Oct. 31, 2019 (Middletown, Conn.) — Middlesex Community College President Emeritus Robert A. Chapman has passed away at the age of 87. Chapman died on October 2, 2019, while taking his morning walk near the lake at the Laurel Lake Retirement Center in Hudson, Ohio, his home for the past few years.
Chapman served as president of Middlesex Community College in Middletown from 1976 to 1989, when he retired. He previously held teaching positions at Wheatland-Chili Central School in Scottsville, New York, and at Corning Community College, Corning, New York, where he also served as the dean of students and later as the dean of faculty.
“President Chapman oversaw a time of rapid growth at Middlesex Community College, which had just moved to its then-new campus,” said Middlesex Campus CEO Steven Minkler. “He once said his greatest accomplishments included developing new academic programs, collaborating closely with Wesleyan University, and establishing satellite centers in Meriden and on the shoreline. He was also very proud to create additional academic and community space in a new building which today carries his name, Chapman Hall. His vision that community colleges should play a vital role in American society still resonates with us some 43 years after his inauguration. We have lost a dear friend to this college and to our community.”
Chapman arrived at Middlesex Community College in the summer of 1976. During his tenure, the college became a known, reputable entity within the community and brought Middlesex into the mainstream as an excellent option for college.
With an overall emphasis on quality, Chapman helped establish the MxCC alumni fund, the first Meriden Extension Center, and the Old Saybrook program. More of his accomplishments included overseeing the college’s 10-year accreditation, designating Middlesex as a center for telecommunications, setting up Pratt & Whitney and Aetna degree programs, and establishing high school partnerships. Other Middlesex firsts during Chapman’s tenure included the beginning of the ophthalmic design and dispensing curriculum, the honors program, the Center for Teaching and the ESL program.
In the community, Chapman was a past president of the Middletown Rotary Club, served on the board for the Long Rivers Council of the Boy Scouts of America, and was a corporator of the Middlesex Memorial Hospital and Farmers and Mechanics Savings Bank in Middletown.
The Robert Chapman Hall groundbreaking took place on the Middletown campus in February 1991 and opened in Fall 1992. The three-story building currently houses the Jean Burr Smith Library, Learning Commons, Center for New Media, Ophthalmic Design and Dispensing Center, Pegasus Art Gallery, state-of-the-art classrooms, and multipurpose meeting rooms.
Former Middlesex President Anna Wasescha, who served from 2011 to 2017, donated an American chestnut tree that will be planted on campus in honor of Chapman.
Chapman was born in Orange, Massachusetts, on April 15, 1932. He graduated from Orange High School, earned degrees from Northeastern University (B.A.), Colgate University (M.A.), and completed the Junior College Leadership Program at Stanford University in California.
He was married to Abbie J. (Stowell) Chapman of Athol, Massachusetts, who died in July 2009. Four daughters survive them including Adrian Buechner of Newport, Rhode Island; Elisabeth Gamble of State College, Pennsylvania; Brenda Chapman of Madrid, Spain; and Robin Chapman of Austin, Texas. They also have nine grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. He is also survived by his companion, Joan Harris.
“He was a wonderful man and he lived a full life to the very end. We will all miss him,” wrote Buechner in an October 8 letter to the college.
Since 1966, Middlesex Community College has provided high-quality, affordable, and accessible education to a diverse population, enhancing the strengths of individuals through degree, certificate, and lifelong learning programs that lead to university transfer, employment, and an enriched awareness of our shared responsibilities as global citizens. A part of the Connecticut State Colleges and Universities system, MxCC offers more than 70 degree or certificate programs at the main 35-acre campus in Middletown, MxCC@Platt in Meriden, and online.