The Passing of Bob Behr

To the Williams community,

It is my sad duty to report that Robert “Bob” Vaughn Behr ’55, who retired early in 1996 after a lengthy tenure in the Alumni Relations Office, passed away on Sunday, March 14. He was 87.

Bob’s Williams story is a special one. After nearly two decades as a beloved English teacher, coach and mentor at the Tower Hill School in Wilmington, Delaware, where he was instrumental in starting the school’s women’s track team, he and his family returned to the Purple Valley in 1981 to begin a new chapter of his Williams career.

For his first six years back at the college, he served as alumni fund director, and then the next six as director of alumni relations. Over that time, he developed deep and lasting relationships with alumni spanning several generations. In 1992, he created what became the preeminent alumni travel-study program among liberal arts institutions, which he continued to run during his semi-retirement. His programs combined the academic expertise of Williams faculty members with awe-inspiring geographic destinations, ensuring that alumni travelers experienced rewarding opportunities. His success in the field led him to serve as co-chair for the first Conference of Alumni Directors in the U.K. at Edinburgh, and he later consulted with alumni offices in Mexico for the USIA Alumni Association.

“I had the honor of working with Bob for the better part of his last decade of service to Williams as a member of Mears World,” said Director of Alumni Relations Brooks Foehl ’88, P’23, ’19, ’14.  “To observe him in his leadership and management of the Alumni Travel Study Program was a gift but a small one compared to the opportunities and memories he created for alumni, parents and friends of Williams who were the beneficiaries of his vision and exemplary work.”

At his 60th Williams reunion, Bob received the Joseph’s Coat Award, presented every year since 1952 to an alumnus in a post-50th reunion class who is held in high esteem by the college and fellow alumni. In addition to his many years of dedicated service as a staff member, he volunteered for his class in nearly every capacity, including as reunion chair for several years and a stint as class president.

A gifted athlete who holds three Williams records as a sprinter, he was inducted into the Delaware Track and Field Hall of Fame, and later in the Delaware Sports Museum and Hall of Fame. Before coming to Williams, he served in the U.S. Air Force for three years and established a track team at each of his posts. He was also a sprinting consultant for the Philadelphia Phillies as well as the Delaware correspondent for Sports Illustrated.

He combined his passion for running and his affection for the Williams community by organizing a 2.5-mile road race in Williamstown for alumni and their families each year at Reunion. In addition, he volunteered as the college’s assistant track coach and as the announcer at all home track meets. “Bob was known as the Voice of Williams Track,” said retired football and track coach Dick Farley. “He loved the sport, competed well, and knew everything about everything.”

Outside of sports, Bob served on the boards of the ABC (A Better Chance) Program, Williamstown’s Village Ambulance, and the Friendship Center Food Pantry in North Adams, where he also volunteered. In 2018, he received the Williamstown Bright Futures Innovation Award for Head Smarts, a program he founded that encourages parents to read to their infants and toddlers. He was also a member of the Berkshire Museum Camera Club in Pittsfield. His love of photography led him to establish the Williams alumni calendar, for which he often supplied his own photos.

We are grateful for the decades of loyalty, leadership, and wisdom that he gave to our community. Services will be held at the First Congregational Church in Williamstown at a later date when it is safe for people to gather.

Our deepest condolences go out to Bob’s wife Carolyn, son Brad ’92, daughter Alison, grandsons Simon and Everett, as well as his many colleagues and friends.


Maud S. Mandel
Professor of History; Program in Jewish Studies