University of Rochester

Retired University Vice President Robert France Dies

April 15, 1998

Robert R. France, former vice president for planning and director of budgets at the University of Rochester, died April 12 at age 78. For many years, he suffered from Parkinson's disease.

During his 31 years at the University, Mr. France taught economics and served in several administrative posts. He was associate dean for graduate studies in the College of Arts and Science, acting dean of the College, associate provost, and vice president for planning and director of budgets from 1970 to 1987.

Born in Massillon, Ohio, Mr. France received his bachelor's degree from Oberlin College, and his master's and doctoral degrees from Princeton University. After teaching economics at Princeton for seven years, Mr. France came to Rochester in 1956, and became a full professor in 1962.

Beginning in 1953 and continuing through the 1970s, Mr. France was an arbitrator of labor disputes on panels of the American Arbitration Association, the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service, and the New York State Board of Mediation. His experiences involved employer-employee disputes in a wide range of industries and public services in the East and Midwest. He also authored several publications on labor relations.

During the 1960s, 70s and 80s, Mr. France was active in community organizations. He was chairman of the Monroe County Human Relations Commission from 1980-83 (and a member from 1963 to 1983 as well as winner of the commission's Patricia Thompson Memorial Award). He held positions on the board of directors of local groups, including Monroe Community Hospital, the Rochester chapter of the NAACP, and the Rochester Regional Library Council.

At the time of Mr. France's retirement as vice president in 1987, his commitment to community service and housing opportunities was praised. "Segregation was very acute in 1960, and with the help of Bob's untiring efforts with staff, the Real Estate Board of Rochester, and local banks, we were able to accomplish open housing in Rochester," said Loftus Carson, founding executive director of the commission, who is now deceased.

Robert L. Sproull, former University president, said of Mr. France's years on the River Campus: "Bob France's contributions to the University of Rochester are almost too many to mention. His tenure as budget officer came at a financially difficult time for the University, and his skill at financial planning helped strengthen the institution immeasurably.

"During the 60s when student protesters elsewhere burned buildings and shut down academic institutions, Bob France's personal integrity and skill in negotiating helped the University of Rochester remain an 'open institution,' " Sproull said from his winter home in Jupiter, Fla.

Mr. France, a resident of Pittsford, served in the U.S. Air Force during World War II. He was a bombardier with a crew that dropped supplies to the French underground during the war. Later, he retired as a lieutenant colonel in the Air Force Reserve.

He is survived by his wife, Jean Reitsman France, an adjunct associate professor of art history at the University, of Pittsford; a son, Robert Karl France, of Roanoke, Va.; two daughters, Virginia Grace France, of Champaign-Urbana, Ill., and Kiki France Perry, of Pittsford; two sisters, Donna Smith, of Columbus, Ohio, and Betty Seay, of Midland, Texas; and six grandchildren.

A memorial service will be held at 1 p.m. May 2 at the Interfaith Chapel on the River Campus. Contributions may be made to the World War II Memorial Fund at Oberlin College, Oberlin, Ohio 44074.