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Memorials: Tempe Friends Meeting

Robert Dolphin Jr.

Date of birth

June 7, 1935

Date of death

Oct. 19, 2019


Tempe Friends Meeting

Memorial minute

Robert (Bob) Dolphin Jr. was born in Richmond Virginia June 7, 1935 to Robert and Cora Dolphin. For the first five years of his life he lived on a self-sustaining farm on the rich lands along the James River. His father was a good business man and was able to support family members and college-educate his oldest son through the Depression. Bob recalls confusion when he went to town with his parents to buy sugar and flour and sell their eggs when he was restricted from playing with the African-American children he saw there since he had only such companions when he was on the farm. His comfort with people of all races and social backgrounds was a mark of his entire life. 

In 1940 the family began an itinerant life that was to last the next seven years. His mother had such severe asthma that she nearly died every Spring. WWII was beginning and there was need for construction workers to build jet fuel plants. His parents reluctantly left the beloved farm for the sake of Cora’s health. Bob’s father moved from job to job doing steam pipe fitting (oversized plumbing). As one job finished, the family moved to the next one. This resulted in Bob attending seven different schools in the second grade. At the end of the school year, his then teacher suggested he attend just one school to repeat the year. This moving around resulted in three on-going themes in Bob’s life: 1) his love for his aunt and uncle who took him in, 2) learning how to survive as the perpetual “new kid” and 3) a dislike of demonstrating his knowledge to his latest teacher. 

By seventh grade, the family had settled in Hammond, Indiana, as there was always work in the Chicago area. There Bob was determined to be such a poor student that he should attend a Vocational High School. This was the saving of his academic performance. At Hammond Vo-Tec he met Wrestling Coach Paul Hayman who was to change Bob’s life. Bob loved to wrestle, but if you did not have good grades that week, you sat on the bench. Bob became a champion Heavy-Weight, qualifying for the Indiana state meet. His performance earned him a full ride scholarship to University of Iowa, long time national champions. Wrestling also brought him close friends who folded him into their activities at the First Christian Church. 

Nineteen days before reporting to the University, Bob was in an iron lung. And there he stayed for several weeks before beginning the gradual recovery typical of polio. He took a year out of his life for therapy and learning new ways of doing things as his arms never recovered. He also had to make new life plans—no more a dentist would he be. After interviewing a variety of businessmen, it was determined that accounting could be a good profession. He started his work at Indiana University in Bloomington. As a senior, he first met his wife-to-be Nancy Wentworth. Toward the end of that year his Hammond friends had figured out a way to re-rig the steering wheel on a car so it could be driven with your feet and their dating life began. Romance was always complicated by the fact that they lived in different cities. 

When Nancy graduated, they were married the next weekend, June 10, 1962. They obtained a married student housing apartment on the Michigan State University campus in Lansing where Bob was a second-year Doctoral student in Business. Thirteen months later their first child was born, William Robert Dolphin, now active in the Claremont, CA Meeting. In the next few months, the three-some moved to Flint Michigan where Bob was gathering data on characteristics of people who enter bankruptcy for his dissertation. His recommendations have become part of the new US Bankruptcy law. In Flint Bob’s father, now a widower, became part of the family and remained so for 25 years until his death. 

Bob’s first post-graduation job was at Florida State University (Tallahassee) where he discovered the nuances of discrimination in the South. His daughter Christina Ann Dolphin was born there December 7, 1965. Following three years at FSU, Bob was enticed to join the faculty of a new school in Fairborn OH, near Dayton. At Wright State University he was department chair then Dean of the Graduate School. It was there that the family was finally able to attend Friends Meeting, Xenia Friends of FUM, where the whole family was active and Bob became a member, Nancy being a birth-right Friend. Bob also became a member of the Board and then the President’s assistant at Wilmington (OH) Friends College. During that time Nancy was a nursing faculty member at Kettering College of Medical Arts and completed her PhD in nursing. 

The next move was to University of Northern Colorado (Greeley) for Bob to be Dean of the School of Business and Nancy to join the faculty of the School of Nursing. They were able to attend Boulder Meeting occasionally during that time. Three years later Bob was nominated for the Dean’s position at Fort Lewis College (Durango CO) where he made his greatest contribution, first as Dean then Vice President where he was influential with the legislature in getting funding for ten new buildings and renovations then during his last two years as Acting President. The week before his death the Executive Suite at FLC was named in his honor. 

During his time in Durango he was also very active in community affairs. His problem-solving skills, effective mentoring and financial knowledge were all used by City Council including serving as mayor, Chamber of Commerce, Arts Council, Choral Society, Boy Scouts, heading the campaign for a new Public Library, and United Way. In Intermountain Yearly Meeting he served as Clerk of the Finance Committee. In Tempe and Durango Monthly Meetings he was on the Finance Committee, Clerk in Durango, on Council and Oversight in Tempe. Because his year was split between Tempe (winter) and Durango (summer), his service was in both Meetings.

Bob and Nancy entered Friendship Village of Tempe retirement facility in 2010. He was active in Village affairs until he could no longer do so. He was a major force on the Friendship Village Residents Council Finance Committee, as well as on the Communications Committee. He made many friends in the Village and was admired by all.

The last six years of his life the nerves and muscles that had been retrained began to age prematurely and give out; he once again was unable to walk or stand alone. The final end to his life came when his muscles of respiration failed and he died at Friendship Village Tempe Health Care Center on October 19, 2019. Memorial services followed in Tempe and Durango where he was remembered for his kindnesses to all people. 

Bob is survived by his wife of fifty-seven years, Nancy Wentworth Dolphin, son William (Michelle Newhart), daughter Christina (Jerry Safir), five grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren.