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Winter’s Grandest Gesture


With 10 books and countless articles to his credit, Robert Winter may well be the leading authority on Southern California architecture. Over the 31 years he taught history at Occidental, Winter punctuated his lectures with animation, passion, and a theatrical flair that few students will ever forget.

A native of Elkhart, Ind. Winter traces his interest in architecture to his newspaperman father, who would take visiting dignitaries on a driving tour of Elkhart's mansions and landmarks with Bob and his brother in tow. Later, at Dartmouth, a professor inspired his interest in the Craftsman and bungalow architecture synonymous with much of southern California.

After completing his education, Winter headed west to teach at UCLA. In 1963, Occidental president Arthur Coons offered him a position in the College's history department. Since then, Winter says, "Oxy has been my whole life, and I've loved every moment!"

Winter realized a personal dream in 1972 when he purchased the onetime Pasadena residence of famed craftsman tile maker Ernest Batchelder, which was added to the National Register of Historic Places in the 1970s. Following the example set by his friend and colleague Ben Culley, Winter is leaving his slide library and house to the College. "When Ben died, nobody thought he had a fortune, but he left his estate to the College, and it endowed a program that has really made a difference." In 1998, the College received a significant grant from the J. Paul Getty Trust to digitize Winter's extensive and valuable slide collection.

"I used to tell my freshmen I wanted a memorial at Forest Lawn with a direct line to Oxy's president," Winter jokes. "Well, I've revisited this notion - I would rather have architect Brenda Levin put a Myron Hunt façade on Coons Administration Building - and my bequest may just fund this!" Still irrepressible - would anyone expect less from Dr. Robert W. Winter, Arthur G. Coons Professor of the History of Ideas Emeritus?