Robert Eugene Yager, 89, of Coralville, died peacefully Aug. 6, 2019, surrounded by family and friends following a lengthy illness. Dr. Yager was an award-winning, internationally recognized science educator who believed adamantly in the importance and value of science education and public service.
Born April 13, 1930, to W.C. and A. Grayce (Owen) Yager in Carroll, Iowa, Dr. Yager's own education began in a small rural school in Viola Township in Audubon County, Iowa, near the family farm. He attended the University of Northern Iowa, graduated at age 20, and took a teaching position in Chapin, Iowa. Here he implemented his ideas of involving students with their personal questions for exploration and learning. He then started graduate studies at the University of Iowa. Drafted into the Army during the Korean War, he was deployed to an Army school in Germany where he taught math and reading to soldiers who had less than fourth grade level skills. He learned to incorporate social issues into the curriculum to engage his unconventional students.
After his military service, he returned to the University of Iowa where he earned a Ph.D. in plant physiology. In 1957, he became the head of the science department at the University Laboratory High School and remained in that position until the school closed in 1972. Dr. Yager held various leadership roles as a professor of science education with the University of Iowa, until his formal retirement in 2006. He continued as professor emeritus with office hours until his death.
A prolific author, Dr. Yager devoted his life to teaching, writing and advocating on behalf of science education worldwide. He served as president of multiple science education organizations and academies, received multiple awards and recognitions and received the Iowa Governor's Science Medal in 1990. He chaired nearly 140 doctoral dissertation committees, nurturing an entire new generation of science educators. Working with former students throughout the world, Dr. Yager helped influence international approaches to science education.
Robert Yager was a philanthropist and supported the University of Iowa Foundation, UNI Foundation, science education organizations, local theatres, the University of Iowa Diversity Committee and the Iowa Children's Museum. He established a charitable trust that will continue his philanthropic efforts and Yager scholars far into the future.
He is survived by his son, Stuart (wife Michelle) of Avon, Ill.; daughter, Laura (aka Lolly) of Falls Church, Va.; grandson, Weston of Las Vegas, Nev.; grand-daughter, Aubrey of Cedar Rapids; and brothers, Bill (wife Marky) of Des Moines and Lowell (wife Louise) of Ames, and their families. He also is survived by his secretary, Maryann Mullinnix of Iowa City; and by his longtime friend, Mitchell Owen of North Liberty.
His wife of 37 years, Phyllis (Crable) Yager, died in 1991.
Visitation will be from 4 to 7 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 8, at Lensing Funeral & Cremation Service in Iowa City. Funeral services will begin at 10:30 a.m. Friday, Aug. 9, at First Presbyterian Church, 2701 Rochester Ave., Iowa City. Friends may also call one hour before the service Friday at the church. Burial will be at 4:30 p.m. Friday in Maple Grove Cemetery in Audubon, Iowa.
In lieu of flowers, the family asks those who wish to honor the memory of Robert Yager select and support their own favorite cause and vote in November.