Cover photo for Robert Dunbar's Obituary
Robert Dunbar Profile Photo
1943 Robert 2017

Robert Dunbar

June 26, 1943 — October 31, 2017

Robert C. Dunbar, PhD., age 74 of Cleveland Heights, OH; Professor Emeritus of Chemistry, Case Western Reserve University (1970-2017). Passed away on October 31, 2017 in the Cleveland Clinic of heart failure. Beloved husband of Mary A. Dunbar (nee Asmundson); loving father of Geoffrey T. Dunbar (Nancy M.) of Hanover, NH; William A. Dunbar (Ari Sato) of Yokohama, Japan; dear grandfather of Sarah A. and Emma L. Dunbar; brother of Anne D. Walston (Oliver) of Thriplow, England.

Rob was born June 26, 1943, in Cambridge Massachusetts to William Harrison Dunbar and Carolyn Roorbach Dunbar. He grew up primarily in Washington DC, attending Sidwell Friends School for elementary school, Saint Albans School for high school, graduated in 1965 from Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts, with a BA in Chemistry, and earned a Ph.D. in Physical Chemistry from Stanford University in Palo Alto, California in 1970. In his upbringing and at St Alban's School, Rob learned values that he conformed to for his life. Family and loyalty were always important to him, he was honest, ethical and kind.

Rob joined the Chemistry department at Case Western Reserve University in 1970, received tenure in 1975, became a full professor in 1978, and remained at CWRU for the remainder of his professional career. He specialized in basic research, primarily using mass spectrometers, in particular Fourier Transform Mass Spectrometry and Ion Cyclotron Resonance Spectrometry, to study topics such as the binding of metal ions, interstellar and circumstellar chemistry, and new approaches to the use of spectroscopy combining a free electron laser with a mass spectrometer. Rob had his own research group at CWRU for many decades. During the first decade of his career, he enjoyed Alfred P. Sloan and J.S. Guggenheim Fellowships and a Sigma Xi Research Award.

His research group trained many graduate students who went on to doctorates in chemistry and careers in academia and industry. In recent years, Rob continued his research, collaborating with the FELIX (Free Electron Lasers for Infrared eXperiments) laboratory in the Netherlands. He published more than 250 research papers over the course of his career. He was a member of the American Chemical Society, American Society for Mass Spectrometry, American Physical Society, and Inter-American Photochemical Society.

Rob met his wife Mary at Stanford University, and they were married June 21, 1969. In 1970, they settled into Cleveland Heights, where they have remained since. Their two sons, Geoffrey and Bill, were born in 1970 and 1973, respectively. They moved into their current house in 1976. Almost every summer of his life, Robert vacationed on Bear Island in Maine, where the Dunbar family has maintained a vacation home for over a hundred years. In the past decade or so, Rob enjoyed bicycle trips with his wife and other family, to Italy, Spain, France, Holland, Belgium, India, Costa Rica, Ecuador, and the Galapagos.

Rob always enjoyed visiting family in New Hampshire, Japan, England, California and other locations. He always enjoyed puzzles of all types, especially torturing his descendants with fiendish mathematical puzzles. He was an accomplished pianist, playing daily throughout his life, and loved classical music, enjoying operas, symphonies, and concerts, especially the International Piano Competition. He was active to the end of his days, commuting by bicycle and riding recreationally. Rob and Mary also enjoyed gardening together in their home garden, and Rob kept fish and cacti throughout his life.

The family prefers that those who wish may make contributions in his name to the Cleveland Institute of Music, 11201 East Blvd., Cleveland, OH 44106 or to the Cleveland Museum of Natural History, 1 Wade Oval Dr., Cleveland, OH 44106. A Funeral Service will be held on Saturday, November 4 at 1pm at St. Paul's Episcopal Church, 2747 Fairmount Blvd., Cleveland Heights, OH 44106. FRIENDS MAY CALL AT BROWN-FORWARD, 17022 CHAGRIN BLVD., SHAKER HEIGHTS, OH ON FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 3RD FROM 5-7PM.


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