Robert Christman was the most dedicated, contributory person I have ever known. In his quiet, unassuming way, he gave tirelessly and selflessly to so many people in so many areas of interest and need. I first met Bob, almost four decades ago, through the National Association of Geology Teachers - a venerable and totally volunteer science organization at the time. Not only by serving as the organization's Executive Director for many years, but straight through to recent months, he continued to contribute to the association's activities; whenever there was a need, Bob was there.
Bob was also there for me personally in the early 1990's when I needed to find a summer home for a multi-year NSF funded earth science teacher workshop. I asked Bob if there might be a way to have Western Washington University serve as our home base. Over several years, and without any hesitation or reservation, Bob made it happen. He arranged housing, computer laboratory facilities, and conducted numerous fieldtrips that in an upfront and personal manner presented the diverse terrane of the Pacific Northwest. Workshop participants, many generations his younger, marveled at his stamina as he led the way up the volcanic slopes of Mt. Baker, or along the sedimentary slopes of Chuckanut Drive to observe the exquisite fern and palm fossils of Eocene age. Participants watched in astonishment as after hitching a support rope between two trees, he was able to stand - for what seemed like an eternity - in fast flowing, bone chilling, glacial meltwaters to lend a hand to everyone until all crossed safely.
With his beloved wife Bess, we were hosted to dinners at their home where we came to sample multiple home-grown bounties from his garden, and reveled in his salad topping nasturtiums. In his kitchen we saw pictures of his now storied Halloween costumes (Bob as the Pillsbury Doughboy was my favorite), and on their deck overlooking Bellingham Bay we sampled his homemade wines. The group shared stories until the sun went down on all manner of things, but with his immutable twinkle in his eyes, and words interspersed by his chuckle, we liked Bob's the best. As his son-in-law was a fisherman, he saw to it that every teacher had a chance to bring back home fresh caught salmon. Unbeknownst to us at the time, Bob, Bess and their daughter worked late into the night to prepare, and package the salmon with frozen blue ice packs for transport. Such was the unpretentious, making a difference manner of Bob and his family.
In 2008, the National Association of Geoscience Teachers established the Robert A. Christman Award for Distinguished Service. Last year, I was the recipient of this award, and nothing in my professional life has held greater meaning. Bob's quiet competence and goodness of soul will be missed inordinately by his many colleagues and friends who knew him. Through his steadfast contributions and what he was able to help put in place, he continues to serve both those who have had the privilege to know him as well as many others for years to come.
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