Robert J. Williams
September 12, 1923 – May 9, 2019
Robert James Williams (Bob) was born in Iron Mountain, Michigan on September 12, 1923 to Harry James Williams and Harriet Langsford Williams. The eldest of three children, he graduated from Iron Mountain High School in 1941 and entered Michigan State University that fall but then enlisted in the US Army in 1941 with the start of WWII. He went on to attend West Point Academy, and was on active duty until 1945. He earned both his Bachelor's and Master's degrees in Mechanical and Industrial Engineering from Michigan State University. In 1947, Bob married Jean Tuxworth of Sault Ste Marie, Michigan. Appointed to the Department of Mechanical Engineering at the University of Colorado in 1948, he and Jean moved to Boulder where they began their family of four children. In 1951, they moved to Seattle, WA where Robert served as Senior Industrial Engineer with Boeing Airplane Company for three years, returning to the University of Colorado in 1954 when he was appointed Chairman of the Department of Mechanical Engineering. Bob loved to teach; he enjoyed encouraging his students to think broadly beyond narrow disciplines. He gave many workshops on engineering education and was elected a life member of the National Society for Engineering Education. In 1961, Bob was invited to serve as a consultant to the Government of India on industrial productivity issues. The family moved to Mumbai where they quickly became absorbed in Indian life and the children were enrolled in local schools. Bob traveled throughout Northern India in his work, including four months working out of Kolkata. Their family also explored much of India in their 1961 Ford station wagon which Bob had shipped to India. Two years later they returned to Boulder where Bob served as full professor in the Engineering Design and Economic Evaluation Department at University of Colorado until he retired, being appointed Professor Emeritus in 1988. Post retirement, Bob was asked to teach as an Honorary Professor in the Hunan Management College in Changsha, China, an appointment he and Jean shared together, living and traveling in China over the course of several months. Bob embraced life with curiosity and engagement, evidenced in his love of reading, studying, and exploration through travel. In their extensive post-retirement travel, he and Jean were frequent guests of beloved foreign students they had hosted in Boulder where the Williams family was active in the University's host family program. Bob was firmly committed to social justice, equality and freedom manifested in his life-time support for Amnesty International and engagement locally in the Peace with Justice movement. Bob and Jean were generous with their time and finances, supporting individuals internationally throughout their lives and visiting people who were shut-in even into their 90s. They also encouraged their children to give back to their communities and the wider world through service. Bob and Jean were active in First United Methodist Church in Boulder which they joined in 1948. Bob was a board member of the Wesley Foundation at the University of Colorado and served on various committees at Iliff School of Theology and the Rocky Mountain Methodist Conference. Bob and Jean maintained a 50+ year special friendship with their Boulder "Play Group" or laughing group as they termed it. The group has met monthly since 1970 forming strong bonds of friendship and support through their activities including reading books, attending music and cultural events, and traveling together. He and Jean eagerly anticipated their 30+ year annual sojourn to the warmth and ocean breezes of Mazatlán, Mexico where they could be found pool-side or exploring the local area with friends and family. Bob loved the outdoors, a passion cultivated from his early years in Upper Peninsula's northern woods. He, Jean and family shared many fun times at the cabin they built west of Boulder, where Bob took much pride in thinning trees on the property with his chain saw well into his mid-80s. Applying his engineering skills, he made the trees fall so they didn't hit the roof! Bob was preceded in death by his parents, his sister Lois Reickhoff, and his eldest son Mark Tuxworth Williams. Bob is survived by the love of his life, Jean, his son Lance (Colleen), and daughters Karen McCreary (Kent Alderman), and Ann Easley (Tom), nine grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren, his brother Richard (Virginia), his sister-in-law Margaret Welsh and many nieces and nephews. A memorial service to celebrate Bob's extraordinary life will be held Saturday, May 18th at 2:00 PM at First United Methodist Church, 1421 Spruce Street, Boulder, CO. Memorial gifts in memory of Bob may be sent to the Jean and Robert Williams Asian Scholarship at the Iliff School of Theology, 2323 E Iliff Street, Denver, CO 80210; the International Fellowship of Reconciliation (http://www.ifor.org/donate) or the Wesley Foundation 1290 Folsom Ave, Boulder, CO 80302.
- Memorial Service Saturday, May 18, 2019