Remembering Dr. Robert Howard Shaffer

Shaffer passed away on April 21, 2017, at the age of 101

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

The Indiana University community is saddened to share the news of the passing of Dr. Robert Howard Shaffer on April 21, 2017, at the age of 101.

Dr. Shaffer’s career at IU encompassed faculty and administrative roles from 1941-1981. Shaffer joined the IU faculty in the School of Business in 1941, but left shortly thereafter for wartime service in the U.S. Army from 1943-1945, returning with a joint appointment in the School of Education and School of Business. Appointed in 1955 to the Dean of Students, he responded to changing student demographics and a growing student population creating a campus climate that valued freedom of speech and diversity of opinion. Working with colleagues on campus he was instrumental in the creation of the counseling, veterans affairs, and international services offices on campus. Shaffer returned to the School of Education faculty in 1969 establishing the IU Higher Education and Student Affairs (HESA) graduate program as a national leader in the profession.

Bob Shaffer with students
Dr. Shaffer with students in 1985

Shaffer’s contributions to higher education extended far beyond his formal roles at IU. Shaffer was a national leader in higher education and student affairs, and contributed significantly to the literature surrounding student affairs work in higher education. He served as the first president of the American Personnel and Guidance Association, associate editor of the Personnel and Guidance Journal, secretary of ACPA: College Student Educators International, vice president of NASPA: Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education and the editor of the NASPA Journal.

Shaffer, an energetic, warm, caring person, who embraced life and saw the best in everyone, loved to help others grow. In a 1986 article in the Journal of Counseling and Development, Professors George D. Kuh and Michael D. Coomes noted, “Everybody who knows Bob admires and respects him. For over five decades – as a counselor, dean of students, faculty member, professional association leader, and international consultant – Bob has pursued a simple but important goal: To encourage the personal and professional development of those with whom he has contact. Throughout the world there are thousands of former students, staff members, and professional associates – all of whom he considers friends – who have been touched by Bob’s enthusiasm and commitment to human development.”

The legacy of Dr. Shaffer is found throughout IU, and the higher education and student affairs profession. The Interfraternity and the Center for the Study of the College Fraternity, he established is housed in the Center for Postsecondary Research (CPR) at IU; the Student Life and Learning Office hosts undergraduate students each year through the Shaffer Internship program where they work to create conditions on campus that promote student engagement; and the HESA program honors a doctoral alumna/us annually with the Robert H. Shaffer Alumni Award. At the national level, NASPA honors a tenured faculty member annually with the Robert H. Shaffer Award for Academic Excellence as a Graduate Faculty Member.

Bob Shaffer with his family
Dr. Shaffer with family in 2015

Dr. Shaffer will be missed, and we at Indiana University are thankful for his many contributions that continue to touch the lives of undergraduate and graduate students. A celebration of Dr. Shaffer’s life will be held on the Indiana University Bloomington campus; details are forthcoming.

In lieu of flowers, the family has asked that memorial contributions be designated to the Quality of Student Life Endowment Fund established to honor Robert H. Shaffer in the Division of Student Affairs at Indiana University. Please make checks payable to the IU Foundation, in memory of Dr. Robert Shaffer, PO Box 6460, Indianapolis, IN 46206. The fund supports student services and programming in leadership and personal development.

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