WORCESTER — Clark University professor Robert Deam Tobin — or Bob for those a little more familiar — known for his work in LGBT studies and European cultural studies, died last week. He was 60 years old.
The Henry J. Leir Professorship in Language, Literature and Culture and Resident Eurovision Expert has left a lasting impact not only on the Clark community but on Worcester as a whole, with contributions such as documentation LGBT history in the county, for which he received a key to the city.
“What stood out to me was his humanity and concern for others. He was a quiet leader and role model,” said Sebastián Royo, provost and vice president of academic affairs at Clark. . “He was a deeply caring person who left an imprint on anyone he connected with because we could all see he really cared.”
Growing up in Eugene, Oregon, Tobin moved to Cambridge to study German literature at Harvard University. In his freshman year, he attended Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität in Munich before earning his AB from Harvard College.
He then obtained a master’s degree and a doctorate. in German Literature from Princeton University in 1987 and 1990 respectively, after spending two years of his thesis at the Albert-Ludwigs-Universität in Freiburg.
He arrived in Clark in 2008, where he would eventually work with Rox Samer, an assistant professor of screen studies, who not only shared common expertise in queer studies, but was also from the same hometown, neighborhood and neighborhood. same high school.
“Bob built a community that extended beyond the walls of the classroom or the Zoom meeting, that brought together friends and colleagues who shared commitments to make the world a better place, a fairer place and a more beautiful place,” Samer said. “Even though the people around him often struggled to agree, he saw the best of us in each of us and encouraged them to flourish.”
Helping others to “feel at home”
Samer said Tobin was often the first person to not only make them feel “at home” to Clark, but also to many other people on campus.
He would invite colleagues to dinner or to one of his “famous parties” with her husband, Ivan, where they would discuss different topics, such as European art and culture, politics or religion.
One of those diners was Royo, who said Tobin was the first person to invite him to dinner when he started at Clark’s over a year ago.
The two quickly found common interests in many of the same subjects, marking the start of an “inspirational relationship”.
“He had a deep cultural sophistication and an admirable passion for other cultures,” Royo said. “And he was great fun! For all of that and more, he was loved and admired by so many of us, and he will be sorely missed.”
He has made his academic contributions across the globe, leading to press and media interviews on his expertise, particularly around Eurovision.
“I remember he was in Italy at the end of spring to attend the Eurovision music festival, and we connected several times by Zoom,” Royo said. “He was having so much fun that I jokingly told him I didn’t understand how this could be considered work and we were paying him to do it!”
Tobin was passionate about Clark and deeply committed to his students, of whom he was proud, Royo said.
“He was a demanding teacher and committed to his students’ learning, but he was also very popular because he cared about his students and they recognized and appreciated him,” he said. “He would also do everything possible to help and support them.”
Distinguished guests at classes
Students were often treated to guests, including scholars, artists and activists, for visits to their classrooms.
“Each visit was more than an academic speech; it was a starting point. He brought distinguished visitors to his undergraduate classes, where it was a student who provided the official welcome and introduction,” said said Meredith Neuman, associate professor and chair of the English department at Clark.
Guests often found themselves photographed by Tobin with the statue of Sigmund Freud on campus.
“There’s something absolutely delightful about the photos he recorded of college superstars, some of the most distinguished scholars in their fields, having fun in front of the Freud statue,” she said. “Some look into the book he is holding, while others lie on the bench, their heads almost on the knees of the father of psychoanalysis.”
Neuman said that while Tobin himself doesn’t appear in the photos, instead being the one behind the camera, the various poses the researchers choose would show off his “signature style.”
“He could find whimsical joy in the most scholarly ideas and draw profound truths from the most frothy examples of popular culture,” she said.