Bob Keller has passed on.

Bob Keller has died this Sunday evening. Professor at Fairhaven College, key participant in many environmental and community efforts, he deserves our recognition.

Bob Keller has died this Sunday evening. Professor at Fairhaven College, key participant in many environmental and community efforts, he deserves our recognition.

• Topics: People,

​Bob Keller has died this evening. Bob is known by all who are over 30 and have worked in environmental or community projects in Bellingham and Whatcom County. He came to Western Washington University in the fall of 1967 and helped start Fairhaven College - and taught history as his main discipline for decades. He also taught mountain climbing and several social subjects. He was a quiet person and hardly a master at conversation. But he was always true to himself and indeed led a life pursuing self knowledge. He was always questioning of any sure statements by others. And he also worked very hard to make our community better - such as his participation and even leadership in forming the Whatcom Land Trust.

I met him in 1968 and we taught climbing together and he provided the final history class for my major at Western. Over the years we touched on different local issues. But this is just a stub. He deserves our recognition for all he gave us and tried to give us. Perhaps a few others might tell our readers more about Bob. Perhaps?

About John Servais

Citizen Journalist and Editor • Fairhaven, Washington USA • Member since Feb 26, 2008

John started Northwest Citizen in 1995 to inform fellow citizens of serious local political issues that the Bellingham Herald was ignoring. With the help of donors from the beginning, he has [...]

Comments by Readers

Marian Beddill

Feb 27, 2017

Oh, Damn the reality of life…. Bob Keller was such an admirable person - being involved in the community for the benefit of the community.  With his large network of informed and caring people, he made so many good connections.  He was a regular source for speakers at our weekly Sunday Forum, at BUF (Bellingham Unitarian Fellowship). 
Bless the Spirit of Bob Keller. 


Kamalla R. Kaur

Feb 27, 2017

A simple list of Dr. Robert Keller’s classes, research projects, activisms, publications, organization he started, speeches given, trips he took, and articles he wrote, would run for pages.  His impact on Fairhaven College, WWU, Bellingham, this region, and the world, is a bit staggering to contemplate. Here is a sample list of some of Bob’s projects, particularly what he was busy leading and organizing back in the 1970s ands 1980s.

1. In August 2016 Dr. Bob Keller wrote:

My favorite courses at Fairhaven (College) involved field experience and 15-18 credit classes rarely found in undergraduate departments. Many combined law and history in courses with Rand Jack. Among my “intensive” classes were ones tracing the Nez Perce retreat trail, traveling the length of the Columbia River, Basic Mountaineering, Forests of the Pacific Northwest, the Grand Canyon, the Olympics, Death & Dying, Chicago History and Culture.

Note: Dr. Bob Keller taught the first university class on Death and Dying (Fairhavne College1969/70)

2. Jan 22 2013
Western Front

Reconciling the Past: The History, Literature and Ethics of Japanese Removal

As a child during World War II, Robert Keller visited Camp Harmony, a temporary internment camp in Puyallup for Japanese Americans.  Later in his life, Dr. Keller lived in Germany where he saw how Germans dealt with bleak memories of the war and the holocaust.  These experiences helped shape his presentation, “Reconciling the Past: The History, Literature and Ethics of Japanese Removal,” where Dr. Keller asks:  How do we come to terms with dark parts of our history?

Robert Keller is Professor Emeritus at Western Washington University where he taught for 26 years, primarily American Indian history.  He is on the board of the Whatcom Land Trust and edited the book Whatcom Places.  Throughout his career, he has authored and co-authored numerous books, including American Indians and National Parks, a book coauthored with Michael Turek about the relationship of the American Indian population with the creation of National Parks.  His hobbies include canoeing, hiking and kayaking, and he has climbed Mt. Baker a dozen times.

3. From “WWU As It Was” by The Lunch Bunch:

In 1970, full-page newspaper ads all over Washington State railed against Keller. The ads accused Keller of using his Fairhaven College classroom to perpetrate “A Deliberate Hoax and Fraud” on the voters of Washington State!

