Cover photo for John Robert Palmer's Obituary
John Robert Palmer Profile Photo
1928 John 2023

John Robert Palmer

April 14, 1928 — June 25, 2023


John Robert Palmer died peacefully on 25 June 2023 at Attic Angel Place in Middleton, WI with his two children and their spouses at his side.  He was born 14 April 1928 in Aurora, Illinois, the second son of Robert and Marian (Davis) Palmer.  He grew up on a farm near Oswego, Illinois, and attended a one-room school where at times he and his brother were the only students.  These early experiences were influential throughout his life.  A high school teacher encouraged him to read Tolstoy’s War and Peace and the issues raised there remained the focus of his intellectual interests in his later academic study and teaching.


He attended Knox College in Galesburg, Illinois and was elected to Phi Beta Kappa and was later awarded an honorary doctorate there.  In 1955 he married Carol Smith in Evanston, Illinois.  After three years of high school teaching, he attended graduate school at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, completing a Doctorate in Education.  He was on the faculty at Illinois from 1960 until he received an offer from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1966.  He was a professor in the Department of Curriculum & Instruction, Educational Policy Studies, and History.  He served as Dean of the School of Education for 17 years and retired from the University in 1995.


Often uncomfortable in social situations, he enjoyed the largely solitary activities of reading, flower gardening, as well as cooking & baking.


John is survived by his son David (Alison), daughter Leslie (Peter) Palmer-Ross, grandsons Tyrel and Sam as well as great-granddaughters Abigail, Aspen & Loralai.  His parents and brother, as well as loving wife Carol, preceded him in death.  At his request, there will be no memorial service. 


Memorials may be made to a charity of one’s choice, or the John R. Palmer Graduate Fellowship by either of the methods below. Online memorials can be made securely with this link:

Alternatively, checks can be mailed to the secure bank lockbox address below. Please designate to the John R. Palmer Graduate Fellowship Fund on the memo line.

UW Foundation
U.S. Bank Lockbox
Box 78807
Milwaukee, WI 53278-0807


Now that time presses urgently,

And the tasks are finished,

To all of you the modest wish

That the autumn may be long and mild


~Primo Levi~


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