It is with a heavy heart we share the news that alumnus and long-time former employee Rob Callahan ’88, MBA ’96 passed away unexpectedly last week.
Rob was a 1984 graduate of Cony High School and a two-time Thomas College graduate, where he was a very involved three-sport athlete and met his wife Carolyn (Drouin) Callahan ’89.
A few years after graduating from Thomas College, he returned as an employee.
Over the course of Rob’s 16-year career at Thomas (starting in 1992 as an admissions counselor through 2012 as VP of Enrollment Management), enrollment grew significantly and so did his love for higher education. It was during that time, and under Rob’s leadership, that the College launched its Guaranteed Job Program™, the first of its kind in the country. His impact on Thomas College was significant for enrollment and the success of our school.
Most recently, Rob served as President of Silver Lake College of the Holy Family, a four-year, Catholic liberal arts college in Manitowoc, WI, which was one of his biggest career goals.
A few members of the Thomas community reflect on the impact Rob had on them as individuals and on the College as a whole:
“I think that Rob’s most important and vital contribution to Thomas College was his proposal of the Guaranteed Job Program… This program not only stabilized enrollment but increased it and obviously continues to be a cornerstone of marketing the College to this day. This legacy alone demonstrates Rob’s crucial contribution to the continued existence and success of Thomas College. Additionally, Rob believed in the College’s mission and the contributions that Thomas graduates would make to Maine, New England, and the United States. He was a cheerleader for Thomas College and served the College with boundless energy and enthusiasm.” – Professor Dr. Doug Lepley
“Rob was a down to earth, kind, and humble leader. In his role as Vice President of Enrollment, I admired his ability to bring energy to a room when he spoke but mostly his ability to get the absolute best out of people. One of my favorite memories of him was one of his individual community service projects that he took on. Weekly he would be recorded reading children’s books that were broadcasted on Public Television. He dressed up in a purple suit and purple tie and had a stage name “Professor Purple”. He brought in one of his daughter Katelyn’s stuffed animals, a monkey named “Bananas” as a prop for the show. Our students got wind of this and the Thomas “Dog Pound”, our student section for games, even convinced him to come dressed as Professor Purple to a basketball game. The cheers were intense that night when Professor Purple walked in.” – Deb Biche-Labbe, Associate Director of Athletics
“Rob was a family man. Rob’s success in higher education was hyperlinked to concept of family. He treated incoming recruits to campus as if they were family, and when he was the VP of Admissions, he helped create a high-touch system where all staff members would be familiar with the personal interests and accomplishments of each incoming student. The contact and follow-though that his department maintained with students lasted for the entire four years of enrollment and beyond commencement. Any observer that I ever spoke to about Rob’s recruiting system noticed that his winning recruiting strategies were really about having a laser focus on developing caring relationships. That was Rob’s legacy at Thomas. Rob carefully taught his staff that if you have a genuine concern for people, they will have a genuine concern for Thomas…and they did! Rob worked countless hours in higher education positions where the responsibility for recruiting figures, and therefore revenue, rested with him. In spite of that, he never compromised his passion for treating human beings as if they were his own family.”
– Professor Dr. James Libby, School of Business
In spring 2019, our staff caught up with Rob for a Thomas magazine story to talk about his legacy here and his success post-Thomas. One of the quotes from Rob said, “Education is the key to transforming people’s lives. The work of helping students changes the trajectory they are on and is truly rewarding.”
Rob leaves behind his wife, Carolyn, and two children, Jonathan, and Katelyn.