Olivia Robben is carrying on traditions: from attending the same university as family members to now teaching at the same Wichita high school as her late father.
Her mom, a 1998 alumna, played volleyball and basketball at Newman, while her dad was a 1995 alumus. Her aunt graduated from the university in 2000 and was on the softball and volleyball teams.
Initially, Robben, a Wichita native, had planned to attend Kansas State University but her family strings were being tugged.
“My family had gone through a lot, and I just couldn’t face leaving them knowing they needed my help,” she said. “So I applied to Newman, and even though I was disappointed I wasn’t going away, I was comfortable following in my family’s footsteps in going to Newman.”
Two years before her freshman year of college, Robben’s father, Roger, unexpectedly passed away.
It happened two days after Bishop Carroll Catholic High School, Robben’s alma mater, made it to the state championship football game. Roger was one of the team’s coaches — a role he took because he wanted to coach his son.
“Football has always been our life, and it just so happens that it is a big part of the Bishop Carroll family,” Robben explains. “We lost (the championship) but my dad was so proud of my brother and the team.”
The following Monday, after a Sunday spent together as a family, Robben woke up to get ready for school and found her dad collapsed in the bathroom. He had just returned home from his daily four-mile run.
Shortly thereafter, Alan Schuckman, the head football coach and assistant principal at Bishop Carroll and Roger’s lifelong friend, left school to comfort Robben and her brother and sister at their home.
“I tell this story because it is a huge reason I have this immense love for Bishop Carroll,” Robben said. “My dad loved this school and was so proud to work for them. When he passed, everyone was there for us.”
Today, Robben is an art teacher at Bishop Carroll.
“It is so special to me to follow in my dad’s footsteps because he is my hero and my biggest role model,” she said. “I feel him with me every day in the school we both loved so much.”
In fact, Robben’s dad attended Bishop Carroll as well, where he was an all-state football player.
“Growing up, he told me all the time about how much Bishop Carroll had done for him,” she said. “He started coaching football and teaching there in 1996. He made some of the best friends coaching with them.”
Newman sets path
“I would have never switched to art if it weren’t for her,” Robben said. “She made me so confident in my art and helped me become a leader in the art department. Shannon Johnston had huge shoes to fill when Mary retired, and man, did she fill them. She helped me so much, and I couldn’t have gotten through senior and junior year without her.”
Robben adds that Laura Scholl, an assistant professor of graphic design and digital media, was important to her professional development as an artist, and Adjunct Professor of Ceramics Frank Martinez was someone she could laugh with every day.
“Some other professors who helped me so much were Sister Marsha Wilson, Marguerite Regan and Mark Mannette,” Robben said. “The things those people did for me have stayed with me now that I have graduated.”
And wherever her journey takes her, Robben will carry her father’s love and spirit with her as well.
“My father was the most selfless man who ever lived,” she said. “He did everything for my brother and sister as a single father raising three kids all by himself after a divorce while teaching and coaching.”
Robben continued, “My dad was my biggest critic, my biggest fan, my best friend, my coach, my everything and my whole world. My dad was a man of deep faith, and he taught me to love Jesus Christ and to trust that no matter what, everything will be okay. You can ask anyone about Roger Robben, and they will tell you he was the greatest man they ever met.”
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