Lake Superior State University business and economics professor Robert Gaertner passed away July 29. He was 76.
Gaertner, originally a native of Saginaw, held degrees from the University of Notre Dame (bachelor of business administration, 1964) and Michigan State University (master of business administration, 1965).
He started at Lake Superior State College in September 1965 as an instructor in business and economics. He served 1968-69 in the United States Army during the Vietnam War, before returning to LSSC in January 1970. He was promoted to assistant professor in 1970, granted tenure in 1972, elevated to associate professor in 1989, retired in July 2000, and awarded emeritus status in 2001.
Bob’s wife, Georgegeen, was a professor of English at LSSU from 1965 until 2000, including several years as department head. She passed away in June 2002. He is survived by his son, Fr. Stephen A. Gaertner.
LSSU Foundation Executive Director Tom Coates, a former student of Professor Gaertner in the 1980s, recalls, “Professor Gaertner was the toughest prof I ever had here, but it was like a rite of passage getting through his classes. I visited him several times in Midland (after he retired) when I was in the area on business. It was special talking to him in that setting, and of course, we talked about his Fighting Irish football team.” Tom is also a member of the Lambda Sigma Beta fraternity, which Bob advised for some years. “When in the Frat, every year we played ‘Gart Ball’ at the city field,” Tom said. “Prof. Gaertner never batted, he just played short stop. I am convinced that was a ‘Lake State – style’ experience not to be had at other schools.
Dr. Madan Saluja, long-time professor in LSSU’s Lukenda School of Business, recalls when Bob Gaertner returned to Lake State in 1970 after serving in the Vietnam War. The business department was housed in Ontario Hall in those days, where the rooms were large but there weren’t enough rooms for each prof to have his own office. Bob had asked Saluja if he could share an office with him and Saluja replied that he’d be happy to have him. “I’m a bachelor – I’m here until midnight, so I’ll be here most of the time” Saluja warned him. “But you are welcome to set up a table in my office.” Saluja said that Bob was a good office mate. “He came early every morning to make coffee before I arrived. If he was late one day, he would make the coffee when he arrived and deliver it to me in my classroom. So thoughtful. I really didn’t like his coffee,” remembered Saluja. “It was too strong. But he was such a nice guy – I drank it just out of politeness.”
Saluja said that Gaertner had very high standards. “He was blunt, tough and demanding – a lot like me! Students either liked him or avoided him, but there were more who loved him. His bark was worse than his bite, and at heart he was a very gentle soul always thinking of students’ well being.”
Dr. Saluja recalled that Gaertner served on a number of committees and said that he truly was an asset to this institution. He was very ethical, which Saluja attributed to his strong religious background. “Bob was also very blunt in his discussions,”Saluja said. “He wasn’t there to please; he expressed his opinion.”
“He was the best office mate ever,” concluded Dr. Saluja. “You couldn’t ask for a better person as a friend.”
A memorial service was held August 11 in the St. Mary’s Pro-Cathedral of Sault Ste. Marie, with Bob’s son, Father Stephen Gaertner officiating. Burial was at Riverside cemetery.
Those planning an expression of sympathy may wish to consider a contribution to the Georgegeen Gaertner Award at Lake Superior State University.