Amherst Magazine
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Robert Eccles '58 (1936-1997)

Bob Eccles, a member of Kappa Theta, graduated in 1959 because he took a year off to teach school between junior and senior years. That was a good predictor of the first phase of his career after college. Teaching in independent schools, especially boarding schools, enabled Bob to combine his broad-gauged intellectual and athletic interests. He began with a master’s degree from Western Carolina University and tested himself in the worlds of professional golf and semipro ice hockey.

He then worked as teacher, coach and administrator at seven independent schools, which varied widely in location and mission. At Shattuck School in his home state of Minnesota (Faribault) and Northwood School (Lake Placid, N.Y.) he taught and coached. He was assistant headmaster at Park School (now Park Tudor) in Indianapolis (where he introduced soccer into the curriculum) and also at Fenster School (Tucson, Ariz.) and Asheville School (N.C.). He became headmaster of Milford Academy (Milford, Conn.) and, later, Rockland Country Day School (Congers, N.Y.).

In 1983 Bob retired from independent schools to pursue his varied interests in greater depth than a schoolman ever could. With his wife, Margot, he returned to Indianapolis (site of Margot’s family business). In athletics he became an accomplished international orienteer who earned a silver medal in Masters competition and a bronze in the 1990 U.S. Orienteering Championship. He served on the organizing committee for the 1993 World Orienteering Championships held in Harriman (N.Y.) State Park. Bob, in addition, was good enough to be certified for bobsled competition.

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Intellectually, Bob expanded a freelance writing career in op-ed newspaper pieces and children’s literature. (He was at work on a children’s novel when he died.) And he was an active ham radio operator who spoke regularly to individuals all over the world. At his memorial service one friend said that Bob was an “extraordinary, many-faceted crystal.” He added, “But what he really loved was teaching and the satisfaction he got from opening young minds to the wonderful world of ideas. He had a humanity, a warmth, that made strangers feel at home with him.”

Bob smiled and said “War and Peace” was one of his favorites, too, but he particularly liked reading it in the original Russian."

Another friend told the story of her husband, after seeing a copy of “War and Peace” on Bob’s coffee table, saying impressively that he had read it through seven times. “Bob smiled and said it was one of his favorites, too, but that he particularly liked reading it in the original Russian.” (He was one of the small group that took the four-college Russian course at Amherst.)

Margot Eccles notes that it’s been 10 years since Bob’s death. “We miss him, his little notes and funny drawings, his cooking experiments, his new projects, his hugs. Lacywood [their home] misses him – the trees, the leaves in the fall, his ‘sacred lawn,’ the pool. We have kept our favorites of his Teddy Bear collection and shared others with nieces, nephews, grandkids and friends. We have kept happy memories.”

Bob’s memory is kept in another way. His love of writing, teaching, theater and young people inspired an annual competition in playwriting for central Indiana junior high and high school students. (Margot’s love of theater played a part, too.) Called “Young Playwrights in Process” (YPiP), the program is endowed by the Robert S. and Margot L. Eccles Trust and provides a medal and $1,000 to each of two finalists.

Their daughter, Margot, after years as a successful professional stage manager in Chicago, has become an Episcopal priest. Their two “borrowed” Chinese “sons,” whom they raised from adolescence, are now a business entrepreneur in Bangkok and a professional photographer and teacher in Connecticut.

Margot continues full time as a vice-president of LDI Ltd., a company specializing in wholesale distribution that has been part of her family for four generations. She serves on many nonprofit boards concerned with culture and community in central Indiana. Margot Eccles wishes the Class “Health, Happiness, Prosperity and a wonderful Reunion!”

Robert Stuart Eccles died Nov. 4, 1997, from a brain tumor.

Bob Eccles
Bob and Margot, 1994
 

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