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Robert P. Youngman in 1996. Photo courtesy of Special Collections.

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In Memoriam: Robert P. Youngman '64

January 8, 2018

MIDDLEBURY, Vt. – Robert P. Youngman ’64, the former chair of the Middlebury Board of Trustees (1993–1995) who enjoyed a long career in finance and established endowed funds at his alma mater to support the acquisition and curation of Asian art, passed away in New York on January 1, 2018, following a long illness. He was 77 years of age.

When colleagues and friends reflect on Youngman’s life, they frequently remark about his qualities of kindness, loyalty, positivity, generosity, and calm.

“Bob Youngman was a giant of a man and a giant of a friend,” said John M. McCardell Jr., the 15th president of Middlebury College. “He was a gentle, caring, considerate giant. He loved Middlebury and worked tirelessly for its success. His advocacy for the arts, his investment acumen, and his leadership skills, especially in challenging moments, have all left the College in a better place.”

Standing six-foot, six-inches tall with a shock of wavy hair and a friendly disposition, Youngman served 15 years on the Board of Trustees. Upon the completion of his term, the board issued a statement saying Bob always “stepped forward to give direction and inspiration to every committee and challenge of the board.”

“Bob exemplifies what it means to have gone to Middlebury,” the board statement continued. His vision and leadership were instrumental in the creation of the Center for the Arts; his expertise in financial matters “led to the tremendous growth” of the College’s endowment; and his tenure as chair of the board “showed the community that all voices are heard, that trustees are accessible, and that informed decisions are made after thoughtful consultation.”

Fellow trustee emeritus Patricia Palmer ’57 recalled, “Bob was always positive, constructive, and protective of the institution, and his generosity was abundant. His knowledge of finance was highly regarded and utilized [by the board in decision making]. He didn’t find it necessary to speak on every topic, reserving his comments for the subjects he felt most strongly about. It was both an honor and a pleasure to serve with Bob as co-chair of the Bicentennial Campaign (1995–2001) that raised and surpassed our $200 million goal.”

While serving as chair of the board, Bob exhibited “astute and quiet leadership qualities,” said William Kieffer ’64, trustee emeritus. “He was very patient and nurturing of his fellow board members, particularly those who had just come on the board.”

Recalling their years together as classmates and later as trustees, Mr. Kieffer added: “Bob had a witty sense of humor as an undergrad that continued throughout his life. As a New York City financier, he was probably the last person you’d expect to see with a camera around his neck, but there we were one time riding in a bus down Fifth Avenue and Bob was snapping pictures of everything.”

Robert P. Youngman was born in Washington, D.C., on November 5, 1940, to William Sterling Youngman and Elsie Forbes Perkins. He attended St. Bernard’s School in Manhattan and the Brooks School in Andover, Mass., before enrolling at Middlebury College. His father was a member of the Middlebury College Board of Trustees (1962–1977), clerk to U.S. Court of Appeals Judge Learned Hand, and president and chairman of C.V. Starr and Co.

After graduating with a BA in political science, Youngman launched his career in finance with the American International Reinsurance Company in Manila, Philippines. In 1976 he started the investment management firm Granite State Corporation, later known as Hovey, Youngman Associates and finally as Griffin Asset Management.

Youngman’s deep and enduring interest in Asian art and culture led him and his wife, Barbara, to establish a vast number of endowed funds at Middlebury College to support the acquisition of art, the exhibition and cataloguing of artworks, student internships in the field of Asian art, and the preparation and curation of works of art. The Youngman family has also donated numerous works from their own collection to the Museum of Art, including an Indian Buddhist stele, an ancient earthenware vessel with ram’s head, 12 Chinese Buddhist temple scrolls, an ancient bronze ritual vessel, a Buddhist reliquary, and a large ornamental “scholar’s rock” dating back to the Han Dynasty in China.

The director of the College museum, Richard Saunders, said, “Bob was truly passionate about art. Few things in life were more fun than visiting New York art galleries with him to look for objects ranging from Chinese jade, which was his first and abiding love, to virtually any kind of Asian art. But most of all, I will remember his enormous modesty regarding the many gifts that he and Barbara generously gave to Middlebury.”

The Youngmans in 1995 made the gift that created the Robert F. Reiff Gallery of Art at the Middlebury Museum of Art, a donation designated to honor the former professor of art history who taught at Middlebury from 1958 to 1982. And yet the family’s largesse was not limited to the arts. They also endowed the Commons Initiative Fund at Middlebury to support the growth of the Commons system, and most recently founded the Youngman Roundtable Fund for Arguments and Issues in the Public Square in order to “model civic engagement and discourse across difference to cultivate free speech as part of Middlebury’s liberal arts mission.”

After Youngman stepped down from the Board of Trustees, the College conferred an Honorary Doctor of Arts degree to him at the 1996 Commencement saying, “You guided Middlebury through years of unprecedented challenge for higher education. With your steady hand as a trustee and later as chairman of the board, those years of challenge became years of opportunity for the institution.”

Youngman also served on the boards of St. Bernard’s School, the Nightingale-Bamford School, Cushing Academy, and the Salzburg Global Seminar, and was a director of the ANECO Reinsurance Company, the Nelson Fund Inc., and a number of other private companies.

He believed that expanding one’s horizons by delving into what he termed “the extracurricular aspects of life” often provided life’s greatest rewards.

He is survived by Barbara, his wife of 55 years; their three adult children, Cameron F. Youngman ’87, John G. Youngman ’90, and Eloise Y. Johnson; and seven grandchildren.

Visiting hours will be held on Friday, January 12, from 2 to 4 p.m. and from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Frank E. Campbell Funeral Chapel at 1076 Madison Avenue in New York City. A memorial service will be scheduled for the spring. In lieu of flowers, a contribution can be made in his name to VSNY Hospice, 1250 Broadway, 4th floor, NY, NY 10001, attn. Stefanie Steel.

 

5 Comments

I got to know Bob in an unusual way. We were cheerleaders together during our undergraduate years and even traveled together to away games. It's interesting to contrast his quiet demeanor with the task we had to encourage those in the stands to make a lot of noise. He will be missed.

by "T" Tall '65 (not verified)

I served on the board for a while with Bob and remember him very fondly. The piece written here so accurately describes him as a “gentle giant”. Bob was a wonderful person who will be sorely missed. RIP.

by Kathy Frazer Wi... (not verified)

All that is written here is so very true of Bob, most of all his gentleness and generosity. I too served on the Board (1991-1996) and remember his warmth, kindness and quiet strength. He was a leader who led from the heart with wisdom from a fine mind. His memory alone brings us comfort that stays with us.

by Martha Saenz (not verified)

Bob built his house in New Haven, VT behind my grandparent's home (my grandfather was chair of the Midd education department for a number of years, Harry Lawrence). Early in the planning process he stopped by for a cocktail, stood out back on the patio and remarked that his new home would ruin their view. Without being asked and without hesitation he moved his home behind the trees, saving the view of the Adirondacks for my grandparents and giving himself a view of the trees. He didn't need to do that, but he wanted to. Though I only knew him as
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a neighbor, my entire family holds him in the highest regard.
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by Duncan Lawrence (not verified)

My dear grandfather was a hard working and successful man with a great sense of humor and expressed a great amount of kindness not only towards me but to the rest of my family. I know you wont be able to read this but I'm 13 now. I look forward to reaching your expectations to a high degree because you've always told me that nothing is better than being yourself no matter what the circumstances. Although you are gone I still to this day make it a top priority to never forget the bond we both used to share a
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while back. I love you with my life and so much more. goodbye " Pops".
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by Kelly F Youngman (not verified)

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