Bob Chandler (’65)
“Growing up, I knew little more than my immediate St. John’s Elementary School neighborhood or the city bus route to high school in Midtown Memphis. ‘Sheltered, untraveled, and green’ would be accurate terms. As a CBC freshman in 1961, my horizons were broadened through the discovery of other nationalities, other races, and other religions. I soon welcomed new ideas about independence and greater self-expectations. My world expanded.”
When he entered Christian Brothers College, Bob Chandler was, in his own words, “clueless and naive.” As a senior, he was elected Student Government President and was the initial recipient of the Thomas Lipsmeyer Award, presented to the graduate considered by fellow classmates to have been the student who has most actively contributed to the senior class and to the college.
By 1965, armed with a degree in English, Bob says he was “a bit more confident and somewhat career-ready.” That career began “after a mighty slow start” in the Fall of 1965, as editor of the employee magazine for a Memphis bank. That was followed by two years at a local PR firm and a decade at two regional advertising agencies. “The bank that hired me never looked at my college transcript,” Bob recalls, “perhaps trusting that a kid from CBC was likely up to the task at hand.”
During those first years in his career, Bob also received Army Reserve training and spent six years as a reservist in an Army field hospital unit. In 1967, he wed his “ideal life partner,” María del Carmen Zavala, a Siena College graduate.
In 1977, Bob launched a marketing planning firm which grew to employ 60 associates. Chandler, Ehrlich & Company served clients in banking, health care, finance, tourism and hospitality, manufacturing, consumer electronics, state government, engineering, an NBA team, commercial real estate, and other industries. His firm also handled an interesting variety of pro-bono projects. Bob retired in 2007. “Talented associates and strong clients made for a fun 30-year ride.”
Bob was accredited by the Public Relations Society of America and recognized by Rotary International as a Paul Harris Fellow. He served as President of the Mid-South Advertising Association and was named “Executive of the Year” by the Memphis Business Journal in 2004. He also served as President of the Rotary Club of Memphis East and on the boards of the West Clinic’s Wings Foundation, Page Robbins Adult Day Care Center, and the University of Memphis School of Communications & Fine Arts. He has frequently volunteered with organizations and events such as the Diocese of Memphis Jubilee Schools, FedEx/St. Jude Classic, Citizens for a Better Memphis, Leadership Collierville, Collierville Library Commission, and Gift of Life Midsouth.
Bob also served for seven years on the CBU Board of Trustees and initiated a formal opinion research effort with area business leaders. He has worked on several CBU capital campaigns at the urging of “two stalwarts in my school’s long history — Dick Gadomski and the late Lance Forsdick, both CBC/CBU men that I could never have said no to.” Occasional substitute teaching for Brother Edmund Whaley and serving on Career Day panels made for additional interesting campus visits as an alum over the years.
Bob says that the main life lessons he learned at CBU were “Never stop learning. Read everything. Be kind. Be a mentor. LISTEN.”
Today, Bob and Maria have been married for 55 years and make their home in Collierville, not far from their two adult sons and “four very kind granddaughters.” Maria is a 30+ year volunteer interpreter for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. The family also spends time in her homeland of Puerto Rico “as often as we possibly can.”
“During my school years and certainly since, I saw and still see humility, empathy, generosity, and a purpose driven tenacity in my encounters in the CBU environment. In Spring 2015, a dozen or so of us from the class of ’65 gathered for a 50th reunion. We paraded in caps and gowns together, soon drenched at a stormy, wet outdoors campus graduation ceremony. Memories were reinforced,” Bob says.
The CBU I see today is a much stronger institution, with greater diversity, comprehensive financial aid, broader course offerings and, deeper, more practical relationships in commerce and industry. The DREAMers program is especially valuable. CBU has long had an ecumenical and unrelenting focus on developing the complete person.