All because Bob Keller and his Fairhaven College students had launched the 1970 “Bottle Bill” Initiative 256, requiring nickle deposits on beverage containers.

4. Nov. 20 1970
Western Front

Western’s Ecological Hypocrisy

Most Western students and faculty are experts at condemning local industries for their ecologically disastrous practices. But what of the campus itself?

The Campus Environmental Committee has been formed to coordinate existing environmental agencies on campus and effect a fundamental change in the environmental policies of Western. Dr. Robert Keller, professor at Fairhaven and committee chairman, attacked what he calls the “hypocrisy of Western.”

The students and faculty criticize Bellingham industries, he said, yet they embrace the same values as the polluters. Keller noted some of the co-destructive practices of the college:

. -Western’s sewage is dumped raw into Bellingham Bay.

-tons of paper are thrown out daily and not recycled.

-Fisher fountain is becoming a trash can, and has to be cleaned out each month at a cost of $400.

He mentioned several steps the college could take, including collection centers and baling machines to recycle paper. Georgia-Pacific will buy back paper for $10 a ton.

The committee, formed by President Flora and college provost Frederick Sargent II, will consider ways to make Western’s campus a model ecological system.

“If you can’t develop a sound ecological unit on a small scale, it is hopeless on a larger scale,” Keller said.

5. May 26 1970
Western Front

Black Teach-In slated tomorrow

An “awareness” teach-in will be held from 11-2 p.m.tomorrow in the VU lounge to focus attention on institutional and unconscious racism on campus.

Dr. Robert Keller, assistant professor at Fairhaven, will speak on mandatory Black
history courses.

Some questions posed were:
1) Why was there no student reaction here to Jackson State?
2) Why are there only 120 Black students out of 8,000 at Western?
3) Why is there a need for ethnic studies?
4) Why are there only five or six faculty members that are black?
5) Is our education incomplete due to the exclusion of minority cultures?

The group, bearing no official title, meets in VU 208 every Monday. Its purpose is fighting racism in the college community.

6. Dec 9 1970
Western Front

Drug Seminar Class

Due to the great demand for, and success of the seminar in drug education offered for the first time this quarter, the class will again be open Winter quarter. The class is open to high school and college students, to public school teachers, parents and anyone else wanting to learn about drugs.

The sessions will examine the drug scene from many different perspectives in order to investigate the many-faceted area. Speakers will include Robert Keller of Fairhaven College, the newly-elected prosecuting attorney Jane Mason, Bellingham narcotics officer Spedo Southas and Christopher Taylor of Western’s psychology department.

Students may sign up for the course as Health Education 497t or Soc/Anthro 497t for the two credit class. There is no prerequisite for the class but a limit of 100 persons has been established. It is also open for audit.

7. Feb 25, 1969
Western Front

Douglas to spend two days at Fairhaven
U.S. Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas will be a guest at Fairhaven College April 8 and 9.

He will spend the better part of the two days in informal discussion with students. No lectures are scheduled. The informal discussion will continue through the dinner hour. Preparations for Douglas’s visit include a series of seminars being conducted by Dr. Robert Keller, assistant professor of Fairhaven. The seminars will be attended by about 20 students.

Those who attend the seminars will read three of Douglas’s books, Of Men and Mountains, Wilderness Bill of Rights, and Anatomy of Liberty. The last seminar will be held with Douglas in attendance.

8. Nov 18 1969
Western Front

Keller questions usage of single sentences


    I once thought that no one who wrote to the Front could write.
    Now I see that when I write to the  Front, I can’t write.

    Is the paragraph obsolete?

    Or is there no difference between paragraphs and sentences?

    And, therefore you treat all sentences as paragraphs and all paragraphs as sentences.

    A concession to the short attention span of McLuhan youth, no doubt.

    Anyway, it’s nice to know that we spastic writers of single sentences have much company.

    In the Western Front.

