Remembering Dean Robert Potter

RWU community mourns loss of longtime SECCM dean


Rachel Dvareckas

School of Engineering, Computing and Construction Management (SECCM) Dean Bob Potter spent 21 years at RWU, serving 20 years as dean. He passed away on Oct. 7.

Rachel Dvareckas, Managing Editor

The university community was informed on Oct. 7 that the Dean of the School of Engineering, Computing and Construction Management (SECCM), Robert Potter, passed away early that morning, due to injuries sustained in a fatal car crash.

Potter had recently announced he would be retiring at the end of the academic year after working at the university for 21 years. He served as dean for 20 years as well as the general manager for the RWU club hockey team. During his tenure, Potter held various other positions, such as interim provost for a time.

“Dean Potter was a most impressive leader, not only for SECCM, but for the university, having been interim provost several years ago during a challenging time for the university,” said Susan Bosco, associate provost for academic affairs. “A true organizational citizen, he was also a generous colleague, always willing to have a conversation and take the time to listen. Dean Potter will be missed by so many — students — especially the hockey players, alumni, faculty, staff and fellow administrators. His honesty and forthright demeanor were well known and respected. Personally, I will miss our parking lot encounters at the end of the day. He always had something amusing to share before heading home.”

The news has shocked and saddened the campus community. Some professors in the school of engineering spent yesterday reflecting on Potter’s life and legacy at the school. He worked to get the new SECCM building and labs constructed and made the construction management program top-ranked nationally.

“We are heartbroken for his wife and family who were looking forward to many more wonderful years with him once he retired,” Bosco said.

“Even though I never had a class with Dean Potter, he always made conversation with me, this semester especially. I’m usually doing homework in the lab building in between classes and I’d usually see him. He would always ask me how I was doing and make sure everything was good in my life. I really enjoyed and looked forward to him strolling in the lab building saying ‘good morning,’” said Erica Dube, a junior engineering major.

“Even after the class, he made conversation with me about how electromagnetics was the same as heat transfer and radiation. This was so amazing, to see him trying to connect what seems like such different topics but when it comes down to it in theory it’s all the same. He will be missed very dearly [by] everyone in the engineering department. We will work harder in his light as he always insisted us to do,” Dube said.

“He was an unbelievable man of great character. He seemed to remember everyone he crossed paths with and always wanted to make sure his students were happy,” said senior engineering major Chris Ruppert.

Junior engineering major Olivia Chesney remembers the late dean fondly.

“Dean Potter was an amazing person. He truly went above and beyond to make our voices, as engineering students, heard and supported. He made strong relationships with students and faculty, making this a great loss to a lot of people,” Chesney said. “He was more than just a dean. He was a role model, educator and friend who cared about people whole-heartedly.”

“Just last week, I remember seeing him hanging a picture frame in the new SECCM Labs with a group of students. The picture was of two construction workers on top of the new building, while it was under construction, holding up an American flag. He was the epitome of the word educator, pushing so we could have up to date technology and better learning experiences,” Chesney said. “He also cared about his students as people. While observing him hang up this picture, I picked up on banter going back and forth between the dean and students. Little moments like this are what made Dean Potter him. I will forever be grateful that I got the opportunity to meet and share many moments like these with him. May he rest in peace as he will be dearly missed.”

RWU’s Society of Women Engineers shared fond thoughts about Potter on their Instagram page: “Dean Potter always filled the room with enthusiasm and passion when he taught. He was always so helpful inside and outside the classroom.”

Members of the RWU hockey team were also shocked by the news, writing the following in a tribute statement on Twitter: “Known by the hockey team as Dr. P, Bob was loved by all who knew him. Dr. P was a driving force behind the hockey program and we owe all of our success to his dedication to the program.”

One 2020 graduate, an engineering student and hockey player at the university, shared fond memories of Potter.

“Being in engineering and on the hockey team, I had the best of both worlds when it came to Dr. Potter. Anytime I came to see him, whether it was about classes, advice or the future, the conversation would inevitably dissolve into hockey. He did amazing things with the program, from starting it up twelve years ago to getting us to the national tournament this year,” said RWU ’20 graduate Cole Foster. “Beyond that, he was extremely proud of the new engineering building. I am comforted knowing the building stands as a reminder of his twenty years of dedication as the Dean of Engineering. Dr. Potter was an old-fashioned man with incredible accomplishments, and I will forever cherish the wisdom and guidance gained from our little (or long) talks.”

There is no news yet on the search for another SECCM dean as the school is taking time to grieve this unexpected loss.