News of Penn Economics professor Rafael Robb's arrest for his wife's murder has thrust him under a spotlight both in Philadelphia and around the globe.
But at Penn and within the academic community, students and faculty remember Robb - who was arrested last week on charges of first- and third-degree murder, as well as on charges of possessing a weapon, misleading authorities and tampering with evidence - as a well-liked and personable individual, someone they couldn't imagine being connected with murder.
"He was always approachable, accommodating," said College junior Seungha Ku, who took an economics course with Robb last semester. "I was really astonished."
Other former students said the case has left them wondering how to reconcile their impression of Robb - that of a reserved but amicable instructor - with his most recent label: accused murderer.
"I thought he was a very nice guy . you could easily see yourself liking him outside of the classroom," said College junior Dimitry Cohen, who added that he nominated Rafael Robb for a teaching award in 2005.
College senior Leora Gabry - who called Robb "one of the better Econ professors" that she's had - said Robb rarely referred to his family or personal life in class, with one exception: During her sophomore year, he brought his daughter, now 12, to class on Take Your Daughter to Work Day.
Born in Israel, Robb received his bachelor's degree from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, according to a resume posted on his home page on the Economics Department Web site. He came to the United States in the 1970's to earn master's and doctoral degrees from the University of California, Los Angeles.
Once he came to the U.S., Robb managed to build an impressive reputation among his academic peers.
"He has written some very influential papers in game theory," Brown University economics professor Roberto Serrano wrote in an e-mail. "Anyone working these days . in game theory - me being one of them - owes a lot to some of [Robb's] ideas."
Serrano added that he has met Robb at different conferences and always found him "pleasant."
In general, however, Penn Economics faculty were reluctant to comment about Robb for this article.
According to publications available from JSTOR, an online database for academic papers, Robb has been affiliated with Penn since at least 1985. Before that, he was a faculty member at Brown.
Still, despite these varied positive recollections, Economics majors are abuzz with speculation over the Rafael Robb case, College senior Kihoon Cho said.
"Everybody's talking about it," he said.
Though he is on indefinite academic leave, Robb is still listed as a member of the School of Arts and Sciences' faculty; he will be removed if he is found guilty, University President Amy Gutmann said.
In addition to his teaching responsibilities - Robb was slated to teach a graduate seminar this semester in game theory - Robb had been advising some senior Economics majors on their theses.
"Those students are fine - they're getting advice from other people," Penn Economics professor Frank Schorfheide said.
Robb is currently being held in jail without bail.Comments powered by Disqus
Please note All comments are eligible for publication in The Daily Pennsylvanian.