Bob Annis was that rare individual with the vision to constantly imagine and create a brighter future. His natural curiosity led him to excel in his profession, and his passion for education and science benefited thousands of students.
An Indianapolis native, Bob claimed that “everything I’ve done is just making a hobby pay”. That modest statement refers to his professional success in creating the R.B. Annis Company, which he led for more than 72 years and is still successful today. Teaching himself, Bob became a national expert in magnetics and precision balancing instruments, providing advice to the U.S. military and major corporations who brought him their most difficult challenges.
Early in his life, Bob joined the Scientech Club with a number of prominent Indiana scientists including Eli Lilly, Elwood Haines, and Frank Wade. He later served as board member and president, leading the club to develop a foundation and to participate in the Central Indiana Regional Science Fair, fostering scientific education for thousands of 4th through 12th-grade students. He also served on the Indianapolis Board of Education, received the Indianapolis Scientific and Engineering Foundation Community Service Award, and was named a ‘Sagamore of the Wabash’, the highest honor Indiana confers.
It was his friendship with fellow Scientech Club member and mentor D.J. Angus, and frequent travels to Michigan for boating on the Great Lakes with D.J., which ultimately connected Bob with Grand Valley State University. D.J. decided, shortly before his death, to give his boat the Angus to Grand Valley for a floating Lake Michigan classroom. Later, Bob and the Angus-Scientech Foundation provided funding for its upkeep and supported the purchase of the D.J. Angus, successor to the original Angus, and the W.J. Jackson which was later added to the fleet.
Bob’s personal encouragement and gifts were instrumental in the establishment and development of the university’s water resources institute, GVSU’s first applied research organization. In 1997, the institute was named the Robert B. Annis Water Resources Institute (AWRI) in his honor. The R.B. Annis Educational Foundation was established in 1997 and continues to support the institute including generous support for the Robert B. Annis Field Station in 2013. In recognition and appreciation of these efforts, the university awarded Bob Annis an honorary Doctor of Science degree on October 22, 1993.
Bob’s lifetime of generosity and scientific discovery have given him a far-reaching legacy. Grand Valley and West Michigan are fortunate to be a part of that enduring effect.