One thing that comes across when looking at the life of Allyn Robinson is the fact that he was always trying to bring people together. And the further apart they were, the better he liked it.
I recently had the opportunity to speak over the phone with Sarah Robinson Munson, Allyn Robinson’s daughter, herself a retired teacher and former Peace Corps member (and as an aside, Mrs. Munson was married at Dowling, in the foyer between the Hunt Room and the Ballroom). She noted that her father had a knack for bringing people together. He enjoyed a heated conversation as much as he loved his omnipresent pipe.
While Minister of the United Church in Raleigh, North Carolina from 1939-1946, Dr. Robinson founded the Institute of Religion – a forum for bringing together diverse congregations to hear the likes of Eleanor Roosevelt and Norman Thomas speak. Attendees included many black congregations, which integrated not only the lectures but the accompanying sit down meals. This fact, according to Mrs. Munson, raised the ire of Raleigh resident Jesse Helms.
Dr. Robinson was also a world traveler. In addition to trips to Soviet Russia and Israel, he visited Pakistan and India in 1957 where he met with Prime Minister Nehru. In the late 1950s he was involved in helping New York City police develop their community relations skills in the midst of a large influx of Puerto Rican immigrants. And of course as the President of a fledgling liberal arts college nestled in the middle of a residential community, he had his share of town/gown disputes to manage.
“He really was gifted,” Mrs. Munson told me. “He was a creator of relationships.”
Dr. Allyn Robinson retired from Dowling in 1977 at which time a tribute was held in his honor. To highlight some of the relationships he created, the following excerpts are taken from the tribute program.
Being the first President of anything is a high-risk occupation; one might also be the last President, unless one has the talents and abilities of an Allyn Robinson – in which case the enterprise will be passed on to the second President as a strong, healthy, thriving institution.
Theodore M. Black
Chancellor of the New York Board of Regents
There is something about you which makes an association supportive and exciting. There is a way that you have which tends to encourage an individual to bring to crystallization ideas which are hazy and still to be shaped and honed.
Center for the Study of Conflict in School and Community
Your years at Dowling have confirmed Tacitus’ saying “reason and calm judgment are the qualities especially belonging to a leader.
Robert F. Wagner
Dowling College Board of Trustees