Dr. Robert E. "Bob" Kaffer- In Loving Memory
Robert E. "Bob" Kaffer
Bob was a dear colleague who was a joy to work with, a great teacher that was always willing to provide guidance and will be sorely missed but not forgotten. – Lynn Rudisill
"Bob was the epitome of humility, a man of few words, but his words were always noteworthy and poignant. When he spoke, everyone listened.” - Tom Kennedy
The door was open and the house was dark
Wherefore I called his name, although I knew
The answer this time would be silence.
The Door was Open and the House was Dark
Our Bob is gone.
The Bob we loved was smart. Academically smart. Our Bob earned a baccalaureate degree from a fine university in South Bend. And followed that with a doctorate from one of the giants – the Berkeley branch of the University of California. Organizationally smart. Our Bob navigated the complex halls of higher learning with consummate skill. At Regis University, he filled an unprecedented range of executive roles and left a sterling legacy. Street smart, as we used to say in New York. You only had to play poker with our Bob once to know that.
The Bob we loved was wise. F. Scott Fitzgerald asserted that the test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in mind and still retain the ability to function. Our Bob had an uncanny capacity to see all sides and facets of an issue/task. Helping a legendary president complete a momentous acquisition deal. Representing “management” at the AAUP negotiation table. Balancing the competing claims of a student-faculty conflict. Serving as deeply trusted advisor to two presidents, not to mention many of us. Our Bob could untie the Gordian knot and craft a resolution that balanced all the elements of the situation, regardless of its complexity.
The Bob we loved was quiet. Quiet because he was so thoughtful, not because he had little to say. Our Bob thought before he spoke; one of his qualities that will be most missed in today’s world.
The Bob we loved was genuinely committed to the organizations he served; he gave them his talents and his loyalty. The Catholic Church – as both steadfast believer and loving critic. The United States government – as intelligently concerned and model citizen. A raft of American colleges and universities, most especially our great university.
The Bob we loved was caring. He cared about the colleagues with whom he served across the years;. We cared for him in equal measure. He cared about the students whom we all serve and respected and admired the faculty. He reserved a special place in his heart for the men of the Society of Jesus.
Our Bob was loving. He loved his parents and his Irish heritage. His brothers, whom he lost too soon. His sons and grandchildren, who illuminated his life. Most of all, our Bob loved dear Liz. Time with them revealed that love was mutual, beyond all doubt.
The Bob we loved has left us.
We hold him in our hearts.
Godspeed, dear man.
Allan Laurence Service
July 16, 2020
The Hyatt-Fennell family mourns the loss of Dr. Robert E. “Bob” Kaffer - a beloved friend, mentor, and invaluable member of the Hyatt-Fennell team who passed away on July 16, 2020 after a long illness.
His distinguished contributions to the field of higher education first began during his own administrative experience at several U.S. colleges in the 1970s and 1980s, including Cullman College (later Southern Benedictine College) and Regis University. Bob’s passion for making a difference at the executive level of higher education eventually led him to his second career in executive search.
As a specialist who always sought out the best matches between his client institutions and their candidates, Bob took pride in being an expert in “the business of people.” To Bob, that meant listening, empathizing, and striving to provide the most helpful insights and opportunities that his clients and colleagues needed to succeed.
During the 1990s and 2000s, when Bob led his own executive search firm, he worked alongside Dr. Marylouise Fennell, RSM on numerous client searches. Their mutual respect and admiration formed the basis of a long-lasting friendship that has continued for over 30 years. Although Bob had formally retired from his own firm by the time Hyatt-Fennell was launched in the early 2010s, he was invited to share his decades of wisdom and experience as a member of Hyatt-Fennell Executive Search.
According to long-time friend and colleague, Cheryl Hyatt, “Over the years, Bob’s enthusiasm, intuition, and leadership were instrumental in helping to define the culture and spirit of Hyatt-Fennell, as well as ensuring the successful completion of hundreds of executive searches.”
"As an administrator, researcher, writer, lecturer, and mentor, Bob will be remembered by his peers and mentees as a leader in the field of executive search in higher education. As my dear friend and colleague, his warmth, generosity, and lifetime of leading by example will not be forgotten,” said Dr. Marylouise Fennell, RSM.
*Many have inquired about where to direct memorial contributions – Bob’s family has suggested that memorial donations can be made in his name to any of the following organizations and extend their sincere appreciation for the kind, thoughtful and generous expressions they have received.