Bob Zehner was an American-born Australian educator whose passions were teaching, cricket, and bushwalking.

Bob was born in Norwalk, Connecticut in 1941, the son of John Randall Zehner, civil engineer, and Margaret Bolles Zehner, schoolteacher and social worker. He grew up in Nyack, New York, and married Ruth Sauter, botanist, in 1964.

Educated at Amherst College and with an MA and PhD in sociology from the University of Michigan, Bob held teaching positions at the University of Michigan and the University of North Carolina before moving to Australia in 1975 on a Fulbright scholarship. After returning briefly to the University of North Carolina, the family moved to Australia permanently in July 1976. Bob was a member of the Faculty of Built Environment at the University of NSW where he held a series of leadership roles including Head of the School of Town Planning, Associate Dean (Education), and Senior Associate Dean. He was a mace-bearer for Faculty graduation ceremonies from 2007-2010. Bob was also instrumental in establishing the workplace giving program at UNSW and in the creation of three awards, the last bearing his name. He also sat on numerous committees and councils for the wider University. Ill health caused him to retire from an active role at the University in November 2010.

Bob was passionate about teaching. At UNSW he taught Urban Sociology, Research Methodology, Quantitative Methods, Photography (team-taught with a professional photographer), Integrated Planning – Communication, and Planning Theory and Practice. He subscribed to W.B Yeats’ view that “Education is not filling a bucket, but lighting a fire.” He aimed to create an environment for student-directed, project-based learning, where his role was an active guide. Bob was a recipient of the UNSW Vice-Chancellor’s Award for Teaching Excellence; a UNSW nominee for a national teaching award; and the recipient of a national citation from the Australian Learning and Teaching Council for Outstanding Contributions to Student Learning. He also took great pride in the successes of others: his family, students, and those he mentored. Three junior colleague mentees were recipients of UNSW Vice-Chancellor’s Awards for Teaching Excellence; he supervised theses of six undergraduate University Medalists; and five students whose theses won state and national awards.

His research interests included life in Australian mining towns, nationwide surveys of local government planners and climate change, planning education, and studio teaching in art, architecture and design. Bob was a driving force behind ConnectED 2007, the first International Conference on Design Education, which featured 200 refereed papers from more than twenty-five countries. ConnectED was a collaboration of the Faculty of Built Environment, the Faculty of Engineering and the UNSW College of Fine Arts.

Away from his work, Bob coached and umpired his son’s cricket teams, and gained full umpire’s accreditation. He umpired more than 100 grade cricket matches. He was a keen bushwalker, completing the Milford Track, Overland Track, and the Grand Traverse Walk. Bob completed the City-to-Surf 29 times, and had a great love of travel and photography.

Bob passed away on 21 August 2013 after a long battle with prostate cancer. He is survived by his wife of 48 years Ruth, his sons David and Eric, his daughter-in-law Rachel and his grandchildren Annabelle and Zachary. A celebration of Bob’s life will be held in the Council Chambers in the Chancellery Building at the University of NSW on 27 September.