Robert “Bob” Rose went the extra mile for his students and colleagues in his 47 years as a teacher.
He organized trips to the nation’s capital. He helped students land internships. He even dished out fashion advice for those going to the homecoming dance.
He also fought for the rights of his fellow educators, leading the Minneapolis teachers’ union through the late 1970s and early 1980s and helping organize a landmark teachers’ strike in 1970.
Rose remained active politically and in the lives of his former students even after he entered his 90s, his daughter, Elizabeth Rose, said. He died on Nov. 22 from health complications resulting in heart failure. He was 93.
“He believed in public school education,” Elizabeth Rose said. “He didn’t say, ‘I was a teacher.’ He always said, ‘I was a public school teacher.’ ”
Rose was born in 1926 in Amboy, Minn., a small town in Blue Earth County. After graduating from Macalester College in 1948, he went back to southern Minnesota to teach social studies. Shortly after, he married his wife, Donna, who also became a teacher.
Teaching jobs took Rose across the state and beyond — to Winnebago, Minn., Robbinsdale and Milwaukee before settling in Minneapolis, where he taught at several schools.
He sought to bring topics to life for students and would bring different speakers into his classroom, including Bob Kelly, who worked with the American Indian Movement in Minneapolis in the ’70s. The two bonded over their shared passion for Native American rights and other social causes.
“Bob was just an honest, dedicated, decent human being who never stopped advocating for his politics and for, basically, justice,” said Kelly, who called him the “quintessential great teacher.”
Rose joined the Minneapolis Federation of Teachers, and as the head of the union’s strike committee, he helped orchestrate a walkout over the rights and roles of teachers in 1970, according to the Minnesota Historical Society. Though the strike was divisive — and illegal at the time — the Legislature later passed a law that allowed teachers the right to collectively bargain.
Rose later became the president of the teachers’ union. He also served in other leadership roles, including on the board of the teacher retirement fund and as president of the Macalester Alumni Association. This summer, the college honored Rose with a Distinguished Citizen Award.
Through his work, Rose represented the “idea of Christian love and charity,” said state Rep. Steve Sandell, DFL-Woodbury, who worked with Rose during the summers at what was then known as the Twin Cities Institute for Talented Youth. When they met in the ’60s, Rose had just returned from taking a group of students with disabilities to Washington, D.C.
“He’s the kind of person who makes you think about what you’re doing and gives you faith that the ideals of humanity are important and worth pursuing,” Sandell said.
Over the years, former students would contact him to express their gratitude, Elizabeth Rose said. She remembered him as a remarkable father and grandfather, who in the midst of all his commitments was still there for all of her childhood swim meets.
“If there was a passion I had,” Rose wrote in his 1995 retirement letter, “it was the passion for insisting that youth gather basic skills to consider what was important for our republic to survive, even prosper.”
Rose is survived by his brother Richard of Amboy, daughter Elizabeth of Minneapolis, three granddaughters and one great-granddaughter.
A memorial service will be held at 11 a.m. Dec. 21 at Westminster Presbyterian Church in Minneapolis.