The Defeat of Jesse James Days Committee is pleased to announce that the 2014 Joseph Lee Heywood Distinguished Service Award Recipient is Bob Will. Bob is the 32nd recipient of this very prestigious award that will be given Wednesday September 3, 2014 at the Northfield Ballroom.
Bob Will was born in 1928 in Dousman, Wisconsin to Gena and Irvin Will. His father was the mechanic, farm machinery implement dealer, and chief of the local firehouse. His mother was a school teacher. They were each community organizers and taught their only son about the value of giving to and being a part of a community.
Bob graduated from Hartland High School in 1944 and enlisted in the US Navy. When the war was over, with his Navy footlocker dragged behind him and the GI Bill clutched in his left hand, Bob entered Carleton College in 1946. He left Milwaukee by train and arrived in Northfield at the train depot. Over the course of the next four years Bob would go back and forth to Wisconsin during school breaks, departing and returning through the Northfield train depot. Little did he know that 67 years later Bob would find himself presenting to the Northfield City Council on behalf of the Save the Depot effort.
In 1950, Bob graduated with a BA in Economics and headed east to pursue graduate studies at Yale. He later moved to the town of Amherst to teach at UMass. It was there that he met and fell in love with his future wife, Barbara — a story Bob will have to tell. After their wedding in 1956, the newlyweds packed their worldly belongings into a trailer and drove across the country to the small midwestern town of Northfield. A position in the Economics Department at Carleton College waited for Bob. Barbara wept as they crossed the Hudson, leaving civilization behind, but Bob promised her that if after the threeyear contract she wanted to move back east they would.
Clearly, time has shown that in those first three years Northfield proved to be … a special place.
During the early 60’s the Will family grew by three children, Jonathan, Jennifer, and Leslie, and by many pets, Sailor, Asher, Snowball, Wilbur, and Melbourne, which helped to keep the local pet food shop in business. Between his teaching career and family, Bob made time to participate in the community volunteering with their church, the United Way, the Joint Town and Gown Commission, and later the Sister Cities Commission.
Bob taught economics at Carleton for over 30 years. When his son, Jonathan, was asked in his elementary school ‘What does your father do?’ he replied ‘My father teaches people how to think.’ Bob loved teaching. He was born to teach. At the heart of everything he does, is a passion for education, life, and a compassion for people. Professor Will is known and remembered for his closing farewells at the end of every class: Live a little, laugh a little, love a little, and Onward and upward with the arts.
After this very healthy “starter career” of teaching at Carleton, Bob retired in 1993. But he is not one to sit for long, he devoted more time to building up his career as a community volunteer. You will find Bob’s mark on organizations like the Northfield Historical Society, Northfield Retirement Community, the Rotary Club of Northfield, the Mayor’s Streetscape Task Force, Northfield Area Foundation/5th Bridge, the Northfield Historic Preservation Commission, and All Saints Episcopal Church.
In 1996, Bob added an entirely new job to his resume, the very rewarding position of Grandfather. In fact, he did such a good job, he received two more grandchildren, proving once again, the more love you give, the more you love you receive.
Bob’s life has always revolved around service: it’s about giving back and building up, about appreciating the past and embracing the future. For over 50 years Bob’s contributions to the Northfield community and dedication to public service in Northfield have been a way of life.