Obituary: Bob Frost (1952-2011), U of Michigan School of Information professor and great-grandson of poet Robert Frost

Robert L. "Bob" Frost (1952 – March 2011) was a professor at the University of Michigan School of Information. He received his Ph.D. in history from the University of Wisconsin in 1983 and joined the University of Michigan faculty in 2000. Frost was the great-grandson of poet Robert Frost, and established the Frost Open Access Fund with royalties from his great-grandfather's works to support faculty and student projects related to open access to information. He is survived by his wife Margaret Hedstrom; relations, colleagues, current and former students and many friends. Donations may go to the American Cancer Society via Team Frost. Additional details are pending.

There will be a memorial service for Bob Frost held on Friday, April 15 at 3:00 p.m. at the Michigan Union Ballroom in Ann Arbor.

Frost was interviewed for Michigan Today in Winter of 1996, in a story published under the title Robert Frost's great-grandson is not a big fan of the poetry.

A number of Bob's friends, colleagues and students have written in memoriam, collected in small part here.

Mark Matienzo: In memoriam. "Most importantly, he was a faculty member in a huge and ever-growing graduate program who seemed to enjoy nearly every interaction he had with a student, and encouraged us to reach out to him to send him links to "cool stuff" on the Web that might interest him."

University of Michigan School of Information Dean Jeffrey Mackie-Mason announced his death with this message, which was circulated widely and is reproduced here.

Date: Sat, Mar 26, 2011 at 11:49 PM

Dear friends, students, colleagues

It is with deep personal sadness that I write to tell you that Bob Frost has passed away. He expired while resting at home, with his wife — our colleague Margaret Hedstrom — and family members by his side.  

As many of you know, because Bob was a delightfully transparent and honest person, he has been fighting cancer for nearly two-and-a-half years.  He had remarkable courage, and fortitude (the initial prognosis was that he had less than a year to live). Bob was passionate about teaching, about his students, and about our School.  He insisted on continuing to teach a full load, and even developed new courses during his illness.  Remarkably, he was still in the classroom teaching SI 500 less than three weeks ago.  Many generations of undergraduate and graduate students have been touched by Bob; many of them say that he had a transformative impact on their choice of major and career.  

Bob was born in 1952, and received his Ph.D. in history from the University of Wisconsin in 1983. He came to Michigan as a visiting associate professor of history in 1995, and joined the SI faculty in 2000. For more information about his many publications, his teaching and his other interests, see

Bob was passionate about many things, including a passion for sharing information for the good of all.  Bob and Margaret established the Frost Open Access Fund by donating the royalties that Bob receives from the works of his great-grandfather, poet Robert Frost.  The fund was also named to honor Bob's friend and colleague Olivia Frost, SI's former interim dean and professor emerita.  The Frost Fund supports innovative projects that utilize open source software, or that study or promote the open access movement.

I have known Bob since shortly after he arrived in Ann Arbor, and over the years was proud to become his friend.  His death is a great loss to me, and I know it is to many of you as well; I share my sympathy with all of you.

A number of activities are planned to help us address our grief, and to remember Bob.  One is a fundraiser for cancer research that his students started a week ago in honor of Bob's battle: if you wish, you may contribute through the American Cancer Society at  We will announce details of other activities soon.  

For now, please join me in a moment of silent reflection in Bob's honor.  And please join me in extending support and sympathy to Bob's loving wife, and our friend and colleague, Margaret Hedstrom.



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