Robert Dolphin Jr.

DolphinRobert Dolphin Jr., 84, on October 19, 2019, at Friendship Village Tempe’s Health Care Center in Tempe, Ariz. Bob was born on June 7, 1935, in Richmond, Va., to Cora and Robert Dolphin. He spent his first five years on a farm, playing with African American children, and was confused when in town he was restricted from playing with these children. His comfort with people of all races and social backgrounds was a mark of his life. When he was in seventh grade, the family settled in Hammond, Ind. He was a heavyweight wrestling champion at Hammond Technical Vocational High School, qualifying for the Indiana state meet and earning a full-ride scholarship to the University of Iowa, longtime national wrestling champions. But 19 days before reporting to the university, he contracted polio. He spent several weeks in an iron lung and a year in therapy, learning new ways of doing things, as his arms never recovered. Having made new life plans, he attended Indiana University in Bloomington, where he met Nancy Wentworth. Although they lived in different cities, they began dating in earnest when his Hammond friends figured out a way to re-rig a car steering wheel to be driven by his feet. They married in 1962, under the care of Bloomington (Ind.) Meeting and Lanthorn Meeting in Indianapolis, Ind.

They lived for a time on the Michigan State University campus in Lansing, where he was a second-year doctoral student in business. Then they moved to Flint, Mich., for him to gather dissertation data on people entering bankruptcy. His recommendations became part of a new U.S. bankruptcy law. After his graduation he worked at Florida State University for three years, discovering in Tallahassee the nuances of discrimination in the South. Then he joined the faculty of a new school in Fairborn, Ohio: Wright State University. At Wright State he was department chair and then dean of the graduate school.

Here the family, finally able to attend meeting, became active in Xenia (Ohio) Friends Church, and Bob became a member, Nancy being a Friend from birth. At Wilmington College, he became a member of the board and then the president’s assistant. The next move was to the University of Northern Colorado for him to be dean of the School of Business and for Nancy to teach in the School of Nursing. They were able to attend Boulder (Colo.) Meeting occasionally during that time. Three years later he became dean at Fort Lewis College (FLC) in Durango, Colo., where he made his greatest contribution, first as dean and then as vice president, in which role he was influential in getting legislative funding for ten new buildings and renovations. During his last two years there, he was acting president. In Durango he served on the City Council as mayor, utilizing his problem-solving skills, effective mentoring, and financial knowledge.

In his later years he lived in Tempe (winter) and Durango (summer). He was clerk of Durango Meeting, a member of the Council and Oversight Committee in Tempe, a member of the Finance Committee in both meetings, and clerk of Intermountain Yearly Meeting. In his last six years, his nerves and muscles aged prematurely and gave out; he became unable to walk or stand alone. The week before his death, FLC named the Executive Suite in his honor. When his respiration muscles failed, he died.

Bob is survived by his wife of 57 years, Nancy Wentworth Dolphin; two children, William Robert Dolphin (Michelle Newhart), who is active in Claremont (Calif.) Meeting, and Christina Ann Dolphin (Jerry Safir); five grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren.

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