Alumnus Bob Schaefer receives Clark County First Citizen accolade

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Clark student Petya Grozeva, a native of Bulgaria, opened the 2013 Clark County First Citizen award event with a powerful rendition of “The Star Spangled Banner.” The national anthem was fitting for the dignitary who was being honored—Robert “Bob” Schaefer, former state representative, Speaker of the House, Clark College Class of 1950 and Outstanding Clark Alumni Award winner.

Schaefer joined a group of 71 other community standouts on October 1 during a ceremony at the Hilton Vancouver Washington.

Pat Jollota, the 2012 First Citizen, presented this year’s award to Schaefer after lauding him. “He’s a very wise person.” Others called him a solutions person and having the know-how for improving things.

Bob and Sally Schaefer stand with Oswald the penguin.

Bob and Sally Schaefer stand with Clark’s Oswald the Penguin.

A video highlighted Schaefer’s career, volunteer activities and family life. The presentation touched upon how Schaefer and his wife Sally (a 1984 First Citizen recipient) have worked for decades to “ensure a brighter future” for Southwest Washington. Some of Schaefer’s lifelong passions include early learning education, local government leadership and economic development, particularly the high-tech industry.

Upon accepting his award—and a $1,000 check, half of which he donated to Clark College Foundation— Schaefer, 83, explained to the audience how he and his sister were adopted as children and were raised to help others. He grew up in Clark County, went to Vancouver public schools and Clark College, where he met his wife. He later transferred to Willamette University to study law.

After passing the bar, he got a job with Clark County Prosecutor’s Office, while serving in the Army Reserves. The couple was assigned to the Arctic Test Center where they lived in a 16-foot trailer with temperatures at times plummeting to 60 degrees below zero. Despite the extreme conditions, Schaefer said it was the best time of their lives.

He ran for the Washington State Legislature in 1958—spending $560 on his campaign—won and served four terms, from 1959 to 1967, serving as Speaker of the House in his last term.

Reflecting on his past political work, Schaefer bemoaned the lack of compromise and personal relationships between political parties today. “I think it’s a sad commentary of our system that these (personal relationships) are not taking place today.”

He reminded the audience that public officials must compromise: “you just don’t get your way.”

Schaefer wrapped up his remarks with a reminder that Vancouver is a “can-do community.”

“My prayer is that each of us can participate in some way to carry out this can-do philosophy for the future.”


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