In Memoriam: Robert A. Seelinger

(Written by Ted Tarkow)

An alum of Dickinson, Brown, and the University of Missouri (MU), Bob Seelinger (1951-2018) taught classics at Westminster College in Fulton, MO, from 1979 until taking early retirement in 2015, necessitated by a diagnosis of pancreatic cancer.  By the time of his death, he had served as professor of classics for over 20 years and in addition had served as Dean of the Faculty and Vice President of the College for over a half dozen years at the campus made famous by the “Iron Curtain” speech delivered there   in 1946 by Winston Churchill.

A beloved teacher, Bob taught all levels of both languages as well as a wide range of general education courses.  Not surprisingly to the scores of Westminster students who had studied with him, he received the APA Award for Excellence in the Teaching of the Classics, the Governor’s Award for Teaching, and the Parents’ Association Award for Teaching, among many other recognitions.    But his career also allowed presentations and publications in some of his favorite authors, from Apuleius (the focus of his PhD dissertation), to 4th century, Republican, and early Imperial authors and genres.  His abundant time at the American School of Classical Studies in Athens, as well as at two NEH Summer Seminars, enabled other students and scholars to make the most of their time there.

A devoted family man, Bob met his wife Cathy Callaway, herself an accomplished professional in the field, when they both studied classics at MU where their son, not surprisingly, also majored in classics, as well as in political science. The family enjoyed traveling together, most notably to Greece, where they enjoyed three different sabbatical  years, the last one in 2005-06.

Until just weeks before he passed away, Bob was working on two projects:  an update of William Parrish’s Westminster College, An Informal History (with Margot McMillen) and an analysis  (with Cathy Callaway) of a Greek funeral stele (2nd-3rd century A.D.) dedicated to Heliodora in the Museum of Art and Archaeology at MU.   He never lost his zeal for research, and his love of teaching.

The proud tradition of classics in the “Show Me” state is honored to acknowledge, with abundant admiration, the life and legacy of a talented exemplar of our profession, a true kalos kagathos for whom more modern adjectives seem especially appropriate:   learned, kind, thoughtful, and brave.

(Written by Cathy Callaway)

ROBERT ADAM SEELINGER died on September 22, 2018, on his father’s birthday, after a four- and a-half-year battle with pancreatic cancer. He was born at Walter Reed Hospital in Washington DC on October 16, 1951. An Eagle Scout, he attended Rogers High School in Newport, Rhode Island, and Dickinson College, in Pennsylvania. He spent his junior year in Rome. He received an MA from Brown University, and a PhD in Classics and Classical Archaeology from the University of Missouri-Columbia in 1981. Seelinger learned Latin at an early age and continued to read, write, and teach it his whole life. He was also a scholar of ancient Greek, and during his three sabbatical years in Greece he became fluent in Modern Greek.

He moved to Columbia, MO in 1974 to pursue his PhD in the Department of Classical Studies. He started teaching Latin and other Classics courses part-time at Westminster College in 1979. The position became full-time and tenure-track in 1981.

From 1999-2005 he served as Dean of Faculty and Vice President of the College. He was a leader in the initiative to start a Westminster campus in Mesa, AZ and was grateful for the support and dedication of all those who were involved in that project. He was gratified by the fact that many of the Mesa students continued their Westminster experience on the Fulton campus. He was deeply moved by the retirement celebration he shared with other colleagues in 2016.

He is survived by his wife, Cathy Callaway, his son, Nicholas Seelinger, his sister, Barbara (Robert) Beebe of Middletown RI, and nephew Adam Carter of Tacoma WA, and two great nephews. He also leaves behind a beloved host of relatives on Cathy’s side that consider him family; several were present at his peaceful death in his home. Thanks to the people at Hospice Compassus and Dr. Anna Hulbert for making this possible. We would also like to thank ALL the health care professionals, at the University Hospital in Columbia, at Mayo in Rochester MN, at Barnes in St Louis, and the Emergency Technicians in Fulton, who showed such compassion, care, and expertise every time they worked with him to cope with the challenges of this disease.

Celebration of Robert's life will be 2:00 pm Sunday, October 21, 2018 at the Church of St. Mary Aldermanbury located on the Westminster College Campus, 501 Westminster Ave. in Fulton, Missouri. A reception will follow the service. In lieu of flowers, contributions can be directed to either Westminster College, Mayo Clinic in Rochester MN, or the Fulton Soup Kitchen c/o Debo Funeral Home, 833 Court Street, Fulton, Missouri 65251.

---

(Photo: "Candle" by Shawn Carpenter, licensed under CC BY 2.0)   

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