Palakurthi said Robertson was a meticulous planner, flawless executor and a true criticizer. “He did nothing for personal benefit. He was very fair on decision-making which talks about his integrity,” he said.
Robertson was willing to help or mentor faculty, staff and students. “He felt offended if people didn’t ask for help. He was very giving,” de León said.
“I will admit I was a little timid when I first began working for him but he mellowed out; or maybe I became more comfortable as I got to know him better,” said Knudsen, who worked with Robertson for six years. “Dr. Robertson made each day a ‘Want to Come to Work Day.’ ”
Robertson was influential in setting a standard of professional dress that not many colleges adhere to. Faculty, staff and students say the dress code established a sense of professionalism. On Thursdays everyone at the college is expected to suit up while other days are business casual.
“It changed my image,” said Sabawi, who received his Bachelor of Science in chemistry from the University of Texas. Sabawi said he never really thought about the importance of professional dress before. “He dressed really well and was a mentor to me.”
No blue jeans, flip-flops or T-shirts like most college campuses.
“There are few people in this world that command respect the way he did.”
“He taught me to always act like a professional, in email, phone calls, at all times, and respect everyone,” said Carney, who is also the 2012-2013 student council president. “I am thankful to have known him and learn from him. I was looking forward to working closer with him because he always knew the right thing to say. He cared.”
“He had such pride in our school that it was impossible not to feel the same when around him,” Patlovony said, who attended The University of Texas at Austin. “It will not tarnish, even with his passing.”
Chavez said Robertson cannot be replaced. “He’s one of a kind. It’s a deep loss to this school,” she said. “He was the go-to man at this college for faculty, staff and students because he listened. He helped me become a better leader.”
Palakurthi said it’s difficult to believe that Robertson is really gone and it’s left a vacuum in the college. “It’s a loss to the faculty and the college as a whole. He was so passionate about this college.”
He was a great friend and supporter at the college and beyond. He exemplified what Kristopher Virga, Ph.D., assistant professor in the department of pharmaceutical sciences from 2006 to 2011 at the Texas A&M Rangel College of Pharmacy, hopes to emulate as a student educator and mentor. Virga is now an associate professor pharmaceutical sciences at the School of Pharmacy at Presbyterian College in Clinton, S.C.
“There are few people in this world that command respect the way he did,” Virga said.
Friendship meant a lot to Robertson.
“James will also be remembered fondly for his sense of humor,” Talluto said. “We shared so many laughs together and with Dr. Chavez and our ongoing moments of ‘he likes you better’ conversations that lightened the stress and actually made you look forward to coming to work each day. Great fun and great memories will be cherished for a truly remarkable individual. I am honored to have known him and to have considered him not only a colleague but a dear friend.”
He nurtured friendships from all over the world. “He had a big impact on people. He had friends in Europe, Egypt, Washington state and Louisiana to name a few places,” Chavez said.
“It is indeed so sad that we lost our dear friend,” said Yavuz Ergin, a banking consultant from Turkey who met Robertson in 1981 at University of Louisiana at Monroe and spoke at Robertson’s memorial service. “We maintained our friendship and met many times since then in the U.S., Turkey and last time in Geneva, Switzerland. We all know that James made a significant difference in many of his students’, friends’ and relatives’ lives in sharing his valuable experience and thoughts, and assisted, guided and inspired us with much dedication, clear vision and honesty.”