University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa College of Education (COE) Professor Emeritus Robert Potter passed away on April 31, 2013. Potter, who was 90 years old, served the college from 1962 until his retirement in 1991. He was a member of the Educational Perspectives editorial committee and coauthor of A History of Teacher Education in Hawaiʻi.
Born in Cambridge, Maryland, Potter served in the U.S. Navy from 1942–1946. He earned his AB in English and MEd in history and philosophy of education from Ohio University, and his EdD in history of education from the University of Illinois. He taught at the University of Florida, University of Illinois, Ohio University, Kansas University, and Michigan State University before coming to Hawaiʻi.
In addition to teaching, Potter coordinated student teachers in English and speech and conducted seminars for secondary education student teachers in Hawaiʻi and Papua New Guinea.
“He was a progressive educator,” said Ralph Stueber. “The 60s was a formative decade, and Potter was a part of the action, doing, teaching, writing, and arguing about it all. He was extremely student-oriented, continuing to work with students after his retirement.” Potter acknowledges Stueber in his foreword of A History of Teacher Education in Hawaiʻi for providing information and suggestions on the manuscript. The two met in 1962 and became friends as well as colleagues.
Potter also authored The Stream of American Education, several historical monographs, and numerous articles. Outside of his expertise on the history of education and educational administration, he was an active environmentalist and advocate of the arts in school and community.
At the COE, Potter served as assistant dean from 1966 to 1967 and as associate dean for academic development from 1967 to 1970. He was chair of the Department of Educational Foundations (EDEF) three times throughout his tenure as well as the department’s graduate chair from 1981 to 1985. During some of his sabbatical leave time, he taught exchanges at the University of New England in Australia and the University of Papua New Guinea.
During the 1980s, Potter was a leader in pushing for outreach, particularly graduate level programs, on neighbor islands. He served on countless accreditation teams locally, across the mainland, and in the Pacific. Delaying his own retirement a year, he wanted to continue to develop graduate programs on the neighbor islands and ensure that writing intensive workshops at the college were maintained amid a shortage in faculty. He would continue to teach part-time, work with graduate students, and engage in research and writing after his retirement.
“I had the privilege and pleasure of knowing and working with Dr. Robert Potter as a friend and colleague for 44 years,” said Dr. Royal Fruehling, former EDEF faculty member. “Bob was truly a renaissance man with an insatiable interest in knowing and recording the world around him, especially all things Hawaiʻi – its culture, its people, its public schools, and its university, the University of Hawaiʻi.”