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Frank Robinson named Housing and Residence Life Distinguished Alumni Award recipient for 2019

Dana Wright
September 12, 2019

Join the Housing and Residence Life (HRL) and Ohio University communities as Frank Robinson is recognized as the recipient of the HRL Distinguished Alumni Award during the department’s Homecoming Brunch on Saturday, Oct. 12 at The East End in Jefferson Hall.

HRL established the Distinguished Alumni Award as a way to recognize the outstanding accomplishments of OHIO alumni who have been employed by Housing and Residence Life. To be considered for this award, individuals must demonstrate exceptional achievement in their chosen profession as well as meaningful impacts to their local and global communities.

In 1986, Robinson joined the department of Residence Life (Housing and Residence Life were separate departments during this time) and served as the assistant director of South Green through 2002. He was an impactful teacher and mentor according to Senior Associate Vice President and Dean of Students Jenny Hall-Jones. “Frank Robinson taught so many young professionals how to be better educators, thinkers and people,” shared Dr. Hall-Jones. “When I was in graduate school, I wrote a leadership paper on Frank Robinson as someone I admired back then, and he is still one of my greatest mentors today.” 

Throughout his time at OHIO, Robinson valued the connections and interdependence of the people around him and concepts he studied, a focus he still has today in his role as an adjunct faculty member at Champlain College in Burlington, Vermont.  

This sentiment for connection was shared by many of his former staff including OHIO’s Assistant Dean for University College Wendy Merb-Brown who shared, “I had the privilege of having Frank as my supervisor for ten years in various capacities. Those were the best years of my career, mostly due to his ability to inspire and connect all of us.”

Following are excerpts from an interview with Robinson, reflecting on his time in Residence Life at OHIO.

Tell us about your work as the Assistant Director of South Green.

I spent most of my time working with the South Green staff -- six hall directors and five assistant resident directors who were graduate students. As it turned out, maybe because I liked them so much, judicial interventions became a big part of my work as well. I spent a lot of time each week in these meetings. Outside of department and Green meetings, most of my job was interacting with hall directors and students. 

What aspects of your work did you enjoy the most?

Though initially intimidating, I loved the one-hour meetings with students and the chance to talk about the presenting issue, which to students was a violation of the alcohol policy, but to me was about decision-making and personal values.  I looked for ways to challenge students to think independently about decisions and consequences; that was a teaching moment for me and, hopefully, a learning experience for the student.

Also, I came to appreciate the opportunity for one-on-one teaching and learning in my interactions with my professional colleagues, whether in staff meetings or weekly supervisions. As young professionals they wanted to be better supervisors and administrators; I wanted us to see these as means to the end of being educators. I still remember what one Resident Director said when I left: “Thanks for being my teacher.” Integrating the department goals into our work as educators was challenging and enriching. When I left OHIO, that was something I remembered the most.

What aspect of your work at OHIO was the most challenging?

It was challenging to get students to see that their out of class experience was relevant to their development – individually and collectively. While students conceived of their education in terms of classes and labs and libraries and assignments, we were tested to create experiences that nurtured learning about self and community. Fortunately, we had Resident Assistants on our side; the professional staff could do lots of planning and visioning, but without our para-professional colleagues the residence halls were only bed and bath. 

You worked at OHIO for 16 years. What kept you here?

I liked my job. I liked the people I worked with. I liked the department vision. When I first got to OHIO, I thought it might be a short stop on the way to another place, but I loved the job and the University so much, I thought ‘This is a great place, why not stay here.’ In addition to the department mission and my colleagues, I liked the University culture, especially during the Ping presidency.

I tell people about the uniqueness of Ohio University – its diversity, its culture, and the scope of activities that were catalysts for my learning. I remember the Kennedy Lecture series, the plays I attended, the African-American Book Discussion program, the cultural arts series, the common reading program for first-year students, the Women’s Studies classes I took with Dr. Kathryn Jellison, reading “The Post,” and the occasional protest march. To me, coming from a small college, this was like Athens in its Golden Age. As Socrates said, “It is not I but the city that educates.”

You arrived right as the department’s theme tradition started. Do you have a favorite theme?

I easily recall Bridges, ‘90 and Tapestry, ‘92. I think I liked them because of their emphasis on the connection of things. In my class at Champlain College, Concepts of Community, I will show that small tapestry to illustrate ideas about inter-dependence.

Nearly a decade ago, you established the Graduate Assistant Professional Development Fund by donating to the department. What motivated you to begin giving?

I knew that full-time professionals had access to professional development funds, but graduate staff, as part-time employees, did not have a similar annual budget. I thought I would help support their professional learning and growth. Also, I felt grateful, even admiration, for my colleagues and their work. 

To learn more and to give to the Housing and Residence Life Foundation visit

Remember to RSVP for the annual Housing and Residence Life Homecoming Brunch by clicking here. Current and former Housing and Residence Life staff, friends and family are welcome to join as we recognize Frank Robinson and celebrate OHIO’s Homecoming. We hope to see you on Saturday, Oct. 12!