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Robert D. Linder

Robert D. Linder Beloved husband, father, grandfather, teacher, friend, baseball fan, and public servant, Robert D. (Bob) Linder was at home in Manhattan, Kansas when he left this earth to be with his Lord early Easter Sunday morning 4 April 2021 at the age of 87.

Born in Salina, Kansas, on 6 October 1933, he was the first of Orel Andrew Linder and Minnie Izetta Bickel Linder’s four boys. The Great Depression, which presented his working-class family with many hardships, was no indication of what future his talents, intellect, and hard work would produce, but the circumstances of his humble beginnings were a powerful force that would inform his perspective; the expansive, creative spirit of the Great Plains would never leave him. With faith in God, a good sense of humor, and a keen, curious mind, Linder was blessed with a rich life filled with family, friends, baseball, and scholarly adventure.

From a young age, Linder developed a love for baseball, an interest he shared with his father who once, at great cost, took young Bobby on an overnight bus ride to see the St. Louis Cardinals play, then the closest professional team, where he cheered on Stan the Man Musial and other heroes of the day. He returned to organize his local neighborhood team into serious ball players by having them each sign a contract committing to a fee of 1 cent if they missed a practice. Linder excelled at sports during his high school days, setting track records and wrestling for Salina High School, from which he graduated in 1951. He also continued perfecting his game of baseball, playing with zeal and at a standard that put him on the path of playing professionally, but eventually turning down a Triple A contract with the White Sox to attend college. He would never fully leave his love of baseball behind and even taught a hugely popular course on the History of Baseball in American Culture, gave talks at Society for American Baseball Research conferences, and always enjoyed attending Kansas City Royals games, and spring training camps, especially in his latter years.

After high school, Linder moved to Chicago to receive Biblical training at Moody Bible Institute, the institution he credited for developing his ability to write well; on the side, he washed windows part-time in downtown Chicago, amongst other jobs, to make ends meet. After his stint in Chicago, he returned to Kansas where he was awarded scholarships to study for his BS in Education with an emphasis in History from Kansas State Teachers College, now Emporia State University, earning his degree in 1956. While at college in Emporia, he discovered his passion for history and met and married his wife of 63 years, Jean Ann Burch. Around this time, while exploring different career paths, he also earned a couple of seminary degrees. From Emporia, he went on to the University of Iowa from where he obtained an MA and PhD in History in l960 and l963, respectively. In this period of his life, he also served in the US Army Reserves for eight years, retiring with the rank of Captain. Linder began his teaching career at William Jewell College, Liberty, Missouri, in l963. In l965, he joined the History Department at Kansas State University, Manhattan, Kansas, where he went on to teach for more than 50 years. In 2003, he was named University Distinguished Professor of History and retired, Emeritus, in 2018. His years of post-doctoral study while on sabbatical, first at Oxford University, England in 1974 and again at Cambridge University, England in 1986, were among some of the happiest times of his life, particularly his days in Oxford when his family was alongside him and where on weekends they explored the nooks and crannies of the country’s storied castles, haunted places, and battlefields, and he enjoyed multiple trips to the European continent driving as far as from Oxford to Moscow by car. During his lifetime he wrote and published extensively in the fields of religion and politics, writing or editing 17 books and publishing more than one hundred scholarly papers and articles. His latest major project, a seminal work on the history of Evangelicals in Australia which he co-authored with Australian scholar, Stuart Piggin, was the culmination of 30 years of research and parts of multiple decades spent on the continent Down Under. Published in two volumes (2018 and 2020) the book has received critical acclaim. During his time there, Linder developed many close and enduring relationships with his Australian counterparts. He loved the Out Back as he did the Great Plains and acquired the nickname “Crocodile Bob.”

A lifelong educator, Linder was also a public servant. Elected to the Manhattan City Commission in 1969 and again in 1975, he served two four-years terms that included two stints as mayor of the city. Among his proudest accomplishments on the city commission were his successful negotiations with Union Pacific Railroad in Omaha, Nebraska to secure the railroad right of way for the city to build what is now Ft. Riley Blvd., his advocacy for the location of Manhattan Town Center in its current location to re-anchor the downtown as the city began to expand westward, and his work to desegregate the city cemetery in the 1970s. Issues of community and working for social justice were always high on his agenda.

Linder may be best known for his passion for teaching, drive for excellence, and unquenchable thirst for knowledge which he felt compelled to share with the tens of thousands of students who passed through his many classes, a great number of whom he regarded as true friends. He also was known for and fond of saying, “the more you know, the more you know!!” His most precious treasure, however, was his family to whom he was dedicated, and his grace-filled wife who was his source of strength and north star. He was immensely proud of his children and grandchildren and missed them greatly whenever they were out of his presence.

Bob Linder is preceded in death by his older sister Jean Bishop (Lincoln, KS), brother Richard Linder (Lindsborg, KS); and survived by his wife, Jean Ann Burch Linder, four children and six grandchildren, known to them from time to time as Grandpa Snazzy. Children: Whitney Linder Claridge (Andrew), Leighton Buzzard, England; Gretchen Linder, Chicago, IL; Inge Linder Gaillard (Benoit), Grenoble France; Lincoln Linder (Adriana), Miami, FL. Brothers: James Linder, Texarkana, TX, and William Linder, Lindsborg, KS. Grandchildren: Isaac Claridge, Owen Claridge, Ella Claridge, Pierre Gaillard, Bella Linder and Audrey Linder, and many nieces and nephews.

Memorial contributions may be made to the Kansas State University Foundation Robert D. Linder History Scholarship. To make a gift online, go to www.ksufoundation.org/give/RobertLinder

Respect calls may be made at the Yorgensen-Meloan-Londeen Funeral Home on Sunday afternoon, 11 April, between noon and 5p.m.

Memorials in memory of Mr. Linder may be left in care of the Yorgensen-Meloan-Londeen Funeral Home, 1616 Poyntz Avenue, Manhattan, Kansas 66502.

Online condolences may be left for the family through the funeral home website at www.ymlfuneralhome.com

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