Robert Keller
faculty, Fairhaven

(Newspaper readers appreciate short paragraphs and short sentences. So do editors when they make their point as cleverly as professor Keller does, -ed.)

9. Feb 19, 1971
Western Front

Campus Eco-Committee Opposed to Sehome Development
Western’s Campus Environmental Committee is formulating a recommendation to prevent further development of Sehome Hill.

Committee Chairman Robert Keller, a professor at Fairhaven, said that a program is
needed whereby Western can cooperate with the city park board to keep Sehome Hill as natural as possible.

The reccommendations would keep developments such as Fairhaven, Birnam Wood or parking lots from being built on the hill, and would keep it as it is now, with an arboretum possibly in the works, Keller said.

10. Re: Campus Eco-Committee

“Part of the purpose of the committee is to set an example for the rest of the campus,” Keller said.

The committee is also considering the waste deposit problem, West Campus Way bypass, the effect of Sudden Valley on Lakewood, pollution by cars on campus and construction practices on campus, Keller said.

Keller said that one solution to the solid waste disposal problem would be to cut down on waste output and to resell it (the waste) to Georgia Pacific for recycling.

The committee has charged that the concrete walls along the bypass route should be covered up.

“They should be made to look less ugly,” Keller said.

He said he would like to see more stringent regulations laid down governing construction companies in an attempt to cut down on pollution from the machines.

Students’ concern or lack of concern for the environment will show more as the committee begins further recommendations, Keller predicted.

Many of the solutions being considered may infringe upon students’ conveniences, he said. One recommendation the committee is considering is that the college buy unbleached paper which is less harmful to the environment.

Students would face “rougher and less desirable towels in the dorms,” Keller said.

“All of us have a lot of built-in habits that are harmful to the environment. I find that people are often too busy to notice problems,” he said. “We canY afford to be a flash in the pan, but I don’t expect miracles to happen. Some of the solutions aren’t easy, particularly on the economy.”      

11. Jan 22, 1974
Western Front

Whether or not the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) should be involved in the attempt to impeach President Nixon will be the subject of a public debate between Hugh Fleetwood of the philosophy department and Robert Keller, Fairhaven faculty member, tomorrow at 2 p.m. in the Fairhaven Auditorium.

12. Oct 28, 1980
Western Front

Advance registration for an intensive, 17-credit course titled “American Indian Law: Justice and History,” takes place at Fairhaven College this week. Attorney Rand F. Jack and historian Robert H. Keller will teach the course spring quarter with an extensive approach to law, history and culture as they apply to American Indians.

Students planning to take the class should not enroll for others or have jobs with fixed hourly schedules, as the class will sometimes meet for as many as eight hours per day. Interested students should contact Keller…

13. January 19, 1990
Western Front

Students form unusual class
By Karen Lane Hingston

Fairhaven College is sponsoring a quarter-long experiment to test common ideas and seek ways to change misconceptions, such as sexual and racial biases.

The program, called “Canons in Conflict,” will include forums presented by Fairhaven faculty, from 9 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. each weekday at Fairhaven College. All students are welcome to attend the forums.

A canon, as used by the Fairhaven program, refers to a set of laws, ideas or curriculum that can be either bad or good. The program differs from other educational curriculum in several ways. For one thing, students organized the program with the help of Fairhaven faculty, said Robert Keller, a professor at Fairhaven College. Seventy-two students are enrolled in the program for credit. During class sessions the students break up into groups of about 15 and discuss required reading and forum topics, Keller said. Another variation from traditional college methods is that class sessions last three hours a day, five days a week.

The students also evaluate one another and critique each other’s class work.

“Canons in Conflict” also will sponsor free films, coordinated with the theme, at 6 p.m. each Tuesday at Fairhaven College.

Keller said the forum topics will concentrate on how ideas, or canons, change and what the most important things to study are.

“There are more things to study than we can learn in a lifetime, it is important to learn to make those choices,” Keller said.     

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