Red Devil Alumni Spotlight | Robert Worthington '60

Robert Worthington special feature graphic. Photo is of Robert with teammates in 1959.
Robert Worthington special feature graphic. Photo is of Robert with teammates in 1959.

With sports on hold until 2021 the Dickinson Athletic Department wanted to share the stories of Dickinson Athletic Alumni, who have "Worn the Red" with pride both as an athlete here but maybe even more importantly since their departure from Carlisle. We are spotlighting a mix of Dickinson's most memorable and maybe unknown Red Devil alumni.

Alumnus: Robert Worthington

Sport: Football 

Class: 1960

Robert Worthington grew up just three hours west of Carlisle, in the Upper Hill district of Pittsburgh. He lived in a primarily all black community that consisted of hardworking individuals and families, who aspired to be upper class citizens in the Pittsburgh area and taught that work ethic to their children.

Bob was no exception to this as his father strived to teach him everything he knew and give him every opportunity to succeed in life. "My father was a role model to me, and I strived to do everything possible to make him happy," Bob said.

With a hard-nosed work ethic ingrained in his character Bob arrived at Schenley High School just down the road from his childhood home where he quickly began to make a name for himself both on the football field and off. Off the field Bob was a good student and had earned the respect of his peers. He was the first African American voted as the Student Council President at Schenley and helped lead an effort to change the mascot of the high school to a more traditional name. The group landed on Spartans, which was the mascot until the school's closure five years ago.

On the football field Bob excelled as a tight end. He had the privilege of playing with Dan Marino, Sr., who was, coincidentally, the father of Hall of Fame quarterback Dan Marino. Bob played both left end and right end, switching between being a blocker on the left and pass catcher on the right. "I could outrun a lot of people, including Dan (Marino Sr.) and catch those long fly routes down the field," Bob stated with a chuckle. His efforts landed him on the All-City Team as a senior, which Bob claimed to be, "A great accomplishment and one of the proudest moments in my life." 

When the time came for Bob to select a college it was the one area that in his own words, "Schenley lacked in." The school did not have a great reputation for placing young African American students in college but instead normally pushed its graduating senior class to seek enrollment at a trade school. However, this mentality all changed during Bob's senior year when the school hired a young African American woman, who focused on building Schenley's relationships with multiple colleges, including Dickinson and its Admission's Director Dr. Ben James.

Dr. James had a vision and worked to execute his goal of bringing qualified young people to campus to receive a liberal arts education. After a phone call from Dr. James to Schenley, Bob learned about Dickinson and went home with an application, telling his parents he was going to apply to Dickinson on "a gut feeling." One month later Bob would receive an acceptance letter in the mail that unbeknownst to him was about to change his life.

Bob arrived on campus in the fall of 1956 as a young student-athlete looking to leave his mark. "As a freshman I wasn't able to play varsity football so I had to take a year to learn the ropes and understand the offense," Bob said. "We weren't an overly good team so outside of the few locals that would show up to watch us, along with the parents, there weren't too many students that would come out to the games," Bob added with a heavy laugh. Regardless, Bob continued to grind and during his time as a Red Devil was named the Homecoming Game MVP, was the team's leading ground gainer as a junior, and as a senior received All-Conference honors.

When looking back at his time at Dickinson Bob shared, "I had a good experience as a student-athlete and was blessed with great teammates that helped me stay despite the limitations I faced socially. We were all there for each other and dedicated to being the best possible players and team we could be, both on and off the field," Bob stated.

Upon graduating from Dickinson, he was accepted to the University of Iowa Law School, following his father's dream of Bob becoming a lawyer. However, as Bob said after a few weeks into his law school experience, "law and I didn't agree." Searching for something that fueled his passion and interest, a chance research project on the issue of Imminent Domaine helped Bob find a new program at Iowa. He changed his major and enrolled in the School of Sociology where he focused on Urban Studies. He would graduate with his masters' degree in 1964 and marry the love of his life in the same year, Dorothy Thompson Worthington. Shortly thereafter the two would start their family with the birth of their first child and only son, Kevin A. Worthington.

