April 03, 2013 | Matt Kucinski

Roberts began his teaching career at Calvin in 1969.

The Calvin community is mourning the loss of professor emeritus Frank Roberts, who died on Friday, March 29, 2013, at the age of 75. During his 32-year tenure at Calvin, Roberts served as a faculty member in the college’s history department (1969-2001), as an academic dean (1990-1997) and as the college’s first director of off-campus programs (1997-2001).

A man of many qualities

Roberts’ former colleagues describe him as hard-working and dependable, level-headed and energetic, collegial and generous. He’s also described as a fine historian, a man of integrity and someone who had impassioned forthrightness. 

“Frank was passionate in his commitments, and he didn't allow himself to be pushed around easily,” said Calvin history professor David Diephouse, “but he also had a historian's healthy sense of complexity, which made him tolerant of personal foibles and respectful of conflicting opinions.”

“Frank once told me that the greatest compliment that he received as dean occurred when one of his colleagues stated, ‘Frank, we didn't always agree with you, but we knew that you had integrity,’” recalled Robert Bolt, history professor emeritus.

“I was always amazed at how much he knew in general and how well informed he was in his diverse areas of responsibility,” said history professor Bert DeVries. “He used that knowledge to speak truth and justice fearlessly, and with an ironic blend of emotion and moderation that made you listen and appreciate what he had to say.”

A pioneer abroad

DeVries, who is in Jordan for the spring semester, is grateful to Roberts for his work in developing programs overseas. During Roberts’ short tenure as director of off-campus programs he oversaw the creation of five new semester programs, with student participation in the programs climbing dramatically.

“Calvin's current reputation for excellent overseas studies programs rests squarely on Frank's pioneering foundations,” said DeVries. “Unless you've actually dealt with foreign bureaucracies it is nearly impossible to fathom just how much energetic and persistent creativity it took to establish programs abroad in cultures as diverse as Ghana and Honduras.”

Roberts graduated from Calvin in 1962. He completed his M.Div. at Calvin Theological Seminary in 1965 and then a Ph.D. in history and church history at Vanderbilt University in 1973. During his time at Calvin, Roberts was looked at as an expert in European history and the Reformation.

Roberts is survived by his wife of 49 years, Doris Roberts. He is also survived by his brothers David (Cindy) and Doug, his four children, Barth (Denise), Blake (Kristina Oliveira), Corey (Brynne) and Derek (Kristen) and his seven grandchildren.

There will be a memorial service held at 2 p.m. on Sunday, April 7, at the Calvin College Chapel. There will be a visitation that same day from 3:30 to 5:30 p.m. at the Woodlawn Christian Reformed Ministry Center.

Frank Roberts

A painting by Frank Speyers

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