Post Pick: Retired OU professor spends time in Alden library studying history
Editor’s Note: This story is part of our ‘Post Picks’ special issue where The Post profiles some of Athens’ most notable people and businesses. Read the rest of the stories here.
For Robert Whealey, history is everything.
That phrase is sprawled across a faded pin, fastened to his loose suspenders decorated with the stars and stripes of the U.S. flag. Whealey can be found in Alden Library researching history among Ohio University students.
After spending 37 years at OU as a history professor, Whealey said he felt his work wasn’t finished as a historian. Now, he spends his days in Alden working on books, book reviews, articles and research for his public access talk show about current events. The program is recorded Tuesday and then airs six days a week, Whealey said.
So far, as a retired professor, Whealey has published two books, as well as about 40 articles, he said.
“If I had been working at Ohio University for 37 years, why would I want to move to another place?” Whealey said.
Whealey spends most of his time on the second floor, Kelly Broughton, assistant dean for Research and Education Services, said. Anyone who spends time on that floor knows Whealey, she added.
“(He’s) a retired professor who is still very active in wanting to better understand what’s happening in our world,” she said.
Before Whealey started his career at OU, he had his first teaching job at the University of Maine. His love of history came before that, when he decided to specialize in history during his senior year of college at the University of Delaware.
“I went and got my master’s right away, but was interrupted for two years in the Army,” Whealey said.
Whealey was drafted for the Korean War, which began in 1950 when he was 20.
Now, Whealey spends Monday through Friday in Alden from about 10:30 a.m. until about 5 or 6 p.m., he said.
Whealey works among students and lives among them, as well. He and his wife live on Oak Street, right near Mill Street for Mill Fest every year, he said.
When Whealey was younger, he would walk from Oak Street to Alden Library. But now, at age 86, he has his wife drive him to the library — she also packs him a sandwich for lunch every day. Whealey can’t get behind the wheel himself due to glaucoma, an eye condition that damages the optic nerve and limits vision.
When Whealey is in the library, he said he interacts with the students, but it’s often accidental.
“If you come by, I’ll talk to you,” he said.
Whealey went on to say he likes to encourage students who want to pursue a degree in history.
When he comes to Alden to work, he’s motivated by his hope to make a difference in the profession.
“There are two kinds of historians. Some historians are basically high school teachers, they’re just working to get to retirement,” he said. “There are other kinds of historians who think that research and publishing books are making an impact on the profession.”