Act and thus empowered the AEC to license the distribution of fuel for commercial nuclear development and to exercise oversight of construction and safety standards.

Having cleared all legal obstacles to the construction of a commercially managed nuclear reactor, a consortium of electric power systems, engineering, and manufacturing firms established in 1954 the Atomic Power Development Corporation (APDA). Recognized as a leader in the field, Walker Cisler agreed to serve as President and to work to coordinate collaboration in the research and development of a fast neutron breeder reactor. Power Reactor Development Associates (PRDC), a companion corporation to APDA was established to handle actual construction and operation of the first commercially managed nuclear reactor. With Walker Cisler as President in 1956, PRDC functioned as a legal buffer in limiting the liability of APDA's member organizations. Under Cisler's guidance, APDA and PRDC jointly constituted a vehicle for national participation in the development of the Enrico Fermi Nuclear Power Plant at Lagoona Beach, Monroe County, Michigan. As a member of both APDA and PRDC and through the involvement of its managerial and technical personnel, Detroit Edison participated in the construction and operation of Fermi. Detroit Edison also owned and operated the steam generators and steam turbine facilities needed to convert heat generated by the reactor into electrical power suitable for distribution.

Over the next seventeen years, from 1955 to 1972, Cisler and the Fermi plant were closely associated in the public's mind. Despite the ultimate failure of the plant (the reactor was decommissioned in 1972), Cisler never wavered in his espousal of the need to develop peaceful uses for nuclear power. He also saw the need to involve the international community in this effort. He was among the founders of the World Power Conference (WPC) and its successor organization, the World Energy Conference (WEC). In 1968, Cisler was elected chairman of the International Executive Council of WEC, and in 1974, under his leadership, Detroit hosted the meeting of the full body of the WEC.

Cisler retired from Detroit Edison in 1975, but remained active in the international energy scene primarily through his work with Overseas Advisory Associates Inc. (OAAI), which he had founded in 1972 to utilize the expertise of retired energy executives for overseas consulting. OAAI functioned globally, but focused on activity in the Middle and Far East. The most intensive OAAI contracts involved the establishment of a modern energy infrastructure in Saudi Arabia.

In addition, Cisler was active in scientific, civic, political, and business affairs throughout his career. He served as the long-time Chairman of the Thomas Alva Edison Foundation. He also served on the boards of directors of a wide range of organizations devoted to revitalizing Detroit and improving the public welfare. He presided over many programs sponsored by the Economic Club of Detroit and served as a member and interim Chairman of Freuhauf Corporation's Board of Directors.

Walker Cisler remained active in his many endeavors until his death on October 18, 1994 at the age of 97.

From the guide to the Walker Lee Cisler Papers, 1899-1994, 1943-1987, (Bentley Historical Library University of Michigan)

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Subjects:

  • Nuclear power plants--Michigan
  • Electric power--Michigan
  • Nuclear power plants
  • Electric power

Occupations:

not available for this record

Places:

  • Michigan (as recorded)