URBANA, Ill. – Robert G. F. Spitze was a true champion for faculty and student success during his 30-year tenure in the College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences (ACES). Spitze passed away on January 21, 2020.
Spitze joined the University of Illinois in 1960 as a professor of agricultural economics. He was a pioneering researcher in the study of agricultural and food policy in the United States. Spitze was nationally and internationally recognized for his leadership and research on the process, provisions, and economic implications of agricultural food policy. He retired as an emeritus professor in the Department of Agricultural and Consumer Economics in 1992.
“In the eyes of former students, Dr. Spitze was an icon. He was frequently the first faculty mentioned in my discussion with alums domestically and internationally. He cared deeply about student success, and his generosity of time and money had immeasurable impacts,” says Paul Ellinger, Associate Chancellor and Vice Provost for Budget and Resource Planning, and former head of the Department of Agricultural and Consumer Economics at U of I.
Spitze also served as the first visiting professor of public policy at the Economic Research Service in Washington D.C.; chairman of the Interregional Economics Research Policy Project and National Task Force on Policies and Small Firsts; editor of Policy Research Notes (National Research Reports); and a reviewer of USDA agricultural competitive research grants from 1992-1996.
Throughout his professional career, Spitze received many awards for his research and service. He and his wife Hazel, who passed away in 2009, were dedicated supporters of the College of ACES. They established the Robert G.F. and Hazel Tayler Spitze Educational Fund in the College of ACES. The fund provides for annual Jonathan Baldwin Turner scholarships, public policy legislative internship scholarships, and the Robert G.F. and Hazel Taylor Spitze Land Grant Career Excellence Award. They also provided funding for a conference room in the ACES Library, Information and Alumni Center.
Spitze was born in Arkansas in 1922. He was an officer lieutenant in the U.S. Naval Amphibious Corps, Pacific Area, from 1943 to 1946. After returning from the war, he received a B.S. in agricultural economics from the University of Arkansas in 1947, and a Ph.D. from the University of Wisconsin in 1954. He started his career at the University of Tennessee, and served as a professor of agricultural economics at U of I from 1960 to 1992.
Spitze is survived by a daughter, Glenna Spitze of Albany, New York; a son, Ken Spitze of Bloomington, Indiana; and a grandson, Christopher Franklin of New York City. He was preceded in death by his beloved wife, Hazel Taylor Spitze.
A celebration of life will be held on Sunday, Feb. 23, at 2:00 p.m. at the ACES Library, Information and Alumni Center.