University News

Robert Gabler Obituary

August 24, 2020

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MACOMB, IL – The visitation for Western Illinois University Geography Professor Emeritus and former director of WIU's International Programs Robert (Bob) Gabler will be held at Dodsworth Piper Wallen Funeral Home in Macomb from 11:30 a.m.-1:15 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 29. Graveside services will be held at 1:30 p.m. at Oakwood Cemetery. Services were also held in East Setauket, NY Aug. 22. Gabler, 92, passed away Aug. 19. Due to the current COVID-19 restrictions, masks are required at all times and the funeral home will limit to 50 attendees at a time.

Gabler joined the WIU faculty in 1957 as an assistant professor of geography. He was promoted to associated professor in 1958 and to professor in 1964. Gabler also served as chair of the Department of Geography-Geology from 1964-1968 and as chair of the Department of Geography from 1968-1973.

He was named director of International Programs in 1977. Gabler served in that role until his retirement in 1990.

During his tenure at Western, Gabler served on the WIU Foundation Board as a faculty representative for seven years. He received the Distinguished Geographic Educator Awards from the Illinois Geographical Society and the George J. Miller Distinguished Service Award from the National Council for Geographic Education. He also served as president of the national organization from 1973-74. He received three University Presidential Citations for teaching excellence and University service. He also served two terms as the chair of the WIU Faculty Senate.

In 2004, the geography department created the Robert Gabler Lecture Series, which is held each fall during Geography Awareness Week, in his honor.

Gabler and his late first wife, Mary Ellen, began their legacy of giving back in 1978 by establishing a scholarship in memory of their youngest daughter, Mary Elizabeth. Upon Mary Ellen's passing in 1996, the scholarship was renamed the Mary Ellen and Mary Elizabeth Gabler Humanitarian Award in honor of individuals who care more for others than they do for themselves. In 2004, the funds from the Humanitarian Award were combined with a graduate fellowship Robert Gabler had supported in geography to form the Gabler Fund. Earnings from the Gabler Fund endowment are awarded annually to the departments of geography and curriculum and instruction to recognize and support outstanding teaching.

Gabler earned his Ed.D. from Teachers College, Columbia University; his master's from Pennsylvania State; and his bachelor's from Ohio University. Before coming to WIU, he taught geography and social sciences in high schools in Ohio and was on faculty at Teachers College at Columbia and Hunter College of the City of New York.

He is survived by his wife, Sarah; and children, Robert, Jan, Carmela, Denise, Darci, and Tom, along with 11 grandchildren and five great grandchildren. Gabler was was preceded in death by his first wife, Mary Ellen, and his daughter, Mary Elizabeth.

Memorial contributions may be made to the Gabler Fund c/o the WIU Foundation.

A full obituary can be found at

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