Zan D. Robinson Sr., Ph.D., of Amherst, an English professor at Buffalo State College and Erie Community College, died unexpectedly Sunday in Millard Fillmore Suburban Hