Robert H. Shaffer


Honorary Degree (1985)
Doctor of Laws
Location: Bloomington
Presenter: John W. Ryan


The career of Robert H. Shaffer at Indiana University encompassed two of the most challenging periods of the University's history. During the expansion following World War II he served as assistant dean of students, and as dean of students throughout the turmoil of the 1960s. The personal and intellectual qualities he brought to his role provided strength to the University and established new directions in the field of student personnel administration.

Robert Shaffer was born near Delphi, Indiana, and received the A.B. from DePauw University in 1936. He was awarded the M.A. from Teachers College of Columbia University in 1939, and the Ph.D. from New York University in 1945. Shortly after joining the faculty of the School of Business at Indiana University in 1941, he took leave for wartime service in the United States Army. He returned to Bloominton in 1946 to a joint appointment to the faculties of the Schools of Business and Education and to an appointment as assistant dean of students. In this administrative post he stretched the resources of the University to provide a complete framework for campus life during a period when enrollments increased five fold.

Dr. Shaffer was appointed dean of students in 1955 and served in that position until 1969. During the tumultuous decade of the 1960s, when student activists tested the limits of institutional and social tolerance, Dean Shaffer worked tirelessly to maintain an environment where the academic values of freedom of speech and diversity of opinion could be honored and educational goals pursued with a minimum of disruption. In the process he became the target of the extremist and a beacon to the moderate. His unfailing discretion and sound judgment earned the respect of both students and faculty, and were in large measure responsible for the University's success in meeting the challenges of that period.

A superb administrator, Dean Shaffer helped to build the University's programs in counseling, veterans' guidance, and foreign student services. He made a point of knowing by name every international student studying at the University, an important part of personalizing their experience. His dedication and innovative ideas have contributed importantly to the University's national reputation in the administration of student affairs.

Dr. Shaffer returned to fulltime teaching in the School of Education in 1970, serving as chairman of the Department of Higher Education from 1973 to 1979. From 1979 until his retirement in 1981, he was chairman of the Department of Student Personnel Administration, which under his leadership was a pioneer in combining practical work experience with academic and research programs. He anticipated the numbers that would be involved in delivering student services and insisted that high intellectual and professional standards be established and maintained for a growing field. Indiana University became a leading center for the training of student personnel professionals, attracting students from all over the world. One third of the senior student personnel officers in this country today hold graduate degrees from Indiana University.

Robert Shaffer has served in executive positions in every national association concerned with counseling and student development. As the first president of the American Personnel and Guidance Association, chairman of the Council of Student Personnel Association in Higher Education, vice president of the National Association of Student Personnel Administrators, and a member of the advisory board of the U.S. National Student Association, he promoted the application of research to the solution of recurring problems in student affairs administration. He was editor of the Journal of the National Association of Student Personnel Administrators and associate editor of The Personnel and Guidance journal, and since 1979 has directed the Center for the Study of the College Fraternity.

Abroad, Dr. Shaffer served as a consultant in university administration in Thailand and Afghanistan under the auspices of the Agency for International Development and the U.S. State Department. He directed Indiana University's project in educational administration in Saudi Arabia. Following his retirement he contributed his skill and insight to the organization of the University's program in Malaysia. His numerous publications are landmarks in the development of college student personnel services and their management, and throughout his career he has been a consultant to national educational and government organizations.

Dr. Shaffer received nearly every honor given by the professional organizations in his field, including the Award for Service to Higher Education and the Award for Distinguished Service as a Dean from the National Association of Student Personnel Administrators, and the Distinguished Professional Service Award from the American College Personnel Association. He was awarded the honorary Doctor of Laws by DePauw University in 1976.

Robert Shaffer has touched the lives of thousands of students, directly by his kindly and wise advice, and indirectly by the benefit of an enriched campus life. The measure of his contribution is in this lasting influence, and in the lives of professionals throughout the country whose careers he has helped to advance, both personally and through the impact of his thinking on the field of student personnel administration.