Remembering Robin Coblentz

A memorial service for retired faculty member and administrator Robin Coblentz, who died January 2 at age 78, will be held Sunday, January 17 at 2 p.m. at Brown Memorial Presbyterian Church, 1316 Park Ave. Baltimore, MD 21217 (more details). She was the widow of Dick Coblentz '45 and the grandmother of Megan Stover '07.

Read the detailed obituary from the January 10 Baltimore Sun.

As the school's first female admissions director, Robin Coblentz will always hold an important place in McDonogh's history. She served in that role during the early years of coeducation, from 1977 to 1988. Known for her professionalism and sensitivity, Coblentz was a welcoming presence to prospective students and their families.

The highly regarded administrator also served on several committees whose recommendations shaped today's McDonogh. Boarding, coeducation, and kindergarten are thriving, thanks in part to groundwork that Coblentz helped to lay in the 70s and 80s. In recognition of all her efforts on behalf of the school, the Alumni Association gave her its Distinguished Service Award in 1988.

An American history scholar, Coblentz went on to edit the Eisenhower papers for the Johns Hopkins University Press after she retired from McDonogh.

Still, she remained close to the school and its people. A founding and popular member of the McDonogh Book Club, Coblentz inspired thoughtful literary discussions among friends for 35 years. She generally missed gatherings only when she was traveling, another passion.

For years Coblentz, who had distributed financial aid as admissions director, donated generously to support students in need.

Said fellow book club member Mina Wender,"Robin never lost her zest for traveling and learning. It is terribly sad to lose a good friend and a great role model."

The following remarks were made about Coblentz (then Robin Strahan) on the occasion of her 25th year of service to McDonogh:

In January of 1963, Robin Coblentz accepted an assignment from then Headmaster Bob Lamborn to become a teacher of Middle School English and a coach of Lower School swimming. Though her preferred academic field was American history, and swimming was not her forte, Robin undertook the challenge with typical resolution and good spirit.

Her husband, Dick Coblentz ’45, had been forced to retire from full-time teaching. Dick was a victim of multiple sclerosis, and all who knew the Coblentz family of those years, and especially all their McDonogh friends, gained personal perspectives upon what it means to be determined, to have a sense of humor, to be courageous.

Robin’s teaching career in the Middle School continued until 1977, when she accepted the position of McDonogh’s director of admissions, a post which she continues to hold. During her time in the Admissions Office, the very nature of that business has undergone several significant transformations.

Driven chiefly by the momentum of McDonogh’s becoming co-educational, and responding to the growth in total student body from some 700 students to the nearly 1200 now currently enrolled, the quantity as well as the quality of our admission work has increased geometrically.

Robin stands in the middle of that welter, knee-deep in folders and phone calls, calmly and politely listening to the most important topic at hand, the next applicant. With care, and precision, and seemingly endless compassion, Robin selects from among the bold and the bashful. She has an intuitive sense of what is good in young people, and she sees far beyond the shallow measures of test scores and grades, the customary credentials of an applicant’s file. “Measures we take, but not with a tape.”

And so, Mrs. Strahan has drawn the measure of each of the students and has entered McDonogh this past decade, and that is 95% of today’s audience.

That measure has been made by looking at the horizon, well beyond the limits of your transcripts and test scores, by seeing in you the potential for accomplishments, for good, that will last well into the future.

We pause today to say thank you to Robin Strahan for:

  • Her sensitivity to each individual, even in a crowd of talented faces.
  • Her vision of McDonogh, what it can become, and what it must never do.
  • Her courage in telling the headmaster exactly what she thinks.
  • Her sense of humor, her aplomb, her joie de vivre, her charm and grace.
  • For being such a good friend of all McDonogh.

We say to Robin, thank you and best wishes.

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