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Week of April 4, 2011


Robert L. Frost

Robert L. Frost, associate professor in the School of Information, died March 26 at his home in Ann Arbor. He was 58.

Though diagnosed with cancer more than two years ago, he continued to teach a full course load, mentor his students and even develop new courses during his illness.

“Many generations of undergraduate and graduate students have been touched by Bob,” School of Information Dean Jeffrey MacKie-Mason says. “Many say that he had a transformative impact on their choice of major and career. He was passionate about teaching, about his students and about our school.” 

One of his great interests was promoting the open source philosophy and free sharing of software and information technology. To that end, along with his wife Margaret Hedstrom, associate dean of academic affairs and professor at the School of Information, he established the Frost Open Access Fund at the School of Information. Its purpose is to encourage innovative projects using open source software or designed to allow open access or study of the open access movement. The funding came from royalty payments he received from the work of his great-grandfather, the poet Robert Frost.

Bob Frost was born Oct. 25, 1952, in Bethseda, Md. He received his undergraduate degree in history and philosophy from Grinnell College in 1974, and earned graduate degrees from the University of Wisconsin-Madison (Master of Arts, ’78; doctorate, ’83). From 1980-81, he attended the Ecole des Haûtes Etudes en Sciences Sociales in Paris. While a student at Grinnell, he met Hedstrom and they were married in 1976. 

Early in his professional career he held several visiting assistant professorships: at Carthage College, Wabash College and American University (1983-87). In 1987 he joined the faculty of the State University of New York, Albany, where he rose to the rank of associate professor before coming to U-M in 1995 as visiting associate professor of history. In 2000 he joined the faculty at the School of Information as visiting associate professor and in 2003 was appointed associate professor.

He also was an active member of the Senate Advisory Committee on University Affairs (SACUA).

“Despite his illness, Bob was always enthusiastically involved with SACUA business especially in the area he was most passionate about — the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA),” SACUA Chair Ed Rothman wrote in a statement on behalf of the committee. “Bob’s great strength and caring attitude in the face of his illness were an inspiration to us all.”

Although Frost spent most of his career as an educator, he also held positions as energy analyst and a researcher on poverty issues.

In addition to his wife, he is survived by three siblings: Elinor Frost of Portland, Ore., Carol Frost Gustafson of Sacramento, Calif., and Nicholas Frost of Ashland, Ore.

Friends and colleagues of Frost have set up a memorial fund in his name through the Team Frost Relay for Life of the American Cancer Society at Donations also may be made in his memory to the Frost Open Access Fund.

Hedstrom and the School of Information will host a memorial service, which is open to the public, at 3 p.m. April 15 in the Michigan Union Rogel Ballroom.

For more information about his many publications, his teaching and his other interests go to his personal website, or the Team Frost Relay for Life Facebook site,



Sonja Botes, executive secretary, Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, on working with members of her church’s youth group: “It is of great value to see the kids grow in their spiritual walk.”


Sixteenth annual Exhibition of Art by Michigan Prisoners, 10 a.m.-7 p.m. through Wednesday, Duderstadt Center Gallery.

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