MARQUETTE - Forest A. Roberts, one of the best-known figures in debate and drama in the Upper Peninsula, died Saturday in Madison, Wisc.

Roberts, 96, was professor emeritus at Northern Michigan University. During his 38year tenure at NMU, he developed curricula in the areas of public address and rhetoric, drama, oral interpretation and radio-television. As founding head of the speech department, he constructed a speech pathology curriculum that advanced speech and hearing therapy services throughout the region. Roberts also was the first director of forensics. He helped develop a program in debate which enabled Northern teams to

compete successfully with major universities nationwide.

Roberts directed many stage productions, toured the U.P. and acted in a number of roles. In 1969, NMU named its theater facility in honor of him. The university also presented Roberts with an honorary doctor of humane letters degree in 1987.

James Rapport, Roberts' successor as head of the speech department, said:

"Forest Roberts ... must be considered as one of the finest human beings this community has been fortunate enough to call its own. A completely gallant man of great but quiet dignity, he displayed the highest degree of graciousness and deep concern for students and faculty alike. His love of man and nature permeated his every action."

Roberts was actively involved in the community as well. He was co-founder and lifetime member of the Marquette Community Concert Association board of directors; co-founder and President of the Marquette Summer Theater; and member of the Michigan Education Association board of directors.

"I am naturally saddened to hear the news," added James Panowski, director of the Forest Roberts Theatre. "But I also consider myself very lucky to have known Forest for the past 20 years. He was an inspiration and always a true gentleman."

NMU President William E. Vandament added:

"Forest Roberts was a true pioneer in the teaching of theater, public speaking and speech pathology. In his 70-year association with Northern - both on the faculty and in retirement - Forest graced Northern with his scholarship, his humanity and his friendship. As well it should, his name will live on at Northern Michigan University."

Roberts lived with his wife, Esther, at Middle Island Point. In later years, they spent the winter months at their Sarasota, Fla. home. Esther Roberts preceded her husband in death in 1993.

Prepared By
Kristi Evans
News Director