Robben Fleming (b. Dec. 18, 1916; d. Jan. 11, 2010) was president of the University of Michigan from 1968 to 1978.
He was a long time member of Ann Arbor Rotary and a former club president.
Age 93, President of the University of Michigan from 1968-78 and in an interim capacity in 1988, died peacefully at Glacier Hills Retirement Community, in Ann Arbor, MI, on January 11, 2010. Known nationally and internationally, he will be fondly remembered and greatly missed on a personal level by his family and the many friends, colleagues and students whose lives he touched.
Mr. Fleming was born on December 18, 1916 in Paw Paw, IL. Like many of his generation, he began life as a common man who went on to accomplish many uncommon things. He earned degrees from Beloit College (1938) and the University of Wisconsin Law School (1941) before serving in the U.S. Army during World War II. He was director of the University of Wisconsin's Industrial Relations Center from 1947-52, then established and headed up the Institute of Labor and Industrial Relations at the University of Illinois, where he also subsequently taught labor law until being named Chancellor of the University of Wisconsin in 1964.
Mr. Fleming was named Michigan's ninth President in the fall of 1967. Many believe the most important contribution of his 12-year tenure was his successful steering of the university during times of student and national unrest. When he announced his retirement in 1978, students, faculty and administrators all praised his calm leadership and efforts to preserve academic discipline, along with intellectual and personal freedom, during the period. They cite superior communication skills, openness, willingness to take on challenges, and the ability to unite as keys to his success.
After leaving Michigan, Mr. Fleming served as President of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting in Washington, D.C., from 1979-81 and was responsible for securing the original Annenberg Project funding. Principally retired after that, he returned to Ann Arbor and taught in the Michigan Law School until becoming Professor Emeritus in 1985. He was "in demand" and remained active well into his 80's. He joined many distinguished business and public boards, foundations and educational institutions. As an invited member of educational delegations, he visited more than 20 countries and he also received 21 honorary degrees. He authored three books, including his 1996 auto- biography, "Tempests Into Rainbows - Managing Turbulence".
Mr. Fleming was married for 63 years to his college sweetheart, Aldyth (Sally) Quixley Fleming, who died in 2005. They made a great team and he always said "we" when referring to his positions as the head of two Big Ten universities. He acknowledged, without fail, that his success also belonged to his longtime partner. He was also preceded in death by father Edmund P. Fleming, mother Emily Jeannette (Wheeler) Boutwell, and brothers Theodore and Jack Fleming. He is survived by children Nancy (Josh) Reckord of Eugene, OR, James (Evey) Fleming of Madison, WI, and Betsy (J.P.) DiMaggio of Saline, MI. He is also survived by five grandchildren - Rachel (Brian Varricchione) Reckord, Benjamin (Sarah) Fleming, Eben Reckord, Dana DiMaggio and Jim DiMaggio - and one great grandson, Cameron Fleming.
A man of dignity, generosity, gentleness and grace, Mr. Fleming enjoyed playing golf, reading, "a little nip" of ice cream, and watching sports. He was a wonderful storyteller and often entertained young children with vivid - and wildly outlandish - stories. Cremation has taken place.
A memorial service will be held at 1:30 p.m. Sunday, January 17, at the First Presbyterian Church, 1432 Washtenaw Ave. in Ann Arbor. A University of Michigan memorial service will take place at 11 a.m. on Wednesday, January 20, at the Lydia Mendelssohn Theatre (Michigan League). In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to Arbor Hospice (2366 Oak Valley Drive, Ann Arbor, 48103), the Alzheimer's Association (alz.org) or to the Sally Fleming Master Class (University of Michigan School of Music, Theatre & Dance, Office of Development, 2005 Baits Drive, Ann Arbor, 48109-2075).
- Robben Fleming stories on AnnArbor.com
- Robben Fleming stories on Ann Arbor Chronicle
- Robben Fleming stories in Heritage Media newspapers
- Robben Fleming stories in the Google News archives