Edgar Stern Robinson died on June 24, 2005, (the day before his eighty-fifth birthday), at the beautiful Collington Retirement Community in rural Mitchellville, MD. Although he had suffered from Parkinson’s disease for most of the previous decade, Ed’s cause of death was reported as congestive heart failure. At his death, he was writing a novel.
While at Amherst, Ed excelled as a student, a speaker, and a debater. He graduated magna cum laude and was elected to Phi Beta Kappa. He went on to earn a master’s in Political Science in 1942 and a Ph.D. in Philosophy in 1953, both from Columbia University.
From 1955 to 1985, Ed was a Political Philosophy Professor at the American University (AU) in Washington, DC and rose to the rank of the “University Professor of Government.” He was extremely popular with his students – both for his erudition and for his wit. His former students hosted a lavish dinner party in his honor when he retired and presented him with a cherished notebook of letters of appreciation.
When asked for our 60th Reunion Book what Amherst faculty most strongly influenced him, Ed went into considerable detail about both Gail Kennedy of the Philosophy Department and Colston Warne of the Economics department. He said that, as Professor Kennedy’s student and assistant, his interest in philosophy was “stoked” and it became the pivot of his academic career. Gail, who had been a student of, and authority on, John Dewey, was also responsible for Ed’s choice of “Dewey’s Thought” as the focus of his Doctoral Dissertation.
Ed ascribes to Professor Warne a large role in his “abiding commitment to the ideal of social justice.” In our 60th Reunion Book, Ed said that the political theory classes he taught at AU “enabled me to encourage thousands of ‘young minds’ to treat the subject as of high relevance to ethics, the daily fortunes of humanity at large, and meeting the responsibilities of citizenship.”
The course that he most enjoyed teaching was titled “Individualism and the Technological Society.” Ed used concepts from that course in his role as a special consultant in the 1970s to a major Congressional project on “Science, Technology and American Diplomacy.”
Although Ed was not an athlete at Amherst, he married an athletic woman named Laura Ashrow in 1948, and they produced two athletic children. Their son, David, became a tennis coach and personal trainer; and their daughter, Tamar Lasky, ended up in Health Fitness Management and blessed Ed and his wife with two granddaughters.
Ed’s wife, Laura, was not only an excellent tennis player but also a successful realtor. After a prolonged struggle, she succumbed to lung cancer in February of 2000. Ed often reminded friends that his wife’s brother was the husband of the well-known actress June Allyson.
Although I did not know Ed at Amherst, I had the privilege of getting to know him quite well through the monthly Class of 1941 lunches that George Spiegel kindly organized in Washington, DC from around 1985 to 1995. George, Ed and I were often joined at these lunches by David Wilkinson and occasionally by Bob Nininger. We always enjoyed Ed’s company and appreciated his intelligence, social concern, and sense of humor.
In summary, Ed Robinson did an outstanding job of upholding Amherst’s ambitious motto of “Terras Irradient” (“Let them enlighten the lands”).
—Davis G. Johnson ’41