A Toast to Bob Witmer
By Joel Seligman
With the May meeting of the University’s Board of Trustees, G. Robert Witmer Jr. ’59 marks five dedicated years as chair of the board.
Bob chaired the committee that recommended me to the board as the University’s 10th president. During the past three years, we have worked very closely together.
Bob Witmer is a gentleman of uncommon wisdom, sensitivity, and quiet strength. Bob’s leadership has been critical to the progress that the University has made in recent years. He is a lawyer of judicious temperament, mature, patient, balanced.
Bob comes from a family that has been associated with the University since 1922 when his father, Judge Robert Witmer ’26, matriculated. Judge Witmer lived an extraordinary life, one that ended just last year at the age of 102, proud of his association with this University to the very end.
We dedicated the President’s House at this University to Judge Witmer and his late wife, Marian, on May 18, 2006. In the Witmer House is a plaque recording three generations of Witmers who have attended our University, 13 members of the family, so far.
Bob and I have attended many athletic and community events in Rochester. He seems to know—and is respected and liked by—everyone in town. He puts people at ease with an infectious smile and chuckle.
Bob has brought to his work as chair the wisdom accumulated during a remarkable career, culminating in his role as managing partner of the Nixon Peabody law firm, which he helped build to its current national stature.
Bob is a lawyer’s lawyer. At the very best, the profession of the law values loyalty to a client and such concepts as confidentiality. Bob epitomized those virtues during the presidential search and beyond in ways that I will always respect.
He began service on our board 29 years ago and has brought to his role as chair not only an extraordinary institutional memory, but a leadership style perhaps best captured by the aphorism, “to lead, listen.” I have discussed with Bob every serious issue that the University has faced during our time here and have often marveled at the quality of his insights while appreciating his unwavering support.
My work with Bob for the University has grown into one of the most meaningful professional relationships that I have enjoyed in my lifetime. Bob has been not only a remarkably accomplished chair, but he has become a dear friend.
As chair, Bob Witmer has enriched our University community in ways that benefit all of us. Rochester blue and dandelion yellow flow through his veins. I look forward to working with him long into the future. His life exemplifies the values we express through our motto, Meliora.