“Some of the best years I’ve had in my life were spent at Shenandoah,” describes Kathy Spahr Robinson ’74, one of SU’s newest Alumni Board members. “I felt at home even before receiving the acceptance letter. I was lucky enough to spend four years surrounded by professors and fellow students who love music every bit as much as I do. To study what you love really is a reward itself. I feel that I need to give back to Shenandoah for all that it has given me.”
After earning a Bachelor of Music degree from SU in 1974, Robinson worked as a substitute teacher for a few years in hopes that it would lead to a permanent teaching position. “During that time, budgets were small and teaching positions in the arts were very few. After a few years it became evident that I needed something more permanent and I also realized that I no longer felt drawn to teaching so it was time to try other things,” she says.
Next, Robinson worked in banking for several years but didn’t feel challenged. “I was given the opportunity to go to work for the federal government (Army) and that turned out to be a wise decision,” Robinson explains. She started in finance and accounting but received an internship within one year. For about eight years she was a program analyst and performed various types of cost and management analyses. “It was in this position that I discovered that I liked working with numbers almost as much as I enjoy making music. Due to a downsizing, I moved to a position in contracting which gave me an opportunity to experience how the government obtains the goods and services it needs,” she says
During the early 1990s Robinson, once again, adjusted her career goals due to a downsizing, which resulted in relocation to another Army post in nearby Frederick, MD. “I obtained a position as a management analyst and my responsibility was to perform analyses of our different programs to ensure that we were making effective and efficient use of the funding we received.” Since that time, Robinson has held positions in the contracting field with both the Navy and the Army. “I currently supervise a team of 12 people and we award grants to universities and small companies to perform medical research. Our grants fund research in areas such as multiple sclerosis, spinal cord injury, prostate cancer and any medical conditions that can result from a battlefield experience.”
Robinson explains one of the most rewarding experiences of her profession: “I was part of a team comprised of government staff and the local power company that worked to upgrade the power grid on my installation, Fort Detrick. There were thousands of upgrades to electrical systems throughout the installation that did not require any outlay of funds from the Army. The power company will receive payment for those upgrades through the power savings over the next 20 years.”
Robinson’s team awards grants to universities and companies throughout the world for medical research. “It is a thrill to attend scientific meetings and meet with people who have had those diseases and hear that the research we fund is making a difference in people’s lives. For several years, we’ve funded research for the detection and treatment of prostate cancer. Two new drugs have entered the marketplace within the last three years that are helping to extend and improve the lives of men with prostate cancer. The research that we fund for treatment of battle injuries is changing the way we treat those injuries and saving lives that might have been lost,” she says. Robinson’s work involves occasional travel to different parts of the country. Her favorite work-related destination is San Diego, Calif. She is looking forward to an upcoming trip to Tbilisi in the Republic of Georgia.
Robinson was fortunate to be selected for a position with the federal government that allowed her to try different things. “I discovered that I really enjoyed the “business” of government, especially the analysis of programs and numbers. Due to a downsizing, I was given the opportunity to do contracting for the government. I found that I enjoyed working as part of a team to reach a goal and the challenges that the position brings.”
Shenandoah helped Robinson reach her career goals because she learned skills that were necessary to succeed. “I learned that hard work and perseverance bring rewards. I learned that things are usually easier if you work as a team. I once had a supervisor who told me he preferred to work with employees with college degrees because they knew how to think independently, dedicate themselves to a difficult project and knew how to successfully function in a team environment. I think I have those skills because of what I learned at Shenandoah.”
Robinson explains what she is looking forward to most at SU this year. “This is a reunion year for me! I haven’t seen many of my classmates since our last reunion and I’m looking forward to seeing old friends. The Conservatory Alumni Reunion is scheduled for March 21 and 22 so it will be great to see members of other classes at that event. I haven’t been able to attend many of the performances over the years but now that my children are grown, I hope to be able to visit more often.”
Some of Robinson’s fondest memories at Shenandoah include choir tour, studying with voice instructor, Jeri Ann Bond, whom she describes as “awesome,” being in the musicals and co-chairing the yearbook one year. “I really enjoyed being part of SAI and the friendships.”
In her free time, Robinson enjoys singing with the Hagerstown Choral Arts. She is also the organization’s grant writer. The group is led by Shenandoah alumnus, Gregory Shook ’01. Another alumnus and fellow Alumni Board member, Bob Crawford ’56, also sings with the group. Robinson also enjoys crafts such as cross stitch, needlepoint, knitting and jewelry-making. She also loves trips to the beach.
Robinson’s husband, Rick, is a district sales coordinator with a national insurance company. They are the proud parents of three daughters, Andrea, Whitney and Victoria. Andrea is an addictions counselor who is working on a master’s degree in psychology. Whitney is doing stem cell research at a research facility in Frederick, Md. Victoria, who joined the U.S. Navy last spring, will be stationed near Los Angeles. “I am definitely planning to visit her (Victoria) many times in the coming four years. Whitney is expecting a baby in May so we’re preparing to be grandparents again.”