One could say that Hamline University alumnus Robert Green ‘57, MALS ‘96, was decades ahead of his time. Now, his generous $1.4 million estate gift to the university will prepare future Hamline students to meet the challenges of rapidly-evolving technology and to become innovators in the digital realms. His endowed gift will establish the Robert E. Green Distinguished Professorship in Computational Science Fund at Hamline.
“We are so grateful that Mr. Green held Hamline in such high regard throughout his life and that he chose to honor the university with this generous gift,” Hamline University President Fayneese Miller said. “His vision to establish a professorship that brings together the areas of math, science, and computer science is the very hallmark of Hamline’s focus on interdisciplinary study and commitment to preparing our students for the workplace of the future.”
Green earned his chemistry degree from Hamline in 1957 and went on to a successful career working for the Environmental Protection Agency as a chemist and researcher for the University of Minnesota’s Bureau of Mines. Working on computers at various jobs in the early days of technology, Green said he worked on devices that were huge and obsolete and that he would constantly push for the most up-to-date devices. In his spare time he would build his own computers and learn coding. He recognized the power of technology but thought many people were intimidated by computers and apprehensive about technology. He believed that fear would be erased if people were more educated about computers. As the first in his family to go to a four-year college, Green credits Hamline with giving him the support he needed to succeed and for opening his eyes to opportunities he wasn’t aware of previously.
“We are proud of Hamline’s long tradition of seeing the raw talent in our students and giving them the resources and knowledge they need to go on to successful and fulfilling lives and careers,” Hamline Provost John Matachek said. “Robert Green’s gift will help ensure this legacy and further bolster Hamline’s distinctive programs in math and the sciences, as well as the newly-developed business analytics concentration in the School of Business. This gift is a strong fit for the programs the university aims to bolster, and it will also enable the faculty member to conduct research in this field.”
The creation of this endowed professorship is a fitting legacy for a man who strived to achieve through education despite facing difficult obstacles through his life. Green was born prematurely and contracted pneumonia as a newborn. Doctors said there was little chance he would live very long. His early illness resulted in total hearing loss in one ear and limited hearing in the other, but he did survive and went on to excel in school. A standout student at Mechanical Arts High School, a teacher there often asked Green to grade other students’ work. Green attended the University of Minnesota to pursue his bachelor’s degree, but found the large size, lack of personal attention and accommodation for his hearing loss difficult. He transferred to Hamline University on the advice of a friend, and he thrived, particularly in chemistry, math, biology, and physics. Beyond academics, Green said he felt accepted and emotionally supported at Hamline.
"The prestige of graduating from Hamline embellishes your soul," Green said in an interview for Hamline Magazine in 2003. "Lifelong learning is renewal.”
After decades working in the sciences, Green longed to exercise the philosophical side of his brain and round himself out. He returned to Hamline when he was in his 70s to pursue the Master of Arts in Liberal Studies. By that time, Green had already created a Hamline legacy family after convincing his niece that Hamline would be a great fit for her as well.
"We are just in a family where learning counts,” said Green's niece Karin ’74, who not only carried on the family tradition as a Hamline undergraduate, but also earned her MALS from Hamline in 2005. “What a wonderful gift for Bob to give. It is Bob's legacy to education. We all think it is part of our lives."
Green’s gift was made possible by his father who had an 8th grade education and strived for more for his children. Green’s father worked in facilities service at 3M and gifted Green with 3M stock, which Green never cashed in and gifted to Hamline as a way to give back for all he felt the university did for him.
“Education is seen as essential in our family,” Green’s brother Tom said. “It opens the doors to possibility.”
Green passed away in November of 2016 at the age of 91 in the Saint Paul home he lived in all of his life. His gifts to Hamline throughout his life, as well as his very generous estate gift, are a tribute to his dedication to education and will ensure that future generations of Hamline students are prepared for successful careers in the ever-evolving technology industry.