A Brief Biography of Dr. Robert E. L. Strider (1917- ) – DRAFT
Dr. Robert Edward Lee Strider II was the 17th president of Colby College, 1960-1979. He expanded the curriculum improvements begun by former President J. S. Bixler, implemented the Jan Plan program, made changes in regards to minorities and women on campus, and sought to stabilize the campus during a tumultuous time of student protest.
Strider was born in 1917 in West Virginia. As a young man he attended Harvard University where he received his undergraduate, graduate, and doctorate degrees, the latter in English Literature. He taught English at Connecticut College from 1946 to 1957, becoming Colby Dean of Faculty for three years (1957-1960) before accepting the Colby presidency.
During Strider’s term, he fundraised for eleven new campus buildings and increased the Colby created the directorship positions of Annual Giving, Planned Giving, and Alumni Relations, Financial Aid, Career Planning, Student Activities, Robert’s Union, and Food Services, among many more. He also taught English courses during his time at Colby.
There were substantial changes and additions made to Colby curriculum. Strider created the new educational programs African-American Studies, East Asian Studies, and Human Development. Japanese, Chinese, Russian, Italian, and Portuguese classes were added to the language department. He introduced classes on Ecology, Oceanography, Eastern Religions, and Music.
Strider’s personal interest in the arts led to the acquisition of artwork in the Colby Art Museum and many festivals, concerts, and exhibitions. He himself was very interested in music: he was a trained baritone who played the leads in Colby productions of South Pacific and The Mikado. When the Runnels gymnasium was converted into the theater building in 1977, the new theater space was named after Strider and his wife.
The implementation of the Jan Plan program is perhaps one of the greatest changes to Colby curriculum. In 1961, Dr. Strider recommended that the college adopt a program in which the month of January would be designated for independent or small group study in an area of the study or work that students had not yet experienced. Several colleges adopted this program after Colby began it.
The study abroad programs expanded under Strider. Students could study abroad through an established program with a university instead of exchanging locations with foreign students. Students had the opportunity to study in France, South America, and Japan. During the 1970s, Colby officially became an equal opportunity employer, which made possible the beginnings of equal pay for female faculty and staff at Colby.
After announcing his retirement from the Colby presidency in 1979, Strider was the commencement speaker for the Colby graduating class that year. He and his wife both received honorary degrees from the college. From 1981 to 1983, Dr. Strider was the Institute Professor and Dean of Wentworth Institute of Technology’s new College of Arts and Sciences in Boston, MA. He served on the Board of Trustees of Colby College and on the executive committee of the Harvard Glee Club Foundation, and from 1980 onward he worked with several liberal arts colleges as an educational consultant. He served as the president of the Universidad del Valle in Guatemala from 1990-1994.
Ernest Marriner, A History of Colby College (1963)
Ernest Marriner, RELS – online