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Robert Sutton in WIU's Library Archives and Special Collections, where, in 1976, he was named director of the newly-created Center for Icarian Studies. He is pictured in this April 2004 photo with a prized original first edition copy of Etienee Cabet's "Voyage in Icaria" (lying down). Sutton was the first, and only, person to translate this book into English. The other book is one of Sutton's nine books about utopias, "Les Icariens: The Utopian Dream in Europe and America" (University of Illinois Press, 1994).
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WIU Mourns Passing of Icarian Scholar, History Professor Emeritus Robert Sutton

February 18, 2009


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MACOMB, IL - - Robert P. Sutton, 68, professor emeritus of history at Western Illinois University and past director of the Center for Icarian Studies and Local and Regional Collections in Western Illinois University Library Archives, passed away Feb. 17 at his home in Macomb, surrounded by family. He died from esophageal cancer.

Funeral services will be held at 10:30 a.m. Friday, February 20, 2009 at the Clugston-Tibbitts Funeral Home, 303 E. Washington St. in Macomb with Rev. Ron Green officiating. Burial will be in the Oakwood Cemetery in Macomb. Visitation will be held from 6:30-8 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 19 and one hour prior to services at the funeral home.

Sutton came to WIU in 1970 as an assistant professor of history, specializing in American legal history and the Age of Jefferson and Jackson. Previously, he taught at Mansfield University of Pennsylvania, Christopher Newport College (VA) and the College of William and Mary. In the mid-1970s, his research interests expanded to areas associated with his new surroundings - - Illinois, Abraham Lincoln and the history of American communal utopias, specifically French Icarians.

A prolific scholar, Sutton earned international recognition for his expertise in utopias, which is the basis of nine of his 13 published books. He earned the Illinois State Historical Society Certificate of Excellence Award for his book "Rivers, Railways, and Roads: A History of Henderson County, Illinois;" and his book "Revolution to Succession: Constitution Making in the Old Dominion" was nominated for the Merle Curti Award in American Intellectual History. In 1998 he received the Donald E. Pitzer Distinguished Service Award from the Communal Studies Association. He also co-authored and co-narrated the 12-episode documentary "Illinois Historic Panorama," and was recognized as a leading authority on the history of Illinois.

Sutton served as the grievance officer for Western's statewide faculty union. He also served on the board of directors for WIU's LIFE (Learning is ForEver) program. He was on the National Communal Studies Association board of directors and on the historic markers committee of the Illinois State Historical Society. Sutton had been a manuscript reviewer for Oxford University Press, the University of Chicago Press and several journals including the William and Mary Quarterly, Utopian Studies and Journal of the Early Republic.

He retired in 2004, after 34 years of service to the University, the western Illinois region and the state of Illinois. Throughout those years, Sutton earned seven Faculty Excellence awards, three Professional Achievement awards for outstanding teaching and research and the College of Arts and Sciences Outstanding Research Award (1993).

His early career flourished in the East. He was a pre-law major atJuniata College (PA), where he earned his B.A. Sutton served as a lecturer at the College of William and Mary while earning his M.A.; and he was an instructor at the University of Virginia while earning his Ph.D. with the assistance of a Thomas Jefferson Foundation Fellowship.

Sutton is survived by his wife, Jill, and former wife, Alice Trimmer, both of Macomb. He is also survived by three children: Christopher (Debra) Sutton of Macomb, who is a professor of geography at WIU; Rebecca Sutton of Provo, Utah; and Abigail (John) Wondrasek of Hainesville, IL; two stepchildren: Angela (Russell) Thornton of Macomb; and Michelle (Jerry) Bannan of Washington, IL; and 13 grandchildren. He was preceded in death by his parents, Cecil and Mary Dugan Sutton, and stepdaughter Cassandra Comstock.

Memorials may be made to scholarships in Western Illinois University's history department, the McDonough District Hospital Hospice Program or to the American Cancer Society.

Posted By: WIU News (U-Relations@wiu.edu)
Office of University Relations