Fond Farewell: Child Development Professor Emeritus Jim Roberts
Professor Emeritus Jim Roberts, who taught child development and worked in Regional & Continuing Education for 28 years, passed away December 12. He was 84.
Born December 19, 1936, in San Mateo, he spent time as a taxi driver, gas station attendant, and laundry driver before getting serious about his studies and enrolling at California State University, Fresno. In 1962, he earned his bachelor’s degree and was immediately accepted into its master’s degree program. He continued his studies at Oregon State University, where he earned his EdD in child development in 1970.
That same year, he was hired at Chico State as a faculty member in home economics with the intention of developing a child development program. As he coordinated and developed the program, he was adamant that the program should draw faculty and curricula from existing departments.
Professor Emerita Judy Bordin recalled that Roberts was her first advisor when she arrived at Chico State as a transfer student. She could tell he was incredibly proud of the major, which he not only led through its formation but established a blueprint that would sustain for years to come as they became colleagues.
“The important part that Jim saw about the major was that it was interdisciplinary, to create an understanding of child development from a point of view that encompassed the emotional, the psychological, the physical, and all the other parts of how a child grows and develops,” she said. “He was quite remarkable.”
Later in his career, he transitioned into an administrator role in Regional & Continuing Education (RCE), serving as the associate dean from the 1990s until retirement in 1998. There, he oversaw many of its traditional programs such as summer and winter session, non-credit courses, and extension classes. He also managed many major contracts and grants, including a noteworthy partnership with the California Department of Corrections and an institute for independent insurance agents nationwide.
When Emerita Dean of RCE Debra Barger came to Chico State for her initial interview, Roberts was the first person she met, and he proved incredibly helpful in orienting her to the campus and greater community. They went on to work together for a decade, during which time she appreciated his good sense of humor, dedication for the work, and advocacy for Chico State and the community.
“He connected well with students, partly because he was also a landlord which made him familiar with student housing needs,” Barger said. “Housing and food insecurity are terms we are really familiar with now but back when people didn’t talk about those things, he had a soft spot in his heart for students and their housing challenges.”
Professor Emeritus Ralph Meuter and Roberts not only joined the faculty the same year but they lived across the street from one another and became good friends. Their families “grew up together,” he said, adding that the two colleagues also enjoyed competing in a fantasy football league and playing poker together.
On campus, Roberts made friends with a number of faculty and staff, Meuter said. With his down-to-earth, approachable nature and administrative expertise, he was both wonderful to work with and incredibly talented in his job. It was Roberts, he said, who drew him to RCE, where Meuter eventually served as dean.
“He was a lifeblood for us,” Meuter said. “He was excellent in the process of hiring and hired some of the best people in Continuing Ed. I watched him as he administered really complex and large grant programs. I learned so much from him. I wasn’t even 30 years old and had never been in an administrative role. I loved to teach but he taught me how to be a great administrator.”
After retiring, Roberts enjoyed traveling the globe with his wife, Judy, attending theatre performances, and spending time with his grandchildren. He also remained an avid golfer and played courses around the world.
Roberts is survived by his wife, Judy; son Jeff Roberts; daughter Jana Peck Stoiber, and grandchildren Trevor Peck and Olivia Stoiber. The family plans to hold a private graveside service at a future date. Memorial contributions in his name can be made to the Alzheimer’s Association.
The University flag will be lowered Wednesday, December 22, in his memory.