Campus Closeup: Bob Eslinger
Bob Eslinger owns a relatively rare piece of Northern memorabilia. Displayed on a bookcase in his home office is a U.S. Army sword engraved with “NMU Corps Commander”—a symbol of the John X. Jamrich Award he received as the cadet corps commander of the ROTC Wildcat Battalion. At a 1977 commencement ceremony, Eslinger received his bachelor’s degree in criminal justice and was commissioned in the Army. He embarked on a 20-year military career that spanned 13 locations, including Germany, Japan and Saudi Arabia.
Before retiring with the rank of lieutenant colonel, Eslinger and his wife, Sandy—his high school sweetheart—decided they would move back to Marquette.
“Usually officers leave the military for a specific job and there were plenty of opportunities available for me based on my experience,” he said. “But I told Sandy my career dragged her around the world for two decades, so her opinion on where we should go next would weigh more heavily. Our son (Bobby) was 5 years old at the time and we both decided to move back to Marquette. It’s one of the best places we had ever been in terms of raising a kid and we both liked the area’s lifestyle and culture.”
Eslinger served as the director of several non-profit organizations. He also was executive director of business services for Michigan Works! and the Six County Employment Alliance, where he assisted U.P. businesses with their workforce and training needs. He was hired by NMU in May 2011 to oversee the Continuing Education and Workforce Development Department. Eslinger also was recently named to direct the Center for Rural Community and Economic Development at NMU.
The center combines research, public service, education and training to support economic development and improve the quality of life in the Upper Peninsula. The center is in the process of more sharply defining its mission and goals. Meanwhile, it continues to forge ahead on key projects and initiatives.
“I am working with the County of Marquette and Lake Superior Community Partnership to review the possibility of partnering with Connect Michigan to identify the county’s technology needs and opportunities,” says Eslinger. “Broadband and cellular accessibility are important to community and economic development and the topic is always high on the list of regional needs.”
Eslinger is also working with President David Haynes and others on Gov. Rick Snyder’s request that the presidents of NMU, Michigan Technological University and Lake Superior State University join forces with other regional leaders to examine the biggest challenges and opportunities facing the U.P. economically.
“I’m very appreciative of the opportunity to work at NMU,” he said. “I like the campus environment and the people. My dual role allows me to pursue my interest in economic development in the U.P. while dealing with diverse tasks and people. On one day, I might meet with three groups for entirely different purposes. It keeps things fresh and interesting.”
Outside of work, Eslinger enjoys camping, hiking, photography and reading a variety of genres, including poetry. He and Sandy are big proponents of regional travel. Whether by car or motorcycle (they log about 5,000 miles each year on his Harley), they enjoy weekend and extended trips throughout the Midwest.
“We’ve gone to Houghton for lunch or Tahquamenon Falls for the day or to an alternative energy fair in central Wisconsin. There are so many great places and activities in the U.P. and upper Midwest that you really don’t have to travel far to have a great experience.”
Eslinger recalls a planned trip along the Mississippi River that began on motorcycle at the headwaters, but—because the bike’s engine blew out on his birthday—ended too soon just south of Brainerd, Minn. “It couldn’t be repaired, so there we were wearing our motorcycle gear driving a rented car back to Marquette. The silver lining is that I upgraded to my Harley after that.”