Robert Giller Kauffman
St. Joseph, MO, December 29, 1932 – Madison, WI, October 7, 2022
The end of an era. That’s what Bob said when he lost both his oldest daughter and his wife earlier this year. Now, with his own passing, his words are ringing truer than ever.
Growing up in the small rural City of Princeton, Missouri, Robert helped on the family farm, tended to animals and crops, raised 2 calves, and developed a keen interest in agriculture. He excelled at school, enjoying sports, and playing his cornet as much as possible: both with the Princeton High School, as well as with several small bands at social events in and around town. On his father’s advice, he went to Iowa State University to study Agriculture, and it was there he met his future wife, Phyllis Smith, of Bethany, Missouri. After graduating, Robert went to San Antonio, Texas, to serve in the ROTC, and here he discovered his love of teaching. In 1955 he married Phyllis, and the young couple moved to Madison, Wisconsin, where daughter Rebecca was born, and Robert continued his academic training. After completing his Doctorate in 1961, he took a job as Associate Professor in Animal Science at the University of Illinois. The family moved to Champaign, IL, and there they had a second daughter, Ellen. When, in 1966, Robert was offered an Associate Professorship at his beloved UW Madison, the family returned to Wisconsin, and built a house on Shenandoah Way that would be the Kauffman’s family home for the next 50 years.
Becoming a full professor in 1970, Robert’s academic career was focused on quality: of meat, of his teaching, and of his students. He researched various techniques to evaluate and improve meat quality and created academic courses and contests to teach the required skills to generations of students. Many of the students he taught and worked with became his life-long friends.
Robert used his many connections to organize events for people to come together and enjoy the fellowship he himself always strove to develop with people from all places, and from various walks of life. He created many memorable experiences, such as bringing a Dutch Band he had joined while on Sabbatical in the Netherlands over to Wisconsin (in 1992) and Missouri (in 2000), getting together musician friends from many different states to be part of the Royal Ambassadors Band for social events, editing and publishing the yearly Pioneer Press for Calamity Jane days in Princeton, and writing and producing a docudrama and DVD about Calamity Jane’s life.
Robert’s era spanned nearly nine decades, and from beginning to end was one defined by discovery, observation, research, teaching, music, and generosity. But most of all, he used his imagination, creativity, and dynamic leadership to forge lasting connections with and between people. Even in his final weeks, he kept working on multiple projects, and enjoyed taking family and friends to the home games of the UW women’s volleyball team.
He was preceded in death by his parents, Elmer and Ruth, his brother Gene, his daughter Rebecca, his wife Phyllis, and many close friends. He leaves his daughter, Ellen (Remmert), and two grandsons, Alex (Emma, and Robert’s soon-to-be great-granddaughter Henly Marie), and Ian.
Celebrations of life will be held on October 29, at 1 pm, at the First United Methodist Church on Wisconsin Avenue in Madison, Wisconsin, and on November 5, at 11 am, at the United Methodist Church in Princeton, Missouri, to be followed by the burial of his ashes in Princeton Cemetery.
You can help honoring Robert’s legacy by donating to the “Kauffman Experiential Learning Fund”, UW Foundation, U.S. Bank Lockbox, Box 78807, Milwaukee, WI-53278
We welcome you to share your memories here on Bob's tribute wall.
6021 University Ave. Madison