Beginning his professional career, Bob kept his family in Iowa. He worked two part-time jobs as an assistant instructor of sociology at Coe College as well as an assistant researcher at the University of Iowa Children's Hospital, where he focused on behavioral issues in children who contracted diseases such as Polio.

Knowing he needed to get to a full-time position, another twist of fate would change Bob's life. One night, his father mentioned that there was a position opening in Allegheny County in the planning department. He interviewed and received the job, moving his family back to Pittsburgh where they would live for the next two years. 

After two years though, Bob could see there was not a lot of room for promotions and wanted to make a change. Another chance opportunity with an upcoming city would bring him and his expanding family to their new home in Minnesota where they have been since 1967. The City of Bloomington was growing rapidly and needed a Senior Planner to help create a strategy to keep up with the booming new city. "It was a pleasant experience and was a city that was growing by leaps and bounds. This is where my career truly blossomed," Bob said.

For the first time in his professional career Bob had the power and influence he never could have attained in Pittsburgh. He was helping plan and create strategies the city of Bloomington could never have fathomed just a few years prior. Professionally his career was taking off, while personally he was seeing his family grow with the birth of his two daughters, Adrienne T. Worthington Crowley and Deborah L. Worthington Benvides. They also bought their first home in Bloomington for their growing family. 

After some time working with the city of Bloomington Bob moved on to take a job in Richfield, just across the river, and become the city's first ever Senior Planner. In two years, he created a long-range plan for Richfield that saw the creation of new infrastructure as well as changes in usage for the city and its citizens. With his hard work on full display an old client of his called him back into service to work directory for them, OPUS Corporation, as their first ever planner. This is where Bob would stay for the next 20 years of his brilliant career. 

During his time at OPUS Bob oversaw the creation of a 350-acre development for the corporation. It attracted fortune 500 companies, led to the creation of a highway system to link the new airport in Bloomington to the Mall of America and downtown Minneapolis, as well as help build a new transit center for OPUS Southwest. Upon completion of his final project Bob finally decided it was time to step away and enjoy his retirement.

Since retiring Bob has worked with a non-profit, assisting people, primarily senior citizens down at the airport in getting to and from gates, flights, baggage claim, etc. However, he is most proud of his service during Super Bowl LII at U.S. Bank Stadium as well as the NCAA Men's Basketball Final Four in 2019. He was one of four volunteers selected for the Final Four, and as a gift for his service was presented with one of the chairs used by the players and coaching staff's during the tournament. "It currently sits on my porch permanently on display," Bob said with a chuckle. 

In 2010 Bob was presented with the award that highlights what he is most proud of. As a member of the American Planning Association and for his three-plus decades of working as a planner for multiple cities, and most notably his time in Minnesota, Bob was presented with the Lifetime Achievement Award. "It's a rare honor to receive this award," Bob said. "When you are selected by your peers and they single you out as someone special enough to be recognized, it is truly special." 

Amongst some of his other honors and accolades Bob has spent time as a member of the Board of Trustees at Dickinson. He was Chairman of the Housing Finance Agency for 15 years under three different Governors in Minnesota, which is an appointment that can only come from the Governors themselves. 

Bob could not be prouder of his accomplishments in life, from his professional career to his family, but would be remiss if he didn't credit the place where it all began. "Dickinson was the first step in me becoming my own person and that is why I am Dickinson proud," stated Bob. "I am where I am because of Dickinson."

Bob started out in his life, in his own words as a "captive" of his own neighborhood and city. He went to a high school where, because of skin color, people were not promised a chance at furthering their education at a college. But because of the opportunities presented to him Bob became someone who was smart enough and strong enough to help carry others into the promised land and into a new age.

A father of three, grandfather of 10, and a devoted husband for 57 years, Bob Worthington has lived a life well deserved. "I was raised to be a trailblazer and Dickinson helped me accomplish my goals," Bob said. "Anything I can do to be of assistance and be a role model to help future generations and leaders, I will do."