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Tributes from Friends of Beth and Robin
From Heather Hellenga '90:
I don't remember exactly when I first met Beth, she is woven throughout all my years at Knox and beyond, but I know it was freshman year. I became part of her group of friends from Post 1, and what I do remember about those days is how Beth, even though she was so quiet, would always stand out: whether it was with her punk hairstyle, eclectic wardrobe, or a unique piece of jewelry. She stood out without seeking attention.
Our friendship has remained a source of comfort and kindness all these years since graduation, strengthened by shared experiences of marriage and motherhood and annual reunions with our close-knit group of college friends. I knew Beth as a dear friend, but it is clear to me that the qualities that Beth shared with me are the traits that defined all her relationships. As a friend, mother, doctor, community leader, athlete, professor, mentor, and neighbor, she revealed the same warm, generous, intelligent, adventurous, kind, compassionate and fierce spirit that was evident in our years together at Knox.
When I think of Beth, I see her warm smile and intense gaze. She was always so present and engaged, listening intently, ready to provide direction, wisdom, and laughter in equal measure. Beth’s steadfastness, humor, beauty, silliness, calm, and determination will be with me always. After any conversation or encounter with Beth, my day was better. And of course, my life was better for having her in it.
The impact Beth had on my life is great, and greater still is the positive impact she has had in so many spheres. Until I read the memories shared by others, I had no idea of all that Beth had accomplished: in addition to being a physician and professor, she served as the medical director of employee health services for the University of Wisconsin health clinics, advocated for patients from underserved communities, introduced initiatives aimed at fostering the wellness of her health care colleagues, and was studying to become a Zen priest, all while balancing a rich and active involvement in her personal, family, and community life.
Beth’s commitment to living a full life, dedicated to making the world fairer and brighter is a powerful one. Her legacy of service to others has changed the lives of all those she encountered. I am forever grateful that our paths crossed.
From Jeff Gossrow '88:
Robin, quel mec! Was there ever a better friend? I wonder. Robin was such an important person in my life. It was the many, many moments we shared over the years that really built our great and endearing bond.
Suddenly, out of the blue, I remember our very first introduction. I was visiting the Knox College campus as a high school prospective. The Athletics Office arranged for me to meet two players on the Knox men’s soccer squad. One of them was Eric Hockett, the other Robin. To really cinch my going to Knox, Eric and Robin escorted me to the Phi Delt house, which was in full Bowery Party mode. It became clear to me that academics was not the only facet of the Knox experience.
Looking back, all of the hallmarks of Robin’s personality were present. The social affability, the sharp wit, the quiet demeanor, the laugh that would light up his face. I came to Knox and played soccer with Robin. As many of us know, soccer was one of his great passions, one that continued through his whole life. As a player, he possessed a stealthy midfield style, punctuated with quickness and dexterity. If you were an opposing player, you had better be careful with the ball, otherwise Robin would pick it, turn the other direction, and re-direct our squad to offensive play.
Mirthful could well describe Robin. It was the well-delivered pun, or the satirical side comment, followed by the Robin laugh that made it unique. And, I guess you could use the word to describe Robin’s approach to life. He was my pledge trainer, and I think definitely in gest, the training “program” was developed to re-enforce Robin’s viewpoint that learning the ways of the fraternal order was not to be taken too seriously, like other aspects of life. A good example of this was his requirement that we watch Valley Girl, the Nicolas Cage movie about the outsider who meets the popular girl in high school. The pledges were tested on our knowledge of the movie, along with the Greek alphabet.
We had a shared Francophilia. Through Robin, I met his brother, Ken. Ken ran a camping tour company that hosted tours for French people, driving all over the southwestern United States. Both Robin and I served as cook and driver on a couple of these tours, and one summer, our paths crossed in the Grand Canyon.
I’ll never forget this. Robin had earlier in his tour, dove into Lake Powell with the van keys in his pocket. The keys were lost, sunk to the bottom, and since this was Bullfrog, Utah, the closest locksmith was 100 miles away. There went the profits of that trip. But, I, too, had to share my own snafu when we were sitting by the campfire in the Grand Canyon that evening, as I had reared my van into a concrete post, punching a huge dent in the passenger door. It was not a profitable summer for Ken. So, Robin and I perhaps shared a daft quality. I would lose my wallet fairly often. He would do things like stalling the family van in a flooded Madison street, like he did a couple of years ago.
The years went on, and we remained in each other’s orbit. When I was in graduate school, I hosted a party that was attended by several Knox friends, including Robin, and Beth. Now, Beth and I went way, way back. Our parents, all Knox graduates, were good friends, and we spent many vacations together. And when the Gossrows moved to Springfield, we visited often with the Potters, who lived just a few blocks away. Beth and I liked to cross country ski and play ping-pong together, and sometimes we would play tennis. She was so bright, a great student, a talented athlete, and she had such a hearty and warm laugh. We got along terrifically in those days growing up.
After the party, Robin called me, requesting Beth’s phone number. Well, I forgot. He asked me twice more, and I forgot twice more, yet somehow he managed to get Beth’s phone number, and, voila, the rest was history! I see so much love resonating from the wedding photos I’ve seen in recent days. They were in many ways a terrific match. Who else but Beth could always laugh at Robin’s jokes?!
After moving to Madison, Beth and Robin started a family, raising Ezra, Jonah and Mimi with love and devotion. They became a huge part of the Madison community, something which has so often been acknowledged in the stories and postings I’ve been reading. Robin and Beth would always make a point of getting together with me and other Chicago-area friends when they were visiting Illinois. That was one of the many qualities they shared, building and maintaining friendships, from all phases of their lives.
And, in recent years, Robin and I hung out more, and our friendship grew. I guess when you get older, you get better at recognizing how deeply you care for the amazing, special people in your life. We vacationed in Crested Butte, watched the Cubs play, and listened to Wilco jam some of our favorite tunes, all in the past year. We were really getting into a good groove in our older years, and I was looking forward to many more exploits.
What I have now are the fond memories, the many experiences and joyful moments that we shared and which brought us even closer over the years. Robin, you will always be close to me. Tu me manques, mon ami.
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