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In Memoriam: Robert L. Palmer

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Dr. Robert L. Palmer, former vice president for student affairs who was known for creating lasting impact through innovative student-centered programs, died Jan. 29.

Palmer served as vice president for Cal State Fullerton’s Division of Student Affairs from 1997 until his retirement in 2010 when he was awarded the emeritus title for his service to the university. During his 13 years on campus, Palmer was committed to student engagement and success. 

He provided leadership and guidance on a number of projects that positively impacted the Titan community, including the opening of the University Learning Center, which provides students with academic resources to help them succeed in the classroom. 

In 2011, he supported the construction of student housing with new residence halls. To address students’ mental health needs, Palmer was involved in the creation of counseling and psychological student services on campus, which included the expansion of the health center. 

Palmer also championed opportunities for underrepresented students to help them earn college degrees. 

Under former CSUF President Milton Gordon, Palmer played a key role in the establishment of CSUF’s Guardian Scholars Program. Celebrating its 25th anniversary this year, the program helps former foster youth earn a college degree by providing them with substantial financial, academic and professional resources. The program became a model for similar programs across the nation, including all 23 California State University campuses. 

Palmer also spearheaded funding support for the African American Resource Center. Located in the Pollak Library, the center is focused on advancing the success of African American students through services, resources and programs. For CSUF’s student-athletes, Palmer moved Athletics Academic Services into the Division of Student Affairs, improving academic support services for more than 350 Division I NCAA Titan athletes. 

His innovation and commitment to serving students earned him the 2010 Scott Goodnight Award for Outstanding Performance as a Dean/Vice President from NASPA — Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education, Region VI. This award is given to an individual who has excelled as dean or vice president in a student affairs program and is involved in campus and community leadership and university affairs. 

In addition to serving as an advocate for students, Palmer also mentored his staff, guiding many on their paths as university leaders and administrators. 

Before he came to CSUF, Palmer spent more than 20 years in student affairs service at the State University of New York at Buffalo, where he earned his doctorate in higher education in 1979. He earned his bachelor’s degree in education in 1971 from Indiana University, and completed his master’s degree in college student personnel administration in 1972 at Indiana University Bloomington.