Hamline News

In Memoriam: Orem O. Robbins (1915-2017)

Orem Robbins, a Hamline Life Trustee, passed away on May 1, 2017, at the age of 102. 

Born in Minneapolis to Douglas Ford Robbins and Grace Rorem Robbins, Orem was the second of three children. Through his childhood and into adulthood, Robbins found a true passion: the Boy Scouts of America. He earned the level of Eagle Scout as a teenager, and he used principles learned in the Scouts to guide him in his future ventures.

In 1936, Robbins graduated cum laude from the University of Minnesota and, after serving in World War II and working for the Northwestern Bell Telephone Company, earned his law degree from the William Mitchell College of Law in 1948. By 1956, he founded Security Life Insurance Company of America, the first publicly owned life insurance company in Minnesota. This humble business venture grew into the multifaceted financial services company known today as Security American Financial Enterprises (SAFE). Upon his official departure from the armed services in 1966, having spent 20 years in the reserves, Robbins was awarded the Legion of Merit, the nation’s second highest service award.

Robbins was a Hamline University trustee since 1979 and a chair emeritus of the board. He was elected as a life trustee in 1990, and in May 1991, the science building, home to the chemistry and physics departments, was named the Orem Robbins Science Center. In 2003, Robbins established the Robbins Scouting Scholarship in honor of his commitment to both Hamline and the Scouts of America. This scholarship is awarded to at least one male student who has achieved Eagle Scout status and at least one female student who has earned the Girl Scout Gold Award.

It was not only Hamline that was touched by Robbins’ generosity and dedication, though. He was also a member of the Minnesota State Bar Association, emeritus member and past chair of the Methodist Hospital Board of Governors, life member of the board and past president of Family and Children’s Services, and board member and treasurer of Goodwill Industries.

Robbins is predeceased by his first wife, Jean; his second wife, Margaret; his third wife, Annette Strand Scherer Robbins ’36, his son Ford; and his stepson Scott Scherer ’65. He is survived by his son Ross; his daughters, Gail and Cynthia; his stepsons David, Mark, and Greg; and his stepdaughter, Bunny.