Robert D. Stout was internationally known for his teaching and research in metallurgy and welding processes, and had a distinguished career at Lehigh for 70 years. He earned a bachelor's degree in metallurgical engineering from Penn State University, and master's and Ph.D. degrees from Lehigh. His university service began as a member of the department of metallurgical engineering in 1939. He was named chairman of the department in 1956. In 1960, he became dean of the graduate school, a position he held until his retirement in 1980, when he was named dean emeritus.
Stout and his late wife, Elizabeth, traveled the world as a result of his research and educational career. He directed welding studies for the Navy's Fleet of the Future and other programs at the Engineering Research Center for Advanced Technology for Large Structural Systems (ATLSS). In recognition of his outstanding contributions to education and engineering, Stout had received numerous awards and national honors, including the American Welding Society Lincoln Gold Medal, the American Society for Metals International (ASMI) Stoughton Teaching Award, and the AE White Teaching Award.
From 1955 to 1980, Stout served as one of the official American representatives to the International Institute of Welding, participating in the commission to study the behavior of metals subjected to welding. Upon his retirement in 1980, a group of students and colleagues established the R.D. Stout Chair in Materials Science to express their appreciation for Stout's service as an educator, researcher and dean. Stout had provided generously for the chair. Additionally, he established the Elizabeth V. Stout Dissertation Prize Fund for doctoral students.
Stout continued to work four to five days a week at Lehigh's ATLSS late in life. His research with colleague John Gross involved a new alloy steel that provides high strength and toughness and allows welding into girders without preheating, as other steels require. This enhances the steel's suitability for bridge-building projects. The work of Stout and Gross was funded by the Federal Highway Administration, the U.S. Navy, the Welding Research Council and the American Iron and Steel Institute.