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Neher to retire after 55 years

Robert Neher, professor of biology and chairman of the natural sciences division, is retiring after 55 years of service to the La Verne community. Neher is an avid collector of Native American artifacts. He recently acquired a kachina, a Native American character carving that can represent anything from an element, a location, a quality, a natural phenomenon or a concept. Neher loves collecting coins and has been doing so his entire life. / photo by Katherine Careaga

Robert Neher, professor of biology and chairman of the natural sciences division, is retiring after 55 years of service to the La Verne community. Neher is an avid collector of Native American artifacts. He recently acquired a kachina, a Native American character carving that can represent anything from an element, a location, a quality, a natural phenomenon or a concept. Neher loves collecting coins and has been doing so his entire life. / photo by Katherine Careaga

Candice Nuñez
Staff Writer

After 55 years of dedicated service to the University, Robert Neher, biology professor, respected colleague and friend to many is retiring at the end of spring semester.

Among his accomplishments during his tenure, Neher has published numerous works, obtained nine educational honors and participated in more than 30 administrative-faculty-student appointments and committees.

“It’s just been more than I could have ever imagined,” Neher said. “I love the students, I think the faculty is just tremendous, I like the philosophy of the area,” Neher said. “You tie everything in with really great students and great cohorts that you work with, and you just can’t beat it.”

Neher grew up in Mt. Morris, Ill., where his father was also a biology professor who encouraged him to Neher to venture out of Illinois.

Neher received his bachelor’s degree in biology, but soon after decided to study religious education. He earned his master’s degree in religious education and eventually went back to earn his doctorate degree in botany.

In 1958 Neher received a promising call from La Verne College about developing a pre-med program for the institution. So he ventured out to La Verne and stayed.

With all the success that Neher has had in his time, he had many opportunities to go elsewhere but knew that La Verne was going to be the place for him.

Besides his teaching and research, Neher has served brief stints as interim dean of the College of Arts and Sciences and interim provost. He has also been chairman of the natural sciences division since 1978.

Neher has also served the city on the La Verne City Council and has helped lead a campaign for a more sustainable campus and community.

“It’s been wonderful working with professor Neher, “ said Sharla Geist, and administrator in the biology department who has worked with Neher for 25 years. “He’s been so much more than a boss… He’s like family.”

She said Neher is a firm believer in the notion of giving back.

“He gives so much to people and it’s amazing that he lives such a simple life just to be able to give back,” Geist said.

Professor of Biology Jeffery Burkhart described Neher as a great leader.

“He has clear vision of the place, and he … provides a lot of support verbally and otherwise,” Burkhart said. “He’s going to be extremely difficult to replace.”

Students, likewise, appreciate his concern for them.

“He has been such an incredible adviser and mentor to me,” junior biology major Taylor Williams said.

When he is not impacting lives here on main campus, one of Nehru favorite places to spend time is the University of La Verne’s Clark Ford Field Research Facility in Drummond, Mont.

The area is known as Magpie Ranch and is being developed as a multipurpose year-round research facility. Neher and his wife run the ranch and it is open to students and alumni during the summer.

Different types of research projects are developed at the ranch, such as life history studies, and plant and animal surveys.

Neher made this facility possible by finding a suitable location where volunteers spent hours building the facility that holds a laboratory, dormitory, storage facility and recreation space.

The ranch, among so many programs and positions, will be part of his rich legacy.

And although he is retiring from his teaching and administrative posts this spring, Neher’s work here is not completely done. He plans in retirement to continue his research here at La Verne, specifically focused on genetics.

Candice Nuñez can be reached at candice.nunez@laverne.edu.

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