Robert V. Stumpf’s interest in computers started while he was stationed in White Sands, New Mexico, to track missiles for the U.S. Army in the early 1960s.
That passion for computers in the nascent industry would lead to graduate school and a career at Cal Poly Pomona.
Stumpf, who taught computer information systems courses for nearly four decades, died April 18. He was 77.
He is one of the principal architects of the university’s Computer and Information Systems (CIS) curriculum, which has served as a model for the development of programs throughout the country. He co-authored a book titled “Object-Oriented Systems Analysis and Design with UML” and also helped pioneer the College of Business Administration’s program in e-business.
Stumpf served on the advisory boards of Citrus College, Pasadena City College and Fullerton College. He advised student clubs with as many as 1,400 members, and received eight teaching awards from his department and college, including Advisor of the Year twice.
He retired in 2006 after a teaching tenure at Cal Poly Pomona that started in 1968. In 2003, then-President Bob Suzuki bestowed Professor Emeritus status upon Stumpf.
He was born on Dec. 1, 1937, in Upland. Stumpf and his older brother, Ted, grew up on a chicken ranch until 1943, when the family moved to another chicken ranch that also contained several acres of orange groves. Emerson and Alma Stumpf moved the family to Yucaipa in 1952, and traded in poultry farming for the construction industry.
Robert Stumpf graduated from Redlands High School in 1956. After earning a scholarship, Stumpf spent 1½ years at the University of Redlands before transferring to San Jose State. He served in the U.S. Army for two years starting in 1961, and was stationed at White Sands and Cape Canaveral, Florida, to track missile flights. To pass the time while being stationed, Stumpf read books about computer programming.
After leaving the Army in 1963, Stumpf saw an ad in a newspaper seeking a computer programmer for the County of San Bernardino. He applied for the job despite his lack of experience.
“Even though he had read only four books on computers, he was hired,” Ted Stumpf recalls. “His only experience was those four books.”
Several years later, he returned to San Jose State to attend graduate school. Stumpf later landed a job at Dole Pineapple, which would later be known as Dole Food Co., as an operations research analyst. He completed his master’s in engineering and operations research at Stanford University.
One day in 1967, Stumpf received a telephone call from then-Professor Gerald Wagner, the founding chair of CIS at Cal Poly Pomona, with a job offer. That call would lead to the start of long career in computer information systems.
While teaching classes in statistics and computer systems at Cal Poly Pomona, he earned a doctorate in economics at Claremont Graduate School.
Professor Dan Manson, the current chair of CIS, has a rare perspective of Stumpf. Manson graduated from Cal Poly Pomona in 1985 and taught classes starting in 1987. Manson was a student in one of Stumpf’s classes and also a colleague of his former professor.
“When he taught, he held us all to high standards. You learned from a firehose because he threw so much at us. He encouraged us to learn and he cared deeply about his students. That was one of his best qualities,” Manson says. “He had a passion for what he taught. You always felt that passion, and he passed that down to his students.”
As colleague, Stumpf proved to be a resource and an inspiration to Manson and others in CIS.
“He was the heart and soul of our department and had the most energy of any faculty member I knew. He didn’t need any coffee,” Manson recalls humorously. “I was fortunate to learn from Bob. It was one of the best experiences of my life.”
While attending the First Baptist Church of Pomona, Stumpf met a congregation member named Judy. She turned out to be the love of his life. They were married on Dec. 6, 1974. Their first son, Daniel, was born on Jan. 6, 1977. A second son, Benjamin, was born on Dec. 31, 1980.
The summer hiatus from teaching at Cal Poly Pomona allowed the family to go on trips in their motorhome to faraway places such as Washington, D.C., eastern Canada and Alaska. He also was a pilot and flew his own private plane. Toward the end of his teaching career and into retirement, he took up biking and made trips around the country.
One of his other passions was hiking. During his college years, he spent the summers at Sequoia National Park. He hiked most of the John Muir Trail and Mt. Whitney, and catalogued his expeditions through photography.
A memorial service for Stumpf was held April 25 at Richfield Community Church in Yorba Linda. Those wishing to make a contribution in Stumpf’s memory can donate to the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.
Stumpf is survived by his wife, Judy; two sons, Daniel and Benjamin; a brother, Ted; a sister-in-law, Sue (Ted Stumpf’s wife); and a daughter-in-law, Virginia (Daniel Stumpf’s wife).
“Bob loved teaching and interacting with people,” recalls Ted Stumpf. “He loved his job at Cal Poly Pomona.”