May 13, 2024

Robert F. (Bob) Kruh

Posted May 13, 2024 5:32 PM
Robert F. (Bob) Kruh
Robert F. (Bob) Kruh

Robert F. (Bob) Kruh, 98, a lifelong educator who retired in 1994 as vice provost of Kansas State University, died May 12 at Meadowlark Hills retirement community in Manhattan, Kansas.

He was born in St. Louis, Missouri, on June 15, 1925, the son of Frank O. and Nelle Dee Kruh. His father was a high school chemistry teacher, and his mother was a home economist. After his father's death in 1937, he, his mother, and sister moved to Lebanon, Illinois, where he completed high school and two years of study at McKendree College (now University) before enlisting, at age 17, in the U.S. Army in 1943.

He completed basic training at Fort Benning (now Fort Moore), Georgia, joining the 102nd Infantry Division at Camp Swift, Texas. Soon after, he was part of a cadre transferred to Camp Bowie, Texas, where he joined the newly formed 1264th Engineer Combat Battalion. The unit was deployed to Europe in fall 1944, making its way through France, Belgium, and Germany, finally assigned to Gen. Courtney Hodges’ First Army. The battalion joined in the construction of a bridge across the Rhine River for heavy tanks after the last German bridge, at Remagen, had collapsed. At the war’s end in the European theater, his battalion was transferred to Gen. Dwight Eisenhower’s Supreme Headquarters in Frankfurt, where he remained before returning to the United States in 1946. He was discharged with the rank of master sergeant.

Under the G.I. Bill, he enrolled at Washington University (St. Louis), where he met his future wife, Janet Jackson, from Augusta, Kansas, in calculus class. Both chemistry majors, they wed in 1948. After completing his doctorate in chemistry in 1951, he joined the chemistry faculty at DePauw University in Greencastle, Indiana. The next year, he took a chemistry professorship at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville, later becoming department chair, and in 1964, dean of the Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences. During his tenure as dean, he spearheaded the establishment of the university’s creative writing program and the development of what is now the Fay Jones School of Architecture and Design.

In 1967, he was appointed dean of the Graduate School at Kansas State University, a position he held until 1990, when he became vice provost for academic services. Additionally, he served concurrent stints as acting dean of arts and sciences, acting director of the computing center, and dean of continuing education.

When he arrived at K-State, it was receiving less than $15 million annually in research grants and government support. To address the pressing need for more funding, he established an office to help faculty members secure grants and contracts. Through this focused effort during his tenure, the university was eventually able to attract annual funding exceeding $200 million, putting it on the path to becoming a major research university.

In addition to securing the Regents’ approval of new doctoral degrees, Kruh promoted new graduate programs that involved multiple departments in such areas of study as energy, environment, biochemical science, and gerontology. He also fostered the expansion of continuing education through emerging technology, as well as the growth of the KSU Research Foundation’s support for patenting and licensing faculty inventions and intellectual property.

Kruh was a member of numerous professional organizations, serving as board chairman of the Council of Graduate Schools in the United States, board member of the Argonne National Laboratories University Association, president and executive secretary of the Midwestern Association of Graduate Schools, chairman of the Graduate Record Examinations (GRE) Board, board chair for the Council of the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL), consultant-evaluator for the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Accrediting Association, president of the Kansas State University Research Foundation, and board member of the Kansas Commission on Advanced Technology. He was a longtime member of the American Chemical Society and the American Physical Society. His research work in the study of the molecular structure of crystalline and liquid substances was supported by grants from the National Science Foundation and the Atomic Energy Commission. He was extensively involved in international education for which he was awarded the International Medal from Justus Liebig University (Giessen, Germany). He also served on U.S. State Department delegations to Morocco, Greece, and China to advance international enrollments in the United States.

Locally, he was a board member and president of the Friends of McCain Auditorium, board member and treasurer of the Friends of the Konza Prairie, president and treasurer of the Friends of the KSU Library, founding member and first president of KSU’s Phi Beta Kappa chapter, board member and president of the Friends of the Beach Museum, board member of the Manhattan Arts Center, member and past president of the Manhattan Rotary Club, member of the Education Committee of the Manhattan Chamber of Commerce, council member of First Lutheran Church, tutor at Douglass Center, board member of Homecare and Hospice, and board member and treasurer of the local chapter of the League of Women Voters.

His beloved wife of 72 years, Jan, died in 2020. His sister, Mary Dee Rieke, of Midland, Michigan, died in 1997. He is survived by a son, Lindsay, of Edina, Minnesota; a daughter, Nancy, and her wife, Sarah Wilke, of Nashville, Tennessee.

Details are pending for a graveside service at Kansas Veterans Cemetery at Fort Riley. The family requests memorial donations be made to the local chapter of the League of Women Voters  or by mail to LWV, P.O. Box 835, Manhattan, KS 66505.

The Yorgensen-Meloan-Londeen Funeral Home, 1616 Poyntz Avenue, Manhattan, Kansas 66502.