Bob Stephans arrived at Carleton from a tiny town in southeast Minnesota with a passion for music and an overwhelming curiosity about how things work. He went on to a life-long career as a music educator, mostly at the secondary school level, teaching voice, piano and choir to thousands of young people in the Midwest.
After Carleton, Bob received a Master’s degree in music education at Washington University, St. Louis and taught in the St. Louis public schools. He then moved to the Davenport, Ia. public schools, starting the choral program at West high school and serving as choir director at Newcomb Presbyterian Church.
In 1975, with his second wife, Linda and their daughter, Kimberly, he returned to his home town, Rushford, MN. He taught vocal and general music at the public schools, and Bob served a term as town mayor.
In 1987, Bob decided to return to school, and was accepted into the highly-ranked music school graduate program at Indiana University, Bloomington. While there, he taught in Bloomington public schools until his retirement in 2007, first while enrolled in a Ph.D program and later after receiving an Educational Specialist degree from IU, having completed all Ph.D. requirements except the dissertation.
He also served as organist for the United Presbyterian Church for more than 20 years.
Thoughout his career, Bob spent countless hours volunteering in the backstage area of school and community theaters. In Rushford, Bob was both the director and the set designer for annual musicals and wrote several pageants performed during Homecoming celebrations. In Bloomington, he served as the technical director for school theater programs and assisted with theater productions.
Meanwhile, his interest in how things worked developed into his second love, carpentry and handyman work. He was a master carpenter, a top piano tuner, and an inveterate fixit man. His favorite place was his home shop, designing and building furniture, bookcases, cabinets, or whatever was needed.
He was a frequent participant in Habitat for Humanity builds.
Bob built one of his homes from the frame upward and extensively remodeled every house he lived in. One of his last gifts to his second daughter, Tanya, was a piano he rebuilt and refinished himself.
Although three marriages ended in divorce, Bob was surrounded by loving family when he died on Jan. 23, 2010, from pneumonia that developed after a fall near his house.
“Bob was a small-town guy,” said his daughter, Kimberly. “Even when living in a larger city, like Bloomington, he managed to create a loving, sharing small-town atmosphere, at his church and in his community.”