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Robert (Bob) Dawson

Posted 2011-12-14 by Sharla
Arizona Daily Sun, Flagstaff, AZ
Thursday, May 9, 2002

Robert "Bob" Dawson

A longtime local teacher died Saturday, May 4, 2002, leaving a legacy in local environmental education that those close to him say won't soon be forgotten.

Robert "Bob" Dawson, 69, retired in 1989 from a 29-year career as a teacher with the Flagstaff Unified School District, having spent all but three of those years at Sechrist school. He died following a battle with cancer.

Dawson was born in Shattuck, Okla., on Jan. 25, 1933, and was raised in Ukiah, Calif. He attended California Polytechnical Institute in the early 1950s before being drafted to serve in the U.S. Army. Following his discharge, Dawson moved to Flagstaff in 1957 to attend what was then called Arizona State College.

Once here, he met and married Roberta Dove Eldridge in 1958. In 1960, he completed a master's degree in education and started a teaching career. In the summers, he worked as a researcher for the Rocky Mountain Forest Range Experimental Station. He also directed a local youth conservation corps for the Arizona State Land Department.

While teaching, Dawson instituted several programs that are still thriving. They include "the maze" on the Sechrist playground, the compass treasure hunt at Brookbank, Project L.I.F.E at Camp Colton, the Grand Canyon Stomp, local youth native plant collection, rock climbing at west Mount Elden, and others.

Dawson was featured in several stories in the Daily Sun for one of these games, an outdoor math exercise called "The Witch's House." He created the game with his brother, Lawrence, then a California anthropologist.

Dawson honed a science course at Sechrist that focused on the Grand Canyon's geology, scientific importance, and place in human history. Among speakers he invited into the classroom over the years was former Gov. Bruce Babbitt.

His family has received numerous letters from former students of Dawson's who say he made a lasting impression in their lives.

"You know, there are a handful of folks who I can look back on and say, 'That person changed my life,' " said one former student, Betty Skaggs Vinall, now 42. "You are on that list. I remember you walking up and down the rows as you taught. I remember you pushing me to learn, not just to get an A. I now know that you must have had a hard time keeping a straight face as all of the girls in your class were sneaking on their blue eye shadow in the bathroom. How did you keep the balance with all those raging hormones?"

In addition to teaching, Dawson was interested in skiing, camping, rock climbing, hiking and traveling in the outdoors, local archaeology and anthropology, especially rock art.

After his retirement, he worked as a docent at the Museum of Northern Arizona until a year before his death.

Dawson is survived by his wife, Roberta; son David Dawson of Moab, Utah; daughter Diane Immethun of Flagstaff; brother Lawrence Dawson of Cottonwood; and three grandchildren.

In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations be made to Northland Hospice or to the Robert and Roberta Dawson Native American Graduate Student Scholarship Fund at Northern Arizona University.

Reporter Anne Minard can be reached at or 556-2253

See Also: Find A Grave

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