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Memorial Service Set for W&L Emeritus History Professor Robert McAhren

A memorial service will be held on Wednesday, Aug. 19, for Robert McAhren, professor of history emeritus at Washington and Lee University, who died Aug. 4 at Stonewall Jackson Hospital. He was 73.

The service will be at 11 a.m. in the Lee Chapel with the Rev. William M. Klein of Lexington Presbyterian Church presiding. A reception will follow at the Alumni House.

“Bob was a generous and dedicated teacher whose contributions to this community, to his students and to his colleagues went well beyond his work in the classroom,” said Washington and Lee University President Ken Ruscio. “He was a trusted adviser to his colleagues and widely respected for his judgment and principled values.”

McAhren was born in Sioux City, Iowa. He attended Southern Methodist University, earning a B.A. with high honors. He then received his Ph.D. at the University of Texas at Austin in 1967. He was a member of Phi Alpha Theta, the history honor society, and Phi Beta Kappa.

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He joined the Washington and Lee faculty in 1966 as an instructor in history and progressed through the faculty ranks to full professor in 1975. He taught courses in early American history and American social and intellectual history.

From 1971 to 1977, he served as associate dean of the college. He was named acting head of the department of history during the 1986-87 academic year and then served two five-year terms as the head of the department from 1988 through 1998.

In 1990, McAhren was named chairman of the University’s Institutional Effectiveness Committee, which was responsible for strategic planning based on surveys of students, faculty and alumni opinion about the University. McAhren’s leadership of that committee set the groundwork for the University’s Office of Institutional Effectiveness. He was the editor of the University’s Self-Study Report for 1998 and instrumental in establishing both a five-year and long-range plan.

In 2000, he chaired the Faculty Task Force on Inclusiveness at Washington and Lee. That task force eventually gained committee status. Among the initiatives for which the task force was responsible was the addition of sexual orientation in the University’s non-discrimination statement and greater recruitment efforts for students and faculty of color.

“Bob was a dedicated teacher and gifted administrator proud of his work in planning, pedagogy, and his contributions to making Washington and Lee a diverse and inclusive community. We miss him greatly,” said David Peterson, head of the department of history.

In his personal life, McAhren loved opera and cats, was an avid collector of model trains and belonged to That Club, of Lexington.

He is survived by his longtime friend and partner, Thomas Oxendine.

In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made in McAhren’s honor to Washington and Lee University in care of the Office of Development, 204 West Washington St., Lexington, VA 24450-2116 or to the Rockbridge SPCA, 10 Animal Place, P.O. Box 528, Lexington, VA 24450.