Remembering Dr. Robert E. Wagoner

Dr. Robert E. Wagoner

I first met Bob in the spring of 2002 when I gave my “job talk” — a demonstration of how I teach — for the world history position in Juniata’s history department. I was in-my-element but nervous, all the same. After the talk in a classroom in Good Hall, a short older fellow with a big grin came up to me, praised my talk, and welcomed me with such warmth that I never forgot it. Soon I would learn what a big part Bob would play in my life and career.

We found much in common as I and he were both midwestern boys who had gone east, to Harvard, but had never lost a certain skepticism about the pretensions of academic prestige.

Amongst the first things Bob did for me was offer to take me to Italy and Greece along with his dear friend, the classicist Prof. Steve Rutledge of the University of Maryland. Bob wanted to help me feel more comfortable and proficient in teaching World Civilizations, a course I had neither taught nor even taken before coming to Juniata! It did not work out that time, but our relationship deepened. (Bob and I finally did make that trip, to the Vatican Museum in Rome and to the British Museum in London, in the summer of 2018.)

I realized that I had a treasure at hand in terms of Bob’s knowledge of and love for ancient Greece: he taught “The Greek Mind” as part of Juniata’s general education curriculum for many years. Bob had a deep love for art & aesthetics, and when he invited me over to his house I was stunned to see etchings, prints, and sketches by Albrecht Dürer, Pablo Picasso, and other luminaries. Bob generously donated much of his collection to Juniata College’s Museum of Art, with which he was closely involved for many years.

Bob taught me “The Greek Mind” by coming in to my World History class regularly and lecturing on Homer’s “The Iliad.” He paced in front of the class and spoke passionately to our young Juniata students about ancient Greek views of what makes life worth living – striving to be “The Best” at whatever you do… and holding your child in your arms:

“She [Helen] joined him now, and following in her steps
a servant holding the boy against her breast,
in the first flush of life, only a baby,
Hector’s son, the darling of his eyes,
and radiant as a star…” — (The Iliad, Book 6)

Bob challenged the students: “Will YOU strive to be THE BEST?” “What will YOU make of your lives?” I think the students knew, and I knew, that with Prof. Robert Wagoner in the classroom, and in our lives, we were in the presence of greatness.

—By Douglas Stiffler, Associate Professor of History

Robert E. Wagoner

Oct. 28, 2022 — Bob received his bachelor’s degree from Manchester College, Manchester, Ind., and his doctorate from Harvard University, Cambridge, Mass. He was a member of the Stone Church of the Brethren, Huntingdon. Bob was preceded in death by his wife, Shirley; a daughter, Annamarie Wagoner-Littler; and a brother, Ralph Waldo Wagoner. He is survived by his son, Nathan Wagoner ’80; and three grandchildren, including Agatha Cleo Wagoner ’14.