Robert Tobin interviewed by Ree Robson, August 16, 2019
August 16, 2019
Professor Robert Tobin was a German Language and Literature professor at Whitman from 1989 to 2008 and was a major presence and leader in Whitman’s LGBTQ community. After finishing graduate school at Princeton, he came to Whitman to teach. Soon after his arrival on campus, Professor Tobin became involved with the fledgling LGBTQ student group, the Gay Lesbian Association, and he helped found the LGBTQ-issue focused activist group, Coalition Against Homophobia in 1992. First offered in 1993, his class “Sexuality and Textuality” was one of the first sexuality-centric classes at Whitman. Professor Tobin served as an advisor and contact person for both GLA and Coalition throughout his time at Whitman and was known as a voice of LGBTQ activism on campus. He left Whitman in 2008, and at the time of the interview, worked for Clark University. Recently, he helped Professor Yuhl from the College of the Holy Cross and Professor Cullon from Worcester Polytechnic Institute create “LGBTQ+ Worcester: For the Record”, an exhibit focusing on LGBTQ history in Worcester, MA, which can be seen at the Worcester Historical Museum.
In this interview, former Whitman German Professor Robert Tobin elaborates on points raised in the previous interview. He discusses the development of academic support for LGBTQ issues and research at Whitman, including the creation and continuation of his class “Sextuality and Textuality,” the founding of the Gender Studies major, and the founding of the David Nord Award. Furthermore, Tobin articulates how his LGBTQ identity impacted his role as a professor, his activism, and and his connections to the Walla Walla community. Tobin discusses some of the instances of homophobia that he remembered from his time at Whitman. Finally, the interview ends with a conversation about the changes in LGBTQ life and activism in the past decades and his thoughts about the community’s future.
1 digital audio recording: 00:52:04
Whitman College and Northwest Archives, Whitman College LGBTQ+ Oral History Project Recordings and Transcripts, WCA159
All rights for this interview are held by Whitman College: http://rightsstatements.org/vocab/InC/1.0/
If you have questions about permitted uses of this content, please contact the Whitman College and Northwest Archives: http://works.whitman.edu/contact-wcna