OSWEGO – Dr. Walter Barackman Roettger (Wallie) 81, of Oswego, New York, passed away on Sunday, January 29, 2023, at Saint Joseph’s Hospital in Syracuse. Born on September 6, 1941, in Champaign/Urbana, Illinois, Wallie maintained later in life that he had chosen his parents well.
His dad, Walter Henry, played baseball for among others the 1931 World Series champions, the St. Louis Cardinals. after which he served as the Associate Athletic Director and Head Baseball Coach for the University of Illinois. His mother, Anna Marjorie, was renowned for her wealth of common sense, humor, and dignity. She ran the perfect Midwestern home for her family.
Wallie graduated from Champaign Senior High School in 1959 and Stanford University in 1963 with a major in Political Science and minors in Mathematics and Physics. He was a member of the Theta Delta Chi fraternity. After graduation he was enlisted in the United States Air Force and completed a non-degree program at San Jose State University in meteorology and mathematics.
During his service with the USAF, he was assigned to Cheyenne Mountain (Colorado) as an Astrogeophysicist and was honorably discharged with the rank of Captain. A dear friend mused that his time in the USAF brought the United States its first solar flare meteorologist—that said, abundant questions remain about his ability to forecast our terrestrial weather. Following his time in the Air Force, he changed his tune to earn a Ph.D. from the University of Colorado in Political Science. It was Boulder that brought him a love of the Colorado Rockies.
In his subsequent career, he taught at several midwestern colleges before settling at Drake University, where he earned tenure. He moved to Hartford, Connecticut in January 1983 as Assistant Provost for the University of Hartford, where he met his mentor, Stephen Joel Trachtenberg, and his beloved wife, Peggy.
He was the academic; she came from the marketing side of the house. They married in 1988. From Assistant Provost, he became the Dean of the SI Ward College of Technology and then Dean of the Barney School of Business and Public Administration. In 1991, he moved to Rhode Island as Executive Vice President at Bryant University and then to Westminster College in Fulton, Missouri, where he served as Dean of Faculty and Vice President for Academic Affairs.
In 1998, he became the 16th president of Lyon College in Batesville, Arkansas. He was known as a trailblazer at Lyon and in the higher education community. Under his leadership, Lyon earned national recognition for academic excellence, increased its enrollment, added new academic programs and a host of new buildings. At Lyon, Wallie completed one capital campaign and launched another – in higher education, this is no small feat. He measured his success by the success of the faculty; and, during his tenure, Lyon faculty were named Arkansas Professor of the year no fewer than nine times.
Wallie retired from Lyon in 2009. Unable to sit still, he shared his talent and experience with other institutions: SUNY Geneseo, St. Cloud State University in Minnesota, National Louis University, Glasgow Caledonian College New York City, and SUNY Oswego.
Wallie is survived by his wife of 35 years, Margaret (Peggy) Begley Roettger; their beloved son, Daniel, and his husband, Bruce Zha. His family consisted of many Begleys and included his sister-in-law, Kathy Begley Gill (Ed), and his brother-in-law, Richard Reiss. Among those he held dear were several nieces and nephews: Brian, Michael, Maureen, Eileen, and Jim Begley; Philip and Erin Reiss; Jimmy and Lauren Gil; and a host of great-nieces and nephews.
Beyond his human family, he was joined by a number of chosen furry family members, including Miller (who continues to look for him today), Clawdia (who maintains her post under the bed dutifully), Maggie (who despite crossing the Rainbow Bridge is still likely chasing the sun through the sky), Ethan (his grand-dog for whom he showed infinite patience), Clyde (the first creature, feline or otherwise, he trusted enough to introduce his son to), Ralph (the First Dog of Lyon, who routinely joined for family photos when convenient and was once thought to be mechanical in his measured quest for moles), Phyllis (the cat who made our family ever larger – some will appreciate the pun), Oliver (amongst the most tale worthy cat known to humankind), John Earney (the Aussie Shepard who hitchhiked from Arkansas into our hearts – especially Peggy’s), and Elmo (his first pet, the feline guinea pig of sorts). When approached with the prospect of adding another family pet, Wallie (at least the second or third time around) would always shrug, grimace, and say that more is always merrier.
In addition to his parents, Wallie was preceded in death by his sister, Marjorie Roettger Menhenett of Cobble Hill, British Columbia. Marj, a Wellesley and California Berkeley alumna, was also an academic administrator who impacted many lives in Victoria.
Walter Roettger was a man of integrity, honor, sincerity, dry wit, even-handedness, and honesty to name just a few of his qualities. His word was his bond. His greatest delights were his family, his friends, reading, running (2:44:07 in The Boston Marathon), and blue Christmas lights on the annual tree. He loved to watch his son, Daniel, play tennis and was delighted when faculty members and students at the schools where he worked fulfilled their dreams. He loved his wife with all his heart and together, as one, they built a wondrous life that impacted generations of students. As one student fondly recalled, “he may have fathered Danny, but there are thousands of us out there who are where and who we are today due to his mentoring and love.”
Family and friends are invited to call on Monday, February 6, 2023, from 2:00 to 4:30 pm at the Nelson Funeral Home, 11 West Albany Street, Oswego, New York. A funeral service will follow at 5 pm
In lieu of flowers, contributions can be made to the Harold Gustav Roettger Memorial Award in honor of his nephew, Walter Barackman Roettger, University of Illinois College of Media, Champaign, Illinois 61820. https://giving.illinois.edu/
Walter Barackman Roettger
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