Opinion: Retiring Dr. Robert Bartlett should be known as many things … including my grandpa


Courtesy of Isaiah Gessner

Africana Studies professor Dr. Robert Bartlett is retiring at the end of spring quarter.

By Isaiah Gessner, Social Media Editor

Isaiah Gessner is The Easterner’s social media editor and grandson of Dr. Robert Bartlett, the subject of this article. Gessner’s opinions expressed in this article don’t necessarily reflect the views or opinions of The Easterner, its staff or Eastern Washington University. 

Dr. Robert Bartlett could be recognized as many things over the course of his lifetime: a professor, an Army veteran, a father, a writer, a sociologist, an activist, a member of the Africa Studies program at EWU, a fisherman and a friend to everyone he meets.

But to me, he will always be remembered as my grandpa.

Courtesy of Isaiah Gessner

No matter where we went together over the course of my lifetime, my grandpa would make it a priority to ask what I had been learning in school, as well as see how I could apply those skills into the real world around me.

My grandpa has easily been one of the most influential people in my life when it comes to pushing myself to get an education, and even choosing to attend EWU to further my education.

Before the pandemic ended up interrupting the rest of this school year in person, I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to see my grandpa in his element when I took his Social Problems class this past winter quarter.

My grandpa and I have always been able to have good discussions about worldly topics, but seeing him spark a healthy conversation while allowing people from all types of perspectives to explain their stance offered me a lot of hope for my generation. There were many long nights where the topics that we discussed in class found a way to stick in my mind for the weeks that followed.

Courtesy of Isaiah Gessner

With this being my grandpa’s final year at EWU before entering retirement, I interviewed him on some of his favorite moments that he has had while teaching, as well as what he looks forward to in the future.

When discussing some of his favorite moments he had in his career, Dr. Bartlett proclaimed  “That’s an easy one to me, my relationships with people and students that are lifelong ones would have to be my favorite … going back to my teaching days at Gonzaga, I have always appreciated my relationships that I have built.” 

To anybody that knows my grandpa, it is very obvious that he is willing to discuss any topic with just about any person who is willing to take the time to listen to him. He is always looking for ways to socialize and meet new people no matter if he’s at a fast-food drive-through, or sitting down after class to further a conversation with a student.

The most important piece of advice my grandpa had for students looking for a career path to venture into was “Dedicate your life to being a student of life. Find your passion and that’s what should drive you into the career that you want to do – not just settling on a job that gives you prestige and money that will only gain you momentary happiness.”


It is important to remind myself during this time that the learning we do outside the classroom is equally important to the type of information that we gain while listening to our professors on campus.

When asked about what he is looking forward to doing during his retirement, my grandpa said “I’m excited to reconnect with people in my life at a deeper level … I have offers to write books and a research project on the Triple Nickel which I have been working on for the past six years.” 

 Ever since I was a little kid, I can remember my grandpa writing about topics that he found a passion in, and now that he will have more time on his hands to flesh out his ideas, I am very excited to see what ends up coming out of that.

I am lucky enough to consider Dr. Bartlett not just as my grandpa, but one of my best friends and a mentor to me ever since I was a child. With all of this craziness going on in the world right now, it feels good to have a role model that I can look up to.