Rob@Middlesex

Spotlight on New Robbins House Co-President Rob Munro

“To a certain extent, we do live in a bubble here,” Rob said, “not only at Middlesex, but also in Concord. I am very hopeful that we can gently expand that bubble and have more difficult conversations about culture, history and race. And, in the process, become more empathetic and understanding of those around us.”

It’s not surprising that family means so much to Rob Munro, who, at the age of 2, was adopted by a loving couple in Walpole, Mass., along with his identical twin brother Ryan. In the process, the boys quickly acquired 10 siblings in what Rob describes as a very diverse family: six black kids, six white kids, six boys and six girls.
Now, some 30 years later, Rob says he’s close to all his brothers and sisters who are still alive and to mom Nancy (his father died when he was 11), who will soon be turning 80. “Most of us live in the area,” he said, “and we all get together at our mom’s house at least once a month or every other month.” Of those younger years, Rob says, “It was a great childhood.”
Sitting on a wooden bench by the Middlesex School lawn on a sparkling spring day, Rob talked about that first family, his academic pursuits, his varied roles and responsibilities at Middlesex and his interests and hopes for the Robbins House, where, earlier this year, he was elected co-president. Rob’s current family – wife Sarah and daughter Wesley –
has recently announced the birth of their new girl Abigail.

Teaching and research

After graduating from Bates where he majored in philosophy and religion, Rob earned a Ph.D. in philosophy at Michigan State, while also immersing himself in African American studies. “I found, though, that I really liked teaching more than research,” he says, adding that it was the enjoyment he derived from teaching that led him to Middlesex, where he began teaching history while also coaching tennis, a sport he had played at college along with squash and soccer.

Soon thereafter, he created the school’s Global Studies Program, with a focus on bringing the outside world to the student, rather than the other way around, and on having difficult conversations. Of the latter, Rob says, “We don’t have to agree with what someone else is saying, but we do need to talk to one another and have those awkward conversations if we are going to develop more understanding and progress as a society and as a people.”

The students he interacts with on an almost daily basis are often more receptive to having those difficult conversations than the adults he encounters. “They are very interested in the world around them and willing to ask hard questions – about race, gender, sexuality – to learn more,” he says.

Today’s youth

“At the same time, they want to find out where they fit in and how they can make a difference. I’m incredibly optimistic about the youth of today.”

Of the Robbins House, Rob says he’s looking to expand and integrate more fully into our culture the rich narrative that begins with an enslaved man – Caesar Robbins – fighting in the Revolutionary War, gaining his freedom and eventually becoming a landowner in Concord. He’ll also be working to ensure the sustainability of the Robbins House long into the future.
As he looks to become a positive influence on those he comes into contact with, Rob says it’s the women in his life who have greatly influenced him: mom Nancy, wife Sarah and Robbins House co-president Maria Madison.

They have been mentors, coaches, a source of inspiration and a source of comfort to him. “I hope along the way,” he says, “to pay them back for all they’ve done for me.”

“To a certain extent, we do live in a bubble here,” Rob said, “not only at Middlesex, but also in Concord. I am very hopeful that we can gently expand that bubble and have more difficult conversations about culture, history and race. And, in the process, become more empathetic and understanding of those around us.”