‘Wise, Witty, and Fundamentally a Nice Guy:’ Robbins Gates 1922–2008

April 2, 2008

Dr. Robbins Gates lecturing from a podiumDr. Robbins Gates was woven into the tapestry that makes up Mary Baldwin University. Even before he was a professor of political science — having joined the faculty in 1965 — he was active in both Waynesboro Players and Oak Grove Theater, dramatic outlets for many Mary Baldwin faculty, staff, and students. Gates also became an Mary Baldwin parent when his daughter, Martha, matriculated in 1974. When he retired in 1987, he became professor emeritus of political science, joining the ranks of memorable faculty members such as Fletcher Collins, Patricia Menk, John Mehner, and Ethel Smeak.

Gates, 85, died March 30 at Ruxton Healthcare in Staunton. A memorial will be at 11 a.m. April 4 at Emmanuel Episcopal Church in Staunton. Memorial contributions may be made to the Emmanuel Episcopal Church, 300 W.Frederick St., Staunton, VA 24401, or Mary Baldwin University, General Scholarship Fund, P.O. Box 1500, Staunton, VA 24402-1500

Born into a family with a rich tradition in education, his family administered Fairfax Hall, a girls school in Waynesboro, where he was academic dean from 1959–1965.Dr. Gates and daughter Martha at her ring figure event at Fairfax HallGates earned his bachelor of arts from Washington & Lee University and his master’s and PhD from Columbia University in New York. Before his stint as dean at Fairfax Hall, Gates was an instructor at Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut.

Gates’ daughter Martha tells a story of her father’s devotion to his students: “