Bob was born in Bridgeport, CT, to the late Virginia and Frederick William Matthias, Jr. and was raised with his two brothers, Bill and Donald, by his mother after his father passed away.
He graduated from the Williston Northampton School in 1941 and then went on to study at Amherst College. Postponing graduation with fellow classmates, Bob entered the US Navy where he served as a WWII pilot and flight instructor in Pensacola, Florida. He resumed his studies after the war and graduated with the class of 1945 from Amherst in 1947. He also attended Brown University and University of North Carolina before starting his career with DuPont in 1952.