Image credit: Minoru Yamasaki & Associates, Robertson Hall, School of Public and International Affairs, Princeton University, c. 1975. Photograph by Balthazar Korab © Estate of Balthazar Korab.

Robert “Bobby” Willig Tribute

Oct 28 2022
Amaney Jamal, Dean

From the Dean:

I am writing to the SPIA community with the very sad news of the passing last week of Robert “Bobby” Willig.

Bobby joined the School’s faculty, joint with the Economics Department in 1978.  Over the next 38 years until he transferred to Emeritus status in 2016, Bobby taught microeconomics to more than 1200 MPA students.  He continued to teach his signature course “Legal and Regulatory Policy towards Markets” for another five years, through the spring term 2021.  He truly loved teaching, and he taught generations of SPIA graduate students over more than four decades.   

Bobby’s academic and professional contributions are well summarized in the announcement posted on the Economics department website.

We are grateful for his dedication and profound contributions to the MPA program over the years.  Bobby served as Faculty Chair of the MPA program for a decade from 1999-2009.  He also served as the Coordinator for Field IV (Economics and Public Policy) at least a dozen times between the early 1990s and 2012-13.  Karen McGuinness, Associate Dean for Graduate Education: “Bobby understood the structure of Field IV and the sequence of the quantitative courses better than anyone, because he was one of the architects of the program.  He cared deeply about MPA students and about providing them strong analytical training to evaluate policies.” 

Elizabeth Armstrong, Associate Professor of Sociology and Public Affairs:  “Bobby's long-term service on the MPA admissions committee was distinguished both by his peerless ability to spot overlooked gems in the applicant pool and his tenacious advocacy for a class that reflected true diversity and a commitment to the highest ideals of public service. His dedication to admissions made the school a better place to learn and to teach.”

Before the pandemic, Bobby and his wife Ginny Mason were generous donors to the SPIA Service Auction.  For many years they hosted an “End of Year BBQ with the Willigs,” which raised funds for the non-profit beneficiaries of the auction, but more importantly, nurtured community with students.  Yusuf Dahl, MPA 17, recalls “Bobby was such a tremendous person and I fondly remember the service auction BBQs at his house. Such a tremendous loss for so many.”

Bobby is survived by his wife of 49 years, Ginny Mason, 4 children and 8 grandchildren.  An obituary written by the Mason-Willig family can be found here.