Robert M. Cross, a member of Class of 1945 and Secretary of the College Emeritus, died Sunday, July 15, 2012, at the age of 88. As editor of The Whispering Pines and as correspondent for the College, Cross was quite literally the link to Bowdoin for generations of alumni.
“He was the traditional voice of Bowdoin, and it was through Bob’s voice – and his pen – that scores of alumni remained connected to, involved in, and deeply proud of their alma mater,” said President Barry Mills. “He served six presidents of Bowdoin, but more importantly, he served the people and the community that define this place.”
Born in Augusta, Maine, February 10, 1924, Cross graduated from Brunswick High School and enrolled at Bowdoin in the fall of 1941. During World War II he served from 1943 to 1945 in a code-breaking unit of the U.S. Army Signals Intelligence Corps in North Africa and Italy, attaining the rank of technician, 4th grade. Following the war he returned to Bowdoin and graduated in 1947 as a member of the Class of 1945, summa cum laude and as a member of Phi Beta Kappa. At Bowdoin, he was a member of the track team and was the winner of the Class of 1875 Prize in American History and the Almon Goodwin Phi Beta Kappa Prize.
He earned his master’s degree in English at Harvard University in 1948. In 1947, while returning home to Brunswick for the Christmas holiday, he met Jeannette Steele on the Boston and Maine train. They were married in July 1948.
Cross taught Latin and algebra at Cape Elizabeth High School in Maine during the 1948-49 academic year. In 1950 he returned to Bowdoin as an instructor in the English department. He began working in the alumni office in 1953, edited the alumni magazine and The Whispering Pines newsletter, and was Secretary of the Alumni Fund from 1959 until 1983, when he was appointed Secretary of the College, a position he held until his retirement in 1990.
Over the course of his career, Cross acknowledged many thousands of gifts with a handwritten signature and a personal note. He was the Old Guard’s Class Agent in the Alumni Fund for more than 50 years and was 1945’s Class Agent from 1954 to 1962. Each year, the Alumni Council presents the Robert M. Cross Award to “the Class Agent or Agents whose hard work and loyalty to Bowdoin are deserving of special recognition.”
Bowdoin honored Cross for his “service and devotion to Bowdoin” in 1972 with the Alumni Award for Faculty and Staff. The College awarded him an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree in 1989 for his many contributions, including “bringing the College to vivid life for Bowdoin men and women everywhere.”
Cross was a member of First Parish Church in Brunswick (UCC), where he served as a deacon, historian and clerk over the years. He organized class reunions for the Brunswick High School Class of 1941, and enjoyed sharing in the lives of his many friends in the community and in the Bowdoin family. Bob and Jeannette were Maine State track officials for many years, and an award in their name is given annually to a member of the Bowdoin women’s team who displays outstanding qualities of loyalty, sportsmanship and character.
Cross is survived by his wife, Jeannette; son Peter M. Cross ’72 (Candace L. Cross) of Orange, Mass.; a daughter, Suzanne C. Barton (Robert Barton) of Westbrook, Maine, and son John R. Cross ’76 (Leslie C. Shaw) of Brunswick; grandchildren Emily T. Cross, Eben S. Cross (Meridith Greene), Anna C. Barton, Lauren T. Cross, and Audrey L. Cross; a sister, Marjorie C. Buschner of Holyoke, Mass.; sisters-in-law Ruth C. Cross of Livingston, N.J.; and Janis M. Cross of Hallowell, Maine, and nieces, nephews and cousins.
Memorial contributions may be made to the Cross Family Scholarship Fund, Bowdoin College, 4100 College Station, Brunswick, ME 04011-8432, to First Parish Church, 9 Cleaveland St., Brunswick, ME 04011, or to the charity of your choice. There will be a memorial service at First Parish Church in Brunswick. Further details of the arrangements will be shared as they become available.
“Many think of college as a contained four-year experience,” said President Mills. “At Bowdoin, we know that those four years are truly just a beginning and that the relationships and bonds begun in those years last and enrich a lifetime. Bob Cross made sure of it. For that, and for his steadfast devotion to this community, he holds a special and enduring place in our hearts and in the proud history of Bowdoin College. I know each of you joins me in extending the thanks and sympathies of a grateful College to Jeannette and to the entire Cross family.”