Robert (“Rob”) K. Massey Jr. died on Jan. 7, 2009, in Worcester, Mass. The following is a compilation of the memories of Rob’s sister, Tucker (Massey) Clark (Wellesley ’65) and classmates Steve Adler, Alan Bernstein, Kent Faerber, Tad Larrabee and Ted Truman.
Rob was born and raised in Worcester where he had a long career in post-secondary education. He was the son of Barbara A. (Steinert) Massey (Smith ’38) and Robert K. Massey ’37, and the nephew of Charles Churchill Stafford ’37.
Amherst meant a great deal to him. Starting on the first floor of James, he became a member of Theta Xi. While at Amherst, he sent letters to several prominent American political figures asking for their opinion on a six-year presidential term. He saved written replies from many of them including Eleanor Roosevelt, Alf Landon, Sam Rayburn and, perhaps his favorite, Herbert Hoover. Although he had contact with several classmates over the years, he was pleased to join us for our 45th, his first Reunion.
Rob’s sharp intellect was engaged widely from history to music—especially opera—from politics to passenger trains, from swimming to financial management. He earned an M.A. from the Univ. of Iowa and a Ph.D. from Duke Univ., both in American Studies and maintained close friendships with professors from both schools.
Although Rob was a clear thinker and wrote well (The Dec. ’71 New England Quarterly published his article on early 1930’s Massachusetts politics), he preferred teaching to writing. He was committed to his students and treated them with respect, never allowing his personal life to override his teaching commitments. Education was clearly “his thing.” He was pleased about what he had been doing, and it was obvious he had put his heart and soul into his work. His students were very fortunate to have such a caring and conscientious teacher and friend.
Rob taught by example. He lived determination and resolve, responsibility, loyalty to family, friends and teachers and institutional resources that fed his first-class mind, as well as grace and gratitude for kindnesses. He had a sense of play and of humor, the kind that comes from a fine perspective on the human condition. He was dismissive of phonies and never complained—a generous soul. His wry sense of humor, gentleness and innate kindness made him fun and interesting to be with—easy to laugh about “old ghosts” that needed to be exorcised. Rob was never a show off, never tried to dominate a conversation—if you didn’t know him well, you might never realize how deep his knowledge and interests were. In fact, he knew the Patriots lineup as well as he knew who was singing Isolde at the Metropolitan Opera. He knew that Warren Buffett liked cherry Coke long before Alice Schroeder’s book, The Snowball.
Rob never married but was willing, almost eager, to talk about his relationships with the women in his life. He seemed very traditional, almost formal, in his dating life, and, ever the optimist, thought there still might be someone for him. This side of him was disarmingly charming, and he certainly was willing to open up his inner feelings to those he talked with.
Rob swam laps almost every day even after the time a few years go when his heart stopped while swimming and he was resuscitated.
A volunteer at the Worcester Animal Rescue League, Rob was also a member of the Massachusetts S.P.C.A., American Historical Association, Organization of American Historians and Metropolitan Opera Guild.
In his memorial to his uncle in Amherst, Fall 2007, Rob mentioned another Class of 1937 member, Edwin C. Rozwenc, one of Rob’s favorite Amherst professors. “Will we ever see their likes again?” Rob wrote. Rob was clearly of their “likes.”
—Tad Larabee ’63