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In Memoriam: Robert Frost, 1952-2011

I am sad to announce the passing of Robert L. "Bob" Frost (1952-2011). Bob was an associate professor at the University of Michigan School of Information, my alma mater, where he had taught since 2000. Bob had been battling cancer for over two years. Ed Vielmetti has written an obituary of Bob on his blog, including the announcement from SI Dean Jeffrey Mackie-Mason.

Bob was an inspiration to many of us SI alums, and his magnetic personality, sharp wit, and joie de vivre ensured he had a bevy of his students and colleagues buzzing around him at any given time. I had the opportunity to take his class Material Culture and the Interpretation of Objects in the spring of 2004, my final semester at SI. The class was intense in a way that few of my other classes at Michigan were, and it provoked my continuing curiosity in identifying theoretical frameworks to analyze the everyday world.

Bob reinforced my fascination with Wilhelm Reich and The Fugs by introducing me to Dušan Makavejev's W.R.: Mysteries of the Organism to the point I still have the DVD bootleg copy he made me in 2004. He challenged me to become an advocate for unpopular and "unrealistic" ideas. He introduced me to the history of science. Most importantly, he was a faculty member in a huge and ever-growing graduate program who seemed to enjoy nearly every interaction he had with a student, and encouraged us to reach out to him to send him links to "cool stuff" on the Web that might interest him.

Donations in his honor may go to Team Frost.

Repose en paix, Bob.



  • 💬 Alex Horak at March 28, 2011, 08:01 UTC:

    Bob Frost, you were the greatest professor a student could ask for; your class more than any other single contributing factor, has motivated my future aspirations. I thank you for our in-depth talks and your inspirational enthusiasm for the future of this world.
    with sadness,
    just one of an innumerable amount of inspired students.

  • 💬 Maureen at March 28, 2011, 23:48 UTC:

    OMG, Bob gave me a bootleg copy of WR too. And boy, I needed it. Bob did great work historicizing and theorizing a discipline (and profession) that too often is dominated by what I've heard him call the codeheads -- people who think that anything that happened more than ten years previous isn't worth talking about, who have no sense of history and struggle and equality, and what that might have to do with what we do. Bob professed the utility and joy of theory.

    I know that at least while I was at SI, there was a small but vocal minority of students who felt alienated by the business-school-lite curriculum. We could always count on Bob to represent with cultural studies, French theory, and a healthy dose of radicalism (or at least really fun mouthing off). I think I would have dropped out of graduate school if it wasn't for Bob Frost.

    Bob was so many things all at once -- funny, flaky, brilliant, scattered, insightful, principled, pontificating, subversive. Most importantly, I think, was that Bob was FUN. He gave me hope that there is room for people to think important things and for that process to be meaningful in such a nuts and bolts profession. He built meaningful relationships with his students that weren't just about the economy of the classroom - he truly let us contribute our best selves, with very few limits.

  • 💬 Robert Raffi Varoujian at September 20, 2011, 16:46 UTC:

    As freshman and a sophmore at SUNY Albany in 1989, I had the honour of taking classes by Professor Frost three times. They were, without doubt, the most exciting, illuminating, challenging and memorable during my time at Albany. It was with a great sense of shock that I learned of his passing. He was an inspiring man who loved teaching, and whose students loved to be taught by him. The many generations whose lives he has touched are his greatest legacy. I have never forgotten him and never will. The world is a poorer place with his lost. Godspeed Bob.