Robert Wharton, 1951-2012

Details haven’t been disclosed yet about the death today of Robert Wharton, the late president for the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology. He spent the past year fighting against cancer and for a while seemed to be past it. He was named president for the School of Mines in 2008, succeeding Charles Ruch. By training President Wharton was a biologist. By nature he was a researcher and a leader. The state Board of Regents chose him from a strong field of five finalists. He previously was provost and vice president for academic affairs at Idaho State University, where he built an impressive record of accomplishments such as improving retention of students. The regents released a statement this morning lamenting his passing and noting that Mines provost Duane Hrncir will serve as acting president. In 2008 the regents made two insightful, classy, economic-development oriented and community-oriented hires, with Robert Wharton and Northern State University president Charles Smith. Shortly after arriving on campus, President Wharton and his wife, Carolyn Fassi, who holds a doctorate in public administration from the University of Southern California, established a scholarship for freshmen at SDSMT. Bob held a doctorate in botany from Virginia Polytechnic Institute. He was born Dec. 7, 1951, on the tenth anniversary of the Pearl Harbor attack that drew the U.S. into World War II. This afternoon Gov. Dennis Daugaard issued a statement on behalf of himself and his wife, Linda, expressing sadness and sympathies to Carolyn and their family. The governor said flags will be flown at half-staff on the date of the funeral, which as of early afternoon hadn’t been determined. Daugaard described Wharton as “a good friend who did great work for South Dakota at the School of Mines.”

For a look at what Bob Wharton was about, and what he meant for Rapid City and South Dakota, see this interview from a few years ago conducted by on-line journalist Sam Hurst:

And for a look at some photos collected by the Rapid City Journal through his years at SDSMT, here’s a link to the RCJ gallery:

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