Robert (Bob) George Gilpin, Jr. of Waterbury, Vermont | 1930 - 2018 | Obituary

Robert (Bob) George Gilpin, Jr.
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Robert (Bob) George Gilpin, Jr.

July 02, 1930 - June 20, 2018

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U.S. Veteran

Robert (Bob) George Gilpin Jr., age 87, passed away on Wednesday, June 20, 2018 in Waterbury, VT. His children Linda, Beth and Rob were by his side.

A unique individual with a life trajectory to match, Bob was considered one of the twentieth century’s most distinguished international relations scholars. But he wore that mantle lightly. In “Robert Gilpin & International Relations,” a volume of presentations from a colloquium held in his honor, Bob was described by one colleague as having“little interest in seeking fame and fortune as an academic superstar, though that might have well been within his grasp. A modest man, self-effacing, and even a bit shy, he just wanted to understand.”

A third-generation Vermonter and walking font of information on Vermont and its history, Bob was at least as proud of his Green Mountain heritage as of his academic accomplishments. A quick-witted storyteller with a mischievous spirit, Bob could be counted on to burst into song or recite poems whenever the spirit moved him, and to dance at every opportunity, whether crashing a wedding in Switzerland or joining a group of monks at a remote temple in East Asia. Fascinated by different cultures, history, and people, Bob always said that some of the smartest people he ever met were farmers.

Born at the height of the Depression, Bob’s earliest years were spent in Enosburg Falls, VT. He often described sleeping on top of the refrigerator in his parents’ restaurant, waiting until they could close up for the night and head home. While never forgetting his humble beginnings, Bob committed himself to obtaining a good education. Leaving home at sixteen, he moved to Hanover, NH and got a job washing dishes at the Hanover Inn, so that he could attend a better public high school than was available at that time in his small Vermont town.

 Bob headed to the  University of Vermont and found his passion for political and philosophical discussions in the classroom of Lewis Feuer. He was one of a small group of friends, the self-named Feuerites, for whom Professor Feuer opened up an intellectual world they didn’t know existed. It was his encouragement to pursue a career in academia that gave Bob the inspiration and framework  around which he built his life’s work.

At UVM, Bob met his future bride, Jean Ann Millis, and couldn’t believe his luck when he caught the eye of the outgoing daughter of the university president. As Jean liked to tell it, Bob chased her until she caught him.

Bob received his B.A. from UVM in 1952 and a M.S. from Cornell University in 1954. Following three years as an officer in the U.S. Navy, Bob and Jean moved to California where Bob got his PhD from UC-Berkeley. Bob spent a year working for the Atomic Energy Commission as a Congressional Fellow, where he was given extraordinary access to notes on the initial nuclear test ban negotiations between the U.S. and Soviet Union that resulted (nine drafts later according to Jean) in Bob’s first book, “American Scientists and Nuclear Weapons Policy” (1962).

After post-doc work at Harvard and a first teaching job at Columbia, Bob and Jean moved their growing family to Princeton, NJ, where Bob joined the Princeton faculty in 1962 and earned tenure in 1967. A professor of politics and the inaugural holder of the Dwight D. Eisenhower Professor of International Affairs at the Woodrow Wilson School, Robert Gilpin was also a faculty associate of Princeton’s Center of International Studies and the Liechtenstein Institute on Self-Determination. He was a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, as well as a Guggenheim Fellow, Rockefeller Fellow, Lehman Fellow, and an Abe Fellow.

Sabbaticals spent as a visiting scholar at academic institutions such as the London School of Economics enabled Bob and Jean to introduce their children to life in other countries. At home or abroad, Bob was seldom seen without yellow pad and pencil in hand (even on family camping trips — after all, you never know when inspiration will strike). Among his books are “U.S. Power and the Multinational Corporation” (1975),War and Change in World Politics” (1981), “The Political Economy of International Relations” (1987), and “Global Political Economy: The New International Economic Order” (2001). Several are considered seminal works in the fields of international political economy and international relations. Bob’s close collaborator on all was his wife Jean, whose inquisitive mind, editorial skills, and master's degree in international politics made her an ideal writing partner.

After Bob retired from Princeton in 1998, he and Jean moved to Greensboro, VT, where their greatest joy was to welcome visits from family and friends. More recently, they made their home in Shelburne, VT, where Bob continued to follow world affairs, even working on a new book on the Iraq War.

While his scholarship was immensely important to him, the roles that mattered most to Bob were those of teacher, mentor, colleague, friend, father, brother, son, and most important of all, husband. Even after sixty-two years of marriage, Bob still marveled that he had won the hand of Jean Millis. Devastated by her death last October, Bob never fully recovered from the loss of his life partner, co-author, cheerleader, social navigator, true love and source of inspiration in all he did.

Bob is survived by his children Linda, Beth and Rob Gilpin (respectively of Waterbury, VT, Waterbury, VT and Newton, MA) and their partners Rick Blake, Mark Powell and Jan Gilpin, as well as grandchildren Jamie Benson, Hazen and Riley Powell, Everett, Jeremy, and Toby Gilpin, and Chase and Chelsea Benson (now Laukaitis). Bob was predeceased by his beloved sister Barbara, but maintained loving relationships with nieces and nephews near and far.

Linda, Beth and Rob wish to express their deep appreciation to those whose attentive care brought dignity, comfort and joy to our dad’s final months. And nothing can repay the debt we owe to Brenna Gonyo for the skill, compassion, dedication and love that made her an integral part of our parents’ care, and of our extended family.

Gathering of Remembrance for Jean Millis Gilpin and Robert George Gilpin Jr.

Sunday, August 5th, 2018, 1:30pm, Overlook of Jean’s Meadow, 475 Black Bear Hollow Road, Waterbury VT

Friends and family are invited to share memories of Jean and Bob during the gathering, or to inscribe one of the message stones that will be available and will become part of the memorial garden. This gathering will take place rain or shine under a tent next to the garden where Jean and Bob have chosen to be at rest. While this will of course be an occasion of sadness and reflection, we hope it will also be one of joy and gratitude for having had Jean and Bob in all of our lives. So we encourage attendees to leave their formal funeral attire at home and come dressed for a Vermont afternoon among friends.

There will also be a gathering in Princeton NJ this fall. If that location is more convenient, please watch for a pending announcement at www.facebook.com/Robert.G.Gilpin or www.perkinsparker.com. For further information about any of the above, please contact Rob Gilpin (rob@gilp.in or 617-733-1346)

In lieu of flowers, please consider a donation to the University of Vermont General Scholarship Fund.