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Robert van Waes, First Staffer for ASC, Dies at Eighty-Seven

By Jordan E. Kurland

AAUP members who go back to the 1960s and 1970s will well remember associate secretary Robert Van Waes, who was teaching history at New Jersey’s Monmouth College in 1960, when the Association undertook a governance investigation there. Bob immediately became immersed in our work, was recruited for the national staff, and proved to be one of its most active and dynamic members until his retirement in 1975.

Notable among Van Waes’s AAUP staff assignments were student rights and freedoms and campus tensions over an end to segregation and over the Vietnam War. His decade and a half with us witnessed years of great growth in American higher education and analogous growth in the AAUP as an organization. His outstanding strength was in organizational development, and he was instrumental in achieving impressive increases in numbers of members, chapters, and state conferences. In 1960, when Bob began on the staff, the AAUP had 42,000 members; before he left, membership peaked at 90,000. The AAUP had 622 local chapters in 1960; Bob’s strenuous efforts were largely responsible for a peak number exceeding 1,000. The number of state conferences increased from thirty-two when Bob began to forty-five when he retired.

Bob was perhaps proudest of his role in the development of the Assembly of State Conferences. For a couple of years before he joined the staff, a few conference presidents who went to the AAUP’s annual meeting had arranged to get together to discuss common interests. Bob convinced the group to adopt a formal structure, and he saw to it that the meeting of the group, initially named the Assembly of State and Regional Conferences, was on the printed program for annual meeting events. Inviting the president of the ASC to attend national Council meetings was also done at Bob’s initiative, and it was not long afterward that the ASC acquired official representation on our governing body and gained general acknowledgment as part of the AAUP’s national structure.

Bob Van Waes lived his retirement years in rural Maine, engaging in a variety of community volunteer work and writing a column for a local newspaper. His wife Lois died in 1995. Last January in Arizona he suffered a disabling stroke, and death came on July 12.

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