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Robert F. Rich

August 2, 1949 -
August 7, 2022

Robert F. Rich, 73, PhD, a resident of Urbana and Professor of Law, Medicine, and Political Science (retired) passed away on Sunday, August 7th in Effingham, IL.

Dr. Rich was born on August 2, 1949 in Chicago. He is survived by Lucy, his wife of 48 years; three children: Rebecca (Matthew), Rachel Zara (Mark), and Ma…read more

Robert F. Rich, 73, PhD, a resident of Urbana and Professor of Law, Medicine, and Political Science (retired) passed away on Sunday, August 7th in Effingham, IL.

Dr. Rich was born on August 2, 1949 in Chicago. He is survived by Lucy, his wife of 48 years; three children: Rebecca (Matthew), Rachel Zara (Mark), and Max (Elizabeth); three grandchildren: Joseph, Nelia, and Adele; and brother Dennis (Elizabeth).  A warm and exuberant personality, Dr. Rich was known for getting people to laugh and feel welcome.

Dr. Rich’s career included research, writing, teaching, and consulting in a variety of fields using empirical data with an emphasis on the fields of health law, mental health policy and law, as well as a pioneering role in the field of knowledge management and utilization. His career began in 1971 as a Deutscher Akademischer Austauschdienst Fullbright Scholar at the Freie Universität Berlin. He received the Marc Perry Galler Award from The University of Chicago for Best Doctoral Dissertation in the Graduate Social Science Division and the Leonard D. White Award from the American Political Science Association for Best Doctoral Dissertation in the Area of Public Administration submitted in 1974 or 1975.

An internationally renowned scholar, his career included appointments at the University of Michigan, Princeton University, Carnegie Mellon University, and the University of Illinois. He was also a permanent fellow at the European Center for Comparative Government and Public Policy with the Humboldt, Free, and Technical Universities in Berlin, Germany. He was a guest lecturer in Ecuador, China, and Russia.  Dr. Rich was also a visiting scholar at the Max Planck Institute for Foreign and International Social Law as well as the Brookings Institute and Johns Hopkins University. He was the commencement speaker at Johns Hopkins in 1994 for the School of Arts and Sciences. The title of his address was: “The Gift of Foresight in an Age of Technological Imperatives.”

Dr. Rich served as the Director of the Institute of Government and Public Affairs at the University of Illinois from 1986 until he retired in 2012. Whether teaching undergraduates, graduate students, legislators, police officers, fire fighters, or the general public through OLLI, he valued every opportunity to mentor, engage with the community, and teach others. His community engagement included volunteer work with B’nai B’rith, the Urban League, the League of Women Voters, and the Kiwanis Club.

Highlights of his career at the University of Illinois also include holding the positions of Director of the Jon David and Elizabeth Epstein Health Law and Policy Program at the College of Law and acting head of the Medical Humanities and Social Sciences Program. In addition to his appointments in the Colleges of Law, Medicine, and Political Science, Dr. Rich held appointments in the community health and environmental studies programs.

His career is perhaps best summarized in an award from the Miriam K. Mills Research Center for Super-Optimizing Analysis and Developing Nations in 1996 which reads: The Thomas Jefferson Award for outstanding contributions to promoting free speech, due process, and merit treatment, also democratic governance and ethical interaction to Robert Rich, political science superstar.

He was most proud of these accomplishments: the Robert F. Rich Research Award (World Federation for Mental Health Scientific Committee on Mental Health Needs of Victims) which he was the inaugural recipient of in 1993, the 2004 University of Illinois Campus Faculty Award for Excellence in Public Engagement, the Emil Limbach Teaching Award (Carnegie Mellon University School of Urban and Public Affairs) for “Excellence in the Classroom,” and the Aaron Wildavsky Enduring Contribution Award (American Political Science Association) for the best publication in policy studies for “Utilization of Policy Research” a chapter in the Encyclopedia of Policy Studies (Second Edition) that he co-authored with Cheol H. Oh.

In his spare time, Dr. Rich loved to read, fish, play games, go to the beach, and spend time with his family. He cheered on the Illini and the Cubs. He was incredibly proud of his children and grandchildren, bragging about their accomplishments at every opportunity. One of his favorite appellations was Opa and he loved engaging with grandchildren in whatever way most made them laugh. His deep love for his family endures in the love they show each other.

“A song I’m writing is left undone…”

Dr. Rich was interred on Thursday, August 11th in Mt. Hope Cemetery.  In lieu of flowers or other gifts, the family asks that contributions be made to one of two causes important to Dr. Rich: The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C. or the American Civil Liberties Union.

Condolences may be offered at www.morganmemorialhome.com.

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