Creighton University physics professor Robert “Bob” Kennedy loved to see his students figure things out on their own.
That made him a good teacher, said his son, Bob Kennedy III, a professor at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor.
The elder Kennedy, 73, died Friday of melanoma at Lakeside Hospital in Omaha.
He was diagnosed with the cancer in February.
Kennedy, who was born and raised in California, was a graduate of Loyola University in Los Angeles and earned a doctorate from the University of Notre Dame in South Bend, Ind.
He joined the CU faculty in 1966 and retired in 2010 as dean emeritus of the College of Arts and Sciences.
Kennedy helped Creighton’s physics program become one of the best in the nation, CU officials said.
He made hundreds of scholarly presentations and authored scores of publications.
His latest was “A Student’s Guide to Einstein’s Major Papers,” published this year by Oxford University Press.
The younger Kennedy said Creighton’s Jesuit tradition was important to his dad, who worked hard to integrate the teaching, intellectual and spiritual aspects of his work. In his tenure at Creighton, Kennedy received the Distinguished Faculty Service Award, the College Award for Professional Excellence and the St. Ignatius Award for Service to Others.
“Bob was someone who really loved Creighton and poured his energy into making Creighton a better place,” said Janet Seger, chairwoman of the CU physics department.
Kennedy was always the first one to arrive in the department each day, she said, usually around 6:30 a.m.
“What I most appreciated about him was that he always took the time to listen to people, whether it was students, staff or faculty,” Seger said. “I can’t think of a time when I went to talk to him that he didn’t act as if he had all the time in the world to hear me out.”
Kennedy’s son said his dad always made time for him and his four siblings, too, coaching sports teams, among other activities.
“He was a gentle guy who lived his life treating people well, and he was happy with his life choices,” the younger Kennedy said. “He spent these last months with family making jokes and giving us a hard time up until the last day.”
In addition to his son Bob, Kennedy is survived by his wife of 51 years, Mary; sons Christopher J. Kennedy and Michael J. Kennedy; daughters Erin M. Shearer and Shannon Kennedy; seven grandchildren; and a brother, John Kennedy.
A funeral Mass is scheduled for 10 a.m. Thursday at St. John Catholic Church on the Creighton campus.
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