Ex-president of Lyon College dies

Ex-president of Lyon College dies

Lyon College President Emeritus Walter Barackman Roettger died Sunday in Syracuse, NY, the college confirmed Monday.

Roettger, 81, served as the 16th president of Lyon College, from 1998 to 2009. The cause of death was unknown.

During his time as president, Lyon College opened the 60,854-square-foot Derby Center for Science and Mathematics, an $11 million facility, in 2003.

“I will leave here with the satisfaction of seeing one of the best undergraduate science facilities in the country being built here,” Roettger told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette in a 2009 interview.

In 2001, US News and World Report recognized Lyon College for the first time as one of America’s “Best Liberal Arts Colleges.”

And in 2008, Lyon College provided every student with a Lenovo Thinkpad laptop computer, the first school in the state and one of about 200 nationally to provide students with laptops.

“We know that this technology promotes learning and that computer literacy is important for success after graduation,” he said in 2008. “Lyon has invested heavily in information technology over the past decade, becoming one of the first fully wireless campuses in the state. … Thanks to our technology infrastructure, we are now able to take this next step.”

Also during his time as president, the college developed agreements with area community colleges that made it possible for students at those institutions to attend Lyon.

Skip Rutherford, a Batesville native who occasionally taught at Lyon College, remembered Roettger on Twitter Monday, noting, “During his 11 years, Lyon faculty were named Arkansas Professors of the Year 9 times.”

The Professor of the Year program is affiliated with the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching and the Council for the Support and Advancement of Education.

Roettger, like Rutherford, taught occasionally, which he said gave him a good perspective and a chance to connect with students and professors.

After stepping down as president of Lyon, Roettger provided interim leadership at at least five institutions across the country, including a 2016 appointment at the State University of New York-Oswego, where he was acting provost and vice president for academic affairs , and a 2019 appointment as interim provost at Glasgow Caledonian New York College in New York City.

Prior to Lyon, he worked in various administrative positions, including Westminster College in Fulton, Mo.; Bryant University in Smithfield, RI; and the University of Hartford in West Hartford, Connecticut. As a professor, Roettger was first at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa, where he received the Honor Teacher Award.

Roettger was born in Champaign, Illinois. His father, Walter Henry Roettger, was a major league baseball player from 1927-1934 for the St. Louis Cardinals, New York Giants, Cincinnati Reds and Pittsburgh Pirates, and later served as the head baseball coach. for 17 seasons at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where he was also an associate professor, according to the Society For American Baseball Research biography project. His mother, Marjorie Barackman of Streator, Ill., worked as a bookkeeper at a bank.

The younger Roettger and his sister, Margaret Roettger Menhenett, pursued careers in higher education. Menhenett taught English and later was an administrator at the University of Victoria in Canada.

Roettger was part of the undergraduate class of 1963 at Stanford University, where he studied political science and government. He received his doctorate in political science from the University of Colorado at Boulder in 1976. Earlier in his life, Roettger served in the US Air Force, leaving active duty with the rank of captain.

He is survived by his wife, Margaret “Peggy” Roettger, former director of alumni and parent services at Lyon, and son, Dan.

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