Robert J. Waller Sr. and Robert J. Waller Jr. Professorship of Jazz
Robert James Waller was born on August 1, 1939 in Charles City, Iowa. His father was a chicken-and-egg wholesaler and a local magistrate. His mother was a homemaker. He received both of his bachelor's degree in business education and a master's degree in education from University of Northern Iowa, then known as Iowa State Teachers College. He earned his PhD in business from the Kelley School of Business at Indiana University in 1968, writing a thesis on the American guitar industry. During his final year at IU, while supporting his wife and a new baby, and writing his dissertation, he took a weekend job playing guitar and singing at a local motel bar. The faculty at the business school would often come in for a drink to witness their doctoral student at his gig.
Waller wrote fondly of IU, "Thirty years out, the old emotions are still there: the sense of warmth and gratitude I felt all those years ago and still feel toward IU as an institution. My affection remains undiminished for a place with good people who saw fit to give a country boy a chance. Although it seemed a misalliance early on, they treated him honorably and made sure he didn't stagger too badly while moving through a world he never expected to inhabit."
After earning his doctorate, Waller returned to his undergraduate alma mater, and taught management and economics. In 1980, he was appointed Dean of its business school. When he grew tired of teaching, he took an unpaid leave of absence in 1990, and focused on his writing. Waller is famously known for his romantic novel, "The Bridges of Madison County", which became a best seller, was made into a popular film, as well as a Broadway musical. He, himself, recorded an album, "The Ballads of Madison County".
Seeking solitude after the novel's success, Waller left Iowa and moved to a ranch in Alpine, Texas. Since writing "The Bridges of Madison County", he produced six more novels. Of his time in Texas, he wrote, "I play my jazz guitar, give a concert now and then, do some serious photography, write occasionally." Waller passed away on March 10, 2017 at his home in Fredericksburg, Texas at the age of 77.
Waller supported the efforts of Indiana University in establishing a Chair in Economics, a Waller Courtyard, and the Robert J. Waller Sr. and Robert J. Waller Jr. Professorship of Jazz. This fund was established to honor his father and his lifelong love of Jazz and to support a Professorship in the Jazz department at the Jacobs School of Music.