Robert J. We­ber

The long­time chair­man of the po­lit­i­cal science de­part­ment at McDaniel Col­lege also opened a West­min­ster restau­rant

Baltimore Sun - - OBITUARIES | NATION & WORLD - By Tim Pru­dente tpru­dente@balt­sun.com

Robert J. We­ber, who chaired the po­lit­i­cal science de­part­ment at McDaniel Col­lege for more than a decade and in­spired fu­ture lawyers, judges and politi­cians while sel­dom giv­ing them A’s, died Nov. 12 of car­diac ar­rest at his home in West­min­ster. He was 79.

The Chicago-born pro­fes­sor joined the small, lib­eral arts col­lege in 1969, and spent nearly 30 years in­struct­ing stu­dents with the rig­or­ous So­cratic teach­ing method. He would ques­tion their an­swers and chal­lenge their be­liefs to draw out ideas. In his small classes, there was nowhere to hide.

For­mer stu­dent Frank Kra­tovil Jr. once skipped class to play in a baseball game. The next week, Dr. We­ber pre­sented him with a slip to drop the class. The pro­fes­sor kept the slip on hand, warn­ing him that it would be sub­mit­ted af­ter one more ab­sence.

Judge Kra­tovil be­came the Queen Anne’s County state’s at­tor­ney, a mem­ber of the U.S. House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives and state District Court judge.

“He de­manded and ex­pected ex­cel­lence,” said Judge Kra­tovil, who grad­u­ated in1990 with a de­gree in po­lit­i­cal science. “He sparked a life­long in­ter­est in me. He was a phe­nom­e­nal teacher.”

Dr. We­ber wouldn’t scold a late stu­dent. In­stead, he would stop class and loudly say, “Can I get you a cof­fee and a bun?”

“Of course, no one was ever late,” said his wife, Sara Ann We­ber.

Robert Joseph We­ber was born 1937 in Chicago and raised on the North Shore. His fa­ther, Joseph Ge­orge We­ber, was a plumber and in­vented sys­tems used in a Chicago zoo to wash away bird drop­pings and sup­ply wa­ter to gi­raffes. His mother, El­iz­a­beth Mar­garet Mof­fatt We­ber, was a Scot­tish im­mi­grant and nurse.

Dr. We­ber served in the Army from 1956 to 1958.

He was sta­tioned at Fort Meade in Anne Arun­del County when he met a young wo­man from Mary­land’s East­ern Shore. Ann Fal­low­field was stay­ing near the base at an Epis­co­pal board­ing house.

They were mar­ried for 59 years be­fore his death.

In 1962, he earned a bach­e­lor’s de­gree in po­lit­i­cal science from the Univer­sity of Wis­con­sin-Mil­wau­kee. Then he and his wife moved back to Mary­land and set­tled in Car­roll County.

Dr. We­ber taught Eng­lish and so­cial stud­ies at North Car­roll High School be­fore study­ing po­lit­i­cal science fur­ther at the Univer­sity of Mary­land. He earned a master’s de­gree in 1966 and doc­tor­ate in 1969. Then he joined Western Mary­land Col­lege, which was re­named McDaniel in 2002.

The cou­ple raised three chil­dren on a small farm in Car­roll County.

“He didn’t wake us up for the moon land­ing, but he made us watch the Wa­ter- gate hear­ings — he was that dad,” said a daugh­ter, Joan We­ber of West­min­ster.

The fam­ily raised pigs, cat­tle and chick­ens. “He called it a gen­tle­man’s farm,” his daugh­ter said.

Awood stove heated their farm­house. He re­built an old re­frig­er­a­tor into a so­lar­pow­ered wa­ter heater. On week­ends the fam­ily col­lected fire­wood and gleaned crops. When their sow, Rose­bud, gave birth one win­ter, the fam­ily raised the piglets in the kitchen.

A per­pet­ual tin­kerer, Dr. We­ber read the mag­a­zine Mother Earth News for lessons in re­new­able en­ergy and fam­ily farm­ing.

He bought a cot­tage in Rock Hall on Mary­land’s East­ern Shore and spent one sum­mer as a com­mer­cial crab­ber. He also founded a T-shirt print­ing shop and he opened Mag­gie’s Restau­rant and Cater­ing in West­min­ster, his daugh­ter said.

“He just needed to keep busy all the time,” she said.

In 1983 he be­came chair of the po­lit­i­cal science and in­ter­na­tional stud­ies de­part­ment. Dr. We­ber main­tained high stan­dards for his stu­dents.

If they scored poorly on a quiz — be­low 70 per­cent, Judge Kra­tovil re­called — they re­ceived a zero. Judge Kra­tovil ob­jected one day in Dr. We­ber’s of­fice.

“I protested, ‘How can you take away 59 per­cent?’ ” Judge Kra­tovil re­called. “His an­swer was he’s been do­ing it for years.” Judge Kra­tovil laughed. “At the time, I didn’t find that very hu­mor­ous.”

Dr. We­ber pro­moted in­tern­ships and placed stu­dents in of­fices with state’s at­tor­neys and U.S. sen­a­tors.

For 29 years, he took stu­dents to the Har­vard Model United Na­tions con­fer­ence to sim­u­late work of the U.N.

His re­search took him to Great Bri­tain, France, Bel­gium and the Nether­lands. He led stu­dents be­hind the for­mer Iron Cur­tain and to study emerg­ing na­tions in Cen­tral Amer­ica.

In 1998, he cre­ated the Robert J. We­ber Award to honor star po­lit­i­cal science stu­dents. He re­tired that year.

Dr. We­ber re­mained a de­voted fan of the Chicago Cubs. As a boy, he would hitch­hike to Wrigley Field and sneak into games.

As he told it, he once jumped from the bleach­ers and plucked a foul ball off the field, his wife said.

Then, fam­ily mem­bers said, Hall of Famer Stan Mu­sial threw a glove at him.

This month, he watched his last Cubs game. He wore his Cubs hat and T-shirt, and he wit­nessed some­thing he had never seen be­fore. He saw his Cubs win the World Se­ries.

A cel­e­bra­tion of his life is planned for May.

In ad­di­tion to his wife and daugh­ter, Dr. We­ber is sur­vived by a son, David Joseph We­ber of Tow­son; another daugh­ter, Bar­bara Ann We­ber of West­min­ster; five grand­chil­dren; and 12 nieces and neph­ews.. Robert J. We­ber and his fam­ily op­er­ated a small farm in Car­roll County. Ger­man Chan­cel­lor An­gela Merkel, Europe’s most in­flu­en­tial leader, de­clares Sun­day she will run for re-elec­tion.

KAY NIETFELD/EPA

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