It was rare to have a conversation with Todd Roberson when he didn’t mention his daughter, Eve, and his wife, Jane. He was so proud of them.
His office was a calm place. It was always a bit dim, lit by lamps instead of the overhead fluorescent light, and he always played music.
He was full of life—a vibrant soul who exuded energy and passion for his work and his students’ success. Todd passed away in February at the age of 58.
“His presence will be missed the most. He was unique; he was likeable. He added humor to so many situations,” said Liz Malatestinic, teaching professor in human resource management. “Todd always amazed me with his quick wit. He had a humorous response for almost anything. You could always hear Todd coming down the hall—always humming or whistling. I’d hear this whistle, and call out, ‘Hi Todd,’ before he even got here. He’d pop his head in and show me a picture of his daughter or his wife, and we’d chat for a moment. He was a great colleague.”
“Todd and I both started as part-time faculty,” explained Kim Donahue, teaching professor in marketing. “We started teaching I-Core together. I remember when I first met him. I’d been wondering how to dress professionally. Todd had a pony tail, sandals, a Hawaiian shirt and jeans. He was a free spirit.
“I just loved working with him—his honesty and transparency. You could tell exactly what he was thinking and why. And his sense of humor, I just adored it. He’d walk down the hall singing a song you hadn’t heard in 20 years,” said Kim. “One song I haven’t stopped thinking about is the theme for The Greatest American Hero, a show on in the 80s. Every day that song pops into my head.”
In addition to teaching upper-level finance courses, Todd was the assessment coordinator and undergraduate recruitment coordinator for the Kelley School in Indianapolis. He sang in the Indianapolis Men’s Chorus. He owned a visual and performing arts studio with his wife. He was so proud of his daughter’s swimming career and announced swim meets for the swim team. He also loved the outdoors: In the summer, he’d go to Wyoming and work at Seedskadee National Wildlife Rescue there. He would windsurf in Colorado. He’s described as a good listener. Organized. Efficient. And deeply missed.
“He was ‘all that and a bag of chips.’ That was my favorite saying of his,” added Kim.
“Todd always played music in his office,” said Judy Wright, clinical assistant professor of business law, whose office was across the hall from Todd’s for 10 years. “He would turn it up and say, ‘OK, name the artist.’ We would chit chat back and forth. And he would always have new pictures of his daughter. He was so proud of her.”
“His office was also across the hall from me, and we didn’t talk about work that much. We talked a lot about our families and our kids,” said Emily Murphy, lecturer in business communications. “He’d talk about his daughter, and he’d ask questions about my family. He was genuinely interested and kind.”
“Todd had a wry sense of humor that made me laugh a lot,” said Eric Metzler, who worked with Todd on assessments. “We both were dads with one child—and we both loved being fathers. We talked a lot together about how proud we are of our children. Also, we both loved the outdoors. He’d tell me about his trips to Wyoming. His office was as neat as a pin, beautifully decorated and dimly lit with soft music. That was his style. He had a real flair for the art world.”
“Todd was ebullient: loud and full of energy and life. You could hear his voice down the hall,” added Eric. “I always looked forward to our meetings, and I left them with a good feeling. He was a great listener and an excellent professor. His loss will leave a big hole.”
“I worked with Todd for the past 10 years,” said Diane Wetzold, faculty office coordinator. “In the rare occasion that Todd needed my help, his emails to me always kept me laughing. His presence is already missed.”
“Todd was hired during my tenure as chair of the Undergraduate Program. After working for KSBI for a number of years as a part-time instructor, we were finally able to convince Todd to join the faculty on a full-time basis,” said Glen Larsen, professor of finance. “His desire to teach, concern for his students, unselfish contributions to the KSBI community and overall friendly personality made Todd a wonderful person. It is difficult to describe in words how much he will be missed.”
