Robert Frost, a respected associate professor in the School of Information and member of the University’s lead faculty governing body, passed away on Saturday in his Ann Arbor home after battling colon cancer. He was 58 years old.
School of Information Dean Jeffrey MacKie-Mason wrote in a statement released by the school yesterday that Frost was an influential professor who had a significant impact on the lives of many undergraduates.
“Many (students) say that he had a transformative impact on their choice of major and career,” MacKie-Mason wrote. “Bob was passionate about teaching, about his students, and about our school.”
According to the School of Information website, Frost’s professional interests were in industrial rationalization, industrial informatics and gender and information technology, among other areas.
Frost was the great-grandson of the famous poet Robert Frost. Frost and his wife Margaret Hedstrom, associate dean for academic programs and a professor in the School of Information, established the Frost Open Access Fund — a program that enables open access projects to use the royalties from Frost’s great-grandfather’s work.
Frost was also an active member of the Senate Advisory Committee on University Affairs — on which he helped make key decisions that affect University faculty — for more than two years. SACUA members spoke in memory of Frost at their weekly meeting yesterday afternoon.
SACUA Chair Ed Rothman said Frost was always enthusiastic about his work with the organization, particularly in his involvement with the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act, a federal law which mandates how museums handle and record artifacts from Native American tribes.
“Bob’s great strength and caring attitude in the face of his illness were an inspiration to us all,” Rothman said.
SACUA member Kate Barald, a professor in the University’s Medical School and College of Engineering, fondly remembered sitting with Frost at meetings where she said he “always hit the nail on the head” with his great sense of humor and reasoning skills.
SACUA member Stephen Lusmann, an associate professor of music, said Frost fought cancer without self-pity and that he will miss him as a colleague and fellow jazz enthusiast.
A Bethesda, Md. native, Frost was born on Oct. 25, 1952. He completed his undergraduate degree at Grinnell College, where he met his wife. Frost and Hedstrom were married in 1976.
Prior to coming to the University, Frost was an associate professor at State University of New York at Albany. Throughout his career, he held various positions at higher education institutions including Carthage College, Wabash College and American University.
Frost received graduate degrees from the University of Wisconsin–Madison and had several visiting assistant professorships before coming to the University of Michigan in 1995, when he was an associate visiting professor of history. He began teaching in the School of Information in 2000 and became an associate professor in 2003.
Frost was diagnosed with cancer more than two years ago. However, he still taught classes in the School of Information during the time.
Students and colleagues created a Relay for Life group called Team Frost to fundraise for cancer research in honor of him. Rackham student KT Lowe, who is on the Relay for Life team, took two courses with Frost and considered him a friend as well as a committed professor.
“Bob was brilliant and wasn’t afraid to be brilliant,” Lowe wrote in an e-mail interview.
Lowe said the Relay team has raised $6,000 so far, but the team members’ goal is to reach $10,000 before the event on April 9.
Jay Jackson, editor senior in the School of Information’s Office of Development and External Relations, wrote about Frost’s passing on the school’s blog, the SI Informant. Jackson wrote about Frost’s legacy and provided a link in the blog to donate to the American Cancer Society.
“Those who knew (Frost) will always remember him for his forthright manner, his deep concern for the welfare of others, and his unwavering commitment to teaching,” Jackson wrote in the blog.
Frost is survived by his wife, Margaret Hedstrom, an associate dean for academic affairs at the School of Information.
— Daily Staff Reporter Rachel Brusstar contributed to this report.