Brother Lavan Robinson
June 6, 2012
Dear Brothers in Phi Mu Alpha,
It is with a very heavy heart that I announce that Brother Lavan Robinson
, Beta Omega (Louisiana State) ’48
, passed away on Monday, June 4, 2012, at the age of 93. Dr. Robinson served the Fraternity for years, notably as the inaugural Province Governor of province 36, a post he held with distinction from 1985-2001. Robinson continued to serve the Fraternity following his retirement as PG-36 as a mentor to numerous chapters, particularly the Zeta Gamma chapter at Valdosta State University, which has a scholarship named in his honor. In recognition of his service and dedication to the Fraternity, Robinson was once named Sinfonia’s Governor Emeritus, and at the 2000 National Convention he was awarded the Rogers Award for lifetime service to Sinfonia.
Brother Robinson was also an active church musician and conductor, leading a number of religious groups throughout his life, including choirs at a number of Episcopal churches near his home in Georgia. He served most recently as choral director at St. Barnabas Episcopal Church in Valdosta through 2011. He was Head of the Voice Department for many years at Valdosta State University before his retirement in 1982, and remained active at the school for years afterward.
In World War II, Robinson served with the 86th Infantry Division following officer training at Fort Benning. Brother Robinson approached his military responsibilities with many of the principles he would later emphasize to brothers of Phi Mu Alpha. Diverted to supplement Allied Forces in Europe following the Battle of the Bulge, Robinson led his platoon from France into Germany and Austria. The men who served under him spoke most proudly of a particularly difficult assault. Following the death of his company commander, Robinson was tasked with taking out an enemy machine gun battery on the far side of the Bigge river. He led his men safely under fire across the icy waters and established a forward position, eventually securing the area for safe crossing.
In the final months of his service in Europe, Robinson was assigned to the Dachau concentration camp to assist in the clean-up of the camp and the slow rehabilitation of the survivors to health. He served as supply officer, securing the food required to feed the survivors, German prisoners of war, and allied military personnel at Dachau. He spoke of having to guard the trash cans to prevent the starving survivors from gorging themselves on the contents, which would bring death. It was an experience which would impact him deeply, but he refused to allow the stark examples of inhumanity and degradation he witnessed to temper his faith in the potential for good in all men. Robinson was an outspoken opponent of bigotry and oppression for the remainder of his life.
In the annual reunions they organized in Coal City, Kentucky, which continued almost 60 years following the end of the war, the men of Robinson's platoon celebrated their post-war accomplishments, talked of family, and honored the memory of lost comrades. Lavan Robinson was always an honored guest, the only officer invited to attend. As is typical of many who served, he rarely spoke of his wartime acts of valor, but lived his life as a humble, gentle and abundantly kind man with a deep and abiding love for his country.
Lavan married Janet Rohrbach on March 29, 1958 while teaching at Susquehanna University. Janet was working as the secretary for the President of the University and was an active church organist and pianist. They celebrated 54 years of marriage earlier this year.
Brothers who were privileged to know and work with Lavan Robinson speak most often of his cheerful sense of humor and the way he exemplified brotherhood with warmth and humility. He never asked more of his brothers than he expected of himself, and always encouraged brothers to achieve their highest potential, not only as musicians, but also as men of character and responsibility. Brother Robinson was truly a manly musician and a musicianly man. His life was one of service to his country, his family, his art, and his brothers in Sinfonia. He will be remembered and truly missed.
A Celebration Service for Brother Robinson will be held Friday, June 8 at 2:00 p.m. at Christ Episcopal Church, Valdosta, Georgia.
From the Desk of:
John A. Mongiovi, National President