Obituary — Robert M. Owen


Robert M. Owen (known as Bob by friends and family), professor emeritus of marine geochemistry and of the environment, died peacefully June 10 at age 77.

A resident of Ann Arbor and formerly of Levittown, Pennsylvania, Owen was predeceased by his parents Robert B. and Alice A. Owen (née Martin) and infant twin sons, Robert and Sean Owen.

Robert M. Owen

He is survived by his wife of 47 years, Susan Owen (née Palmquist), sons Ryan Owen (Leslie Chinn) and Timothy Owen (Kate Sasamoto), brother James Owen, twin sisters Marie and Lynn Owen (Robert Zwengler), nieces Gillian Zwengler and Morgan Zwengler (Joel Edick), and his four beloved grandchildren: Alana, Sarina, Kiana and Finn Owen.

Bob was born in Philadelphia and raised in Levittown, the oldest of four children. He lost his father at an early age and became a father figure for his younger siblings.

Bob was a 1964 graduate of Bishop Egan High School in Levittown, where he excelled academically and was a standout track and field athlete. Bob held his high school track record in the 220-yard run and was invited to try out for the Miami Dolphins football team while later competing in an amateur athletic competition.

He went on to earn his Bachelor of Science degree in chemistry from Drexel University in 1969 and his Ph.D. in oceanography and limnology from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1975. He then began his 37-year career at U-M as an assistant professor and progressed to associate and then to full professor of marine geochemistry with tenure. He received the prestigious Arthur F. Thurnau Professorship for excellence in teaching in 2004.

He was the director of the Program in the Environment from 2005-10, greatly advancing the program, and was director of Camp Davis (Geology Field Camp) in the mountains of Jackson Hole, Wyoming, from 1990-99. He was the associate dean for undergraduate education in LSA from 1998-2004.

Bob had always been fascinated by the ocean and fulfilled his lifelong dream of becoming an oceanographer and traveling the world. He was a voracious reader of books, especially about World War II naval battles and spy thrillers. Everyone knew not to disturb Bob while he was watching his favorite sports teams: the University of Michigan, Philadelphia Eagles and the Philadelphia Phillies.

He treasured time spent at his home in Sea Isle City, New Jersey, being with his beloved dogs Bree and Mickey, time spent with family, completing The New York Times Crossword puzzle, all things Irish, and discussing life and politics over drinks.

A celebration of Bob’s life will take place from 5-9 p.m. Oct. 7 at Conor O’Neill’s Irish Pub in Ann Arbor.

Donations in Bob’s memory may be sent to: The SEAS Program (School for Environment & Sustainability) The University of Michigan ATTN: Matt Kasten, 440 Church St., Suite 2046, Ann Arbor, MI 48109. Checks should be made out to: The Robert M. Owen Fund. On the memo line please write “Donation.”

Submitted by the Owen family


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