After nearly 70 years in education, MSU’s Wolverton announces retirement

Mark Keenum presents a painting of Old Main to Robert Wolverton
MSU President Mark E. Keenum presents Robert E. “Bob” Wolverton, Sr. with a painting of Old Main Academic Center following the ribbon cutting for the building in 2017. The rotunda in the building was named in Wolverton’s honor. (Photo by Russ Houston)

Contact: James Carskadon

Studio portrait of Robert Wolverton
Robert E. “Bob” Wolverton, Sr. (Photo by Megan Bean)

STARKVILLE, Miss.—Distinguished Mississippi State University Professor of Classics Robert E. “Bob” Wolverton, Sr. is announcing his retirement after approximately 70 years in education. 

Wolverton, 94, will step down from his full-time role in the Department of Classical and Modern Languages and Literatures effective June 30. He plans to focus on writing his autobiography and return to MSU classrooms on a part-time basis in future semesters. Wolverton has been a fixture on the MSU campus since coming to Starkville as the university’s vice president for academic affairs in 1977. 

“I couldn’t have found a better fit for me,” Wolverton said. “I have a wonderful relationship with MSU, the city of Starkville and so many people. I couldn’t have found a better place to develop myself and do things I never thought I would be doing.” 

In addition to serving as vice president of academic affairs, Wolverton has served as a department head and professor at MSU, as well as president of the Robert Holland Faculty Senate.  

“Dr. Wolverton has served as the touchstone for more than a generation of faculty at MSU,” said Rick Travis, dean of MSU’s College of Arts and Sciences. “His life-long dedication to the pursuit of knowledge, the love of wisdom, the intellectual development of students and preparing them for a life well-lived is at the heart of the mission of the College of Arts and Sciences. That is why we named our highest award the ‘Robert  E. Wolverton Legacy Award.’ We celebrate his retirement with the hope that it is only for a short time before he can return to us on a part-time basis and continue his work with our students and faculty.” 

Among Wolverton’s many honors, he has been named a John Grisham Master Teacher, the university’s highest honor given for excellence in classroom instruction. He also has been honored with the MSU Alumni Association Faculty Achievement Award and College of Arts and Sciences Humanist Award. In 2015, MSU announced that the rotunda in Old Main Academic Center would be named in his honor. 

Wolverton holds a bachelor’s degree in classics from Hanover (Indiana) College, a master’s from the University of Michigan, and a doctorate from the University of North Carolina. He has been on the faculty at the University of Georgia, and Tufts and Florida State universities. 

In the community, Wolverton has served in leadership roles with Starkville Community Theatre, Starkville Public Library, Starkville Friends of the Library and the Starkville-MSU Symphony Association, among others. He is also a member of the Starkville Area Education Hall of Fame. 

Wolverton said he believes Classics remain relevant in society, and he has been encouraged by MSU’s support for the field. He added that his love of the field and of his students are a big part of what has kept him teaching well into his 90s.  

“I’ve said that if you’re doing what you love and you love what you’re doing, the chances are you’ll be very successful,” Wolverton said. “When I look back at all the things that have gone on here, I have to say that I’ve had so much joy, mainly because of my colleagues and the students. Students are always a great source of inspiration. They come up with ideas and are full of optimism typically. They keep all of us pretty young.” 

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Monday, June 29, 2020 - 1:53 pm