“When Todd walked into your office, his smile and positive attitude were infectious,” said Ken Carow, executive associate dean at the Kelley School at IUPUI. “His jovial spirit was always the greatest when he was speaking about Eve or Jane. Todd made me better, and he made Kelley better. I am forever grateful.”
“A doer, a giver and a passionate educator”
Todd was proud of his work in Kenya through the Kelley School at Moi University—having taught entrepreneurship and finance there, while also developing learning programs for international students.
For the past several summers, Todd taught a course on business and social good to Mandela Fellows, professionals from sub-Saharan Africa who would visit central Indiana as part of the Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders.
One of the emerging leaders wrote a note beneath Todd’s obituary about the impact he had on him during that time. “I got the chance to meet him in 2016 during a networking event organized for young African leaders visiting Indiana University. I was a young dreamer full of disorganized ideas. He came over, said hi and passionately listened [to my] story. I didn’t know a few weeks later he would teach me finance in one of the best sessions I had during my fellowship program. I remember him as a doer, a giver and passionate educator.”
Todd also taught J-411, Analysis of Business Decisions, which is one of the final courses for Kelley undergraduates at IUPUI. Students operate in teams as companies, working to grow a large company. They use a computer simulation to make business decisions for their respective organization in the marketplace.
His voice and energetic personality “appeared” on radio and TV as an expert commentator, including a recurring business segment on WISHTV every few weeks. (Author’s note: I coordinated Todd’s WISH appearances, and before the 8:15 AM segments, we’d chat in the break room, sharing stories of our families, as he did with so many people. He was genuine, kind and truly talented at what he did. He could explain difficult things in a clear and concise way that not only translated in the classroom, but also to non-business viewers watching the morning news. Of course, what I will remember the most is how proud he was of his daughter. He always talked about her accomplishments and shared recent photos anytime we chatted).
Impact at Kelley: recruiting and assessment
Even before the Kelley School at IUPUI had a dedicated recruiter on staff, Todd helped with undergraduate recruiting. He was always passionate about the students and the Kelley School.
“Todd proposed our first high ability recruitment program,” said Ken Carow. “He became our recruiter, and I remember him telling me by the end of the year he would demonstrate the success of the program and we would hire a full-time recruiter. He was exactly right! Our Direct Admit program today is four times the size of when Todd first proposed its development. Several schools on the IUPUI campus quickly followed suit with their own recruiting programs.”
“He was open to meeting with any applicant, and he made a day of it,” remembered Laura Watson, admissions specialist. “He would take them to lunch at Chancellor’s, walk them around Kelley and have them sit in on his class. That is a lot to take on when you are in a faculty role, but he loved doing it.
“I’ve had so many former students reach out to me since Todd’s passing,” added Laura. “They loved his classes, specifically planning their schedules to make sure they could take his classes.”
Todd also played a huge role in assessing learning outcomes as the Kelley School’s assessment coordinator in Indianapolis. For that role, he worked closely with Kelley’s assessment specialist Eric Metzler.
“Todd and I got the assessment of learning outcomes together for our accreditation,” explained Eric. “He was so much fun to work with. And he was really forward-thinking in the work we did for assessment. He was very willing to stretch his mind and think in new ways. He even went to Florida where the AACSB is located to learn more about what has to happen for assessment. He took it upon himself to learn more, and I really admired that about him.”
“He was so focused on making sure the students were learning, making sure they were showing growth. He cared about the outcomes of all of our classes and curriculum. His voice in those meetings will be truly missed,” said Emily Murphy.
“In I-Core, he helped us refine the projects we do, coming up with new approaches and new ways of looking at how we provide deliverables to the companies we work with,” said Kim Donahue.
“He first started as a part-time faculty member, and he was charged with doing videos for F-260 or F-200,” remembers Jim Adoba, the lead multimedia specialist at the Kelley School at IUPUI. “At the time, he had a pony tail, and he was just so freaking cool. He took to doing videos like a fish to water. He was so comfortable in front of the camera and set the bar quite high for our video courses. He was always so light-hearted, fun to work with and always open to new approaches. Of the hundreds of videos we produced, I do not recall ever having to re-edit a single one. And you could depend on him; you knew things were going to get done right.”
“He had way of explaining stuff that made it so easy to understand,” added Jim. “He put tons of work into his PowerPoint slides and Excel sheets. He was a creative soul. Always so prepared. Just incredible.”
“Todd would see a problem and propose a solution,” added Ken. “He would see a new technology or course and instantly be ready to figure out how to implement it to improve his courses or the school. He had ideas for improving the delivery of our online courses when online was just starting. The design of our Kelley School Business Foundations Certificate and minor were some of Todd’s early developments. Most recently he designed that MOOC style course on our newest edX program platform. He loved to be on the cutting edge.”
Commitment and passion for student success
Lecturer Mike Steinhardt remembers meeting Todd for the first time when Mike interviewed for a full-time finance position. He says Todd quickly became a mentor.
“There was never a time I asked for help that he wasn’t one of the first people to offer it,” Mike explained. “He not only had an impact on me, but above all, he impacted our students. They knew how passionate he was about their education and how much he cared about making sure they would leave here successful. That’s the toughest part. Todd’s ability to truly care and his commitment to his students will be missed the most.”
“One of the things that always impressed me about Todd Roberson was how much creativity he put into his teaching. His approach to a course was never ‘read the book and take the test.’ He would spend hours writing up his own examples and designing his own custom spreadsheets to illustrate a concept. And they weren’t just basic spreadsheets of data. They contained colorful charts and ways to interact that showed different ways to view a process,” said Jim Smith, a senior lecturer emeritus.
“Todd loved explaining things. His office was close to mine, so I often walked by when he was meeting with students in his office. He would be enthusiastically walking through an example or showing them more insights about a key topic. All the thought and energy Todd put into helping his students was a big reason he was so admired.”
“Our doors were always open, and we talked all the time across the hall. When students came to his office, Todd never gave them the answer. He would show them how to find the answer. He would help them arrive at the answer on their own,” Judy Wright explained.
“I remember when I applied to teach full time, Todd was on the committee for the interview,” Judy added. “He asked what my approach to teaching was. I said, ‘I set high expectations, then I help them reach those expectations. I try to open a world of possibilities and help them explore those possibilities.’ Afterwards, Todd took me aside and said, ‘That’s exactly what I want to hear! And what I want to do!’ We connected on that shared interest with our students. And that’s what I saw him do.”
Todd’s impact on countless students is lasting. Student Heather Kafrawy explained it well in a post she left beneath his obituary.
“Professor Roberson was an amazing teacher,” she wrote. “Every time I had an option to have him as a professor, I took it. I had three courses with him at IUPUI. He understood business and the real world, but more importantly, he had a way of making us understand it, too. It seemed like he talked about his family every class, and my heart goes out to them.”
Another person wrote, “Professor Roberson was one of those rare finance professors who you wanted to get a beer with after class. You never wanted to skip a class. He was so energetic and passionate about what he taught at Kelley. The success of many Kelley students can be directly traced back to Professor Roberson.”
“Professor Roberson was the first finance professor I ever had at Kelley,” said Nicholas Oberholtzer, BS’11, an asset manager for a real estate investment firm. “It was his enthusiasm and passion for the subject that became the driving force behind my decision to choose finance as my major. I truly believe I have him to thank for the successful career I get to enjoy today. The Kelley family has lost a true asset, and he will undoubtedly be missed by many. My thoughts and prayers go out to his family, friends and the entire Kelley community.”
Your impact, WTR, [as he signed his emails] will never be forgotten, and our hallways and classrooms will miss your spirit (and music) once we all go back in the fall.
As Todd always ended his emails and in-person chats, it seems only appropriate to end this piece the same.
And, as one person wrote in a post beneath his obituary, “Kelley will never be the same.”