It is with a heavy heart that I write you regarding Reggie Robinson, one of our most accomplished and beloved Jayhawks, who passed away this weekend at the age of 63.
Reggie leaves behind his wife, Jane, their two daughters, Clare and Paige, and countless Jayhawks whose lives he touched. He also leaves a legacy of public service and leadership unlike any in recent memory. With his passing, our community has lost one of our most respected leaders, a humble giant and a beautiful soul.
Reggie was a brilliant and devoted public servant whose passion was to help others and make the world a better place. He most recently served as CEO of the Kansas Health Foundation, a position he described to me as a dream job. Prior to that, he was vice chancellor for public affairs at the University of Kansas, director of KU’s School of Public Affairs and Administration, president and CEO of the Kansas Board of Regents, a faculty member at the Washburn and KU schools of law, chief of staff to Chancellor Robert Hemenway, a White House fellow, special assistant to Attorney General Janet Reno, and deputy associate attorney general for the United States.
In addition to these leadership roles, Reggie gave back to the KU community through his service on boards of directors for the Friends of the Spencer Museum of Art, Hall Center for the Humanities, Kansas Leadership Center, Douglas County Community Foundation, and Bert Nash Community Mental Health Center. He also was a life trustee of KU Endowment and held advisory roles with the KU Alumni Association.
Reggie was a 1975 graduate of Salina High School South and received both his undergraduate degree and law degree from KU. As an undergraduate, he was student body vice president. In law school, he was editor in chief of the Kansas Law Review. Between college and law school, he served four years as a field artillery officer in the United States Army and was honorably discharged at the rank of captain.
Reggie was a pillar in the KU community for more than four decades, and his legacy lives on in the many students and colleagues who benefitted from his teaching and mentorship. I have heard from so many former students who have told me Reggie was their favorite professor, and from so many colleagues who have said how much they grew as a result of working with him. While they admired his skills and expertise, it was his personal interest in their success that set Reggie apart.
Beyond his remarkable intellect and record of service, Reggie will be remembered for his uncommon kindness, warmth, generosity and decency. To put it plainly, Reggie was the nicest and most compassionate person one could ever hope to meet. He was humble, thoughtful and gracious. He had a disarming wit and an easy smile that lit up the room. He cared deeply about people and made those around him feel special — because to Reggie, everyone was special.
In recognition of a life well lived, gifts in Reggie’s memory can be sent in support of the Reginald L. Robinson Law Scholarship through the KU Endowment Association, P.O. Box 928, Lawrence, KS 66044-0928, or given securely online at kuendowment.org/give.
I am confident the best way to honor Reggie’s legacy is to follow his example of serving others with kindness, generosity and grace. Reggie’s life was a life of meaning because he consistently worked to advance causes bigger than himself. We can now carry on in his stead. His example calls us to follow our passions, be active citizens, lift up others, value education, pursue justice and work for healing. In the days ahead, when I reflect on my friendship with Reggie, like so many of you who knew him as a friend, I will feel the warmth of his spirit, remain in awe of his character and be grateful that he inspires the best in those who knew him.
Reggie Robinson embodied the best of what it means to be a Jayhawk and a Kansan, and he will be missed.
Douglas A. Girod
University of Kansas