With 42 years of experience teaching, acting, and directing at Knox College under his belt, Bob Whitlatch, Seeley Distinguished Professor of Theatre, has more than earned the respect and admiration of innumerable students, faculty, and alumni alike. Known for his wit, intellectual curiosity, and respect for Knox, he was honored last Saturday at his retirement reception, where colleagues and former students joined in to praise Whitlatch, better known as “Doc Bob.” Over the course of his career at Knox, Doc Bob made a strong impression on quite a few people and the college itself.
Every freshman student is required to take first-year preceptorial, and it was Doc Bob that helped get the class started. Not only did he teach the class for all but one year, he also helped write the curriculum and select the original readings for the class.
In addition to his teaching duties, for 17 years Doc Bob served as the Master of Ceremonies at Convocation, leading Knox faculty to witness the conferral of degrees.
However, Doc Bob is perhaps best known for his active role in Knox’s theater department. Not only has he directed over 50 productions, he was also one of the co-founders of the unique Repertory Term, where students and faculty spend the winter term producing two full-length plays. This is the only program of its kind for an undergraduate liberal arts college.
“What I found at Knox was a terrific sense of support for theater arts,” Doc Bob said. “I have also been blessed by bright and talented students to work with over the years.”
Through theater, first-year preceptorial, and various other classes and programs, both faculty and students have formed close bonds with him, and he is known to many as a truly caring individual.
George Eaton, a 1981 alumnus said, “To me, he was more than just a teacher. He was like a father figure, and he was always concerned about his students.”
Though Doc Bob came to know hundreds of people during his stay at Knox, he is lauded for the way he formed individual relationships with everyone. To him, the people he came in contact with were not just faces in a crowd.
“He makes you feel like you stick out as one person,” said 2008 alumnus Ariel Lauryn.
Others feel the same, and treasure him as a good friend.
“He undeniably embodies my experience of Knox College. He was my professor as a student here in the early ’90s; he was my confidant in the years I returned to tell of my master’s work and subsequent stories of professional acting in Chicago; and until recently, he was my colleague in the department and institution that I profoundly treasure. And now, we can focus on being good friends. He’s a gentleman and a wise, dear soul,” said Kelly Hogan, visiting theater instructor.
In return, Doc Bob himself has only good things to say about his career at Knox. He has enjoyed the opportunity to experience and learn about nearly anything at Knox. Many have called him a Renaissance man, and it is well-chosen term for a man who was involved in so many programs and classes at Knox.
“I can look back and say it was a great choice to come here,” said Doc Bob. “I feel very grateful that I’ve been able to have such wonderful students and colleagues, and that I have been able to follow my own direction.”