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Robertson, Clarence H. (1871-1960) | Purdue University Libraries, Archives and Special Collections

Name: Robertson, Clarence H. (1871-1960)
Fuller Form: Robertson, Clarence Hovey

Historical Note:

Clarence Hovey Robertson was born November 4, 1871, at Scanton, Iowa. He entered the Agricultural College in South Dakota in 1890. Up to this time his college preparations (in district and high school) had been interspersed with farming, carpentering, and flour-milling. During his junior and senior years he acted as an assistant in chemistry and physics, graduating president of the class of 1893, in August of that year.

The November following graduation Mr. Robertson began studying mechanical engineering at Purdue. Robertson was captain of the 1895 Purdue football, basketball and track squads and in 1895 held the Indiana state title for the hammer throw. As captain of the track team and of the football team, he secured the presidency of the Athletic Association, and presidency of the class of 1895 during his senior year. He obtained a degree in mechanical engineering in 1895 and his master's degree in 1897. In 1926 he received an honorary doctor of science degree. Upon graduating from Purdue, Robertson was an assistant in the Department of Experimental Engineering.

From 1895 to 1902, he was a teacher in the Mechanical Engineering Department at Purdue. Robertson resigned to go to China as a missionary. "Big Robbie," as he was known to his myriad of friends in the fields of education and sports, spent 30 years as director of education for the YMCA in China where he taught millions of persons to read and write with audiovisual aids far in advance of his day. Destined to become a widely recognized Christian leader of national and international fame, Robertson was a beloved figure in this country and China. On his lecture tours in the Orient he addressed as many as a quarter of a million persons within a few days.

He returned to America in the early 1930's and devoted his main attention to his three hobbies, people, inventions, and golf. He patented scores of his devices. His own automobile had 64 Robertson-developed gadgets. He is credited with building and using one of the first golf caddy carts.

He returned to Purdue University in 1943 as a physics professor.

During his later years, as a teacher after 70, he gave many lectures on his life time observations and philosophy, with attendance from students and faculty ranks running in the hundreds. In 1947, at the age of 75, he received the Sigma Delta Chi award as the "best teacher" on the Purdue campus. One of his more ambitious studies was the subject of academic failures in colleges and universities.

He was a member of Central Presbyterian church; Tau Beta Pi, honorary engineering fraternity; and Sigma Xi, honorary scientific fraternity.

He died May 11, 1960 in Anderson, at the home of his son, Robert C. Robertson. He was also survived by a second son, D. Ross Robertson, a daughter, Mrs. Arthur B. Van Huss, and an adopted daughter, Mrs. Areva Hadley. His wife, the former Edith M. Christianson, died in 1953.

Sources: A paper found among his faculty publications and also an obituary found in the vertical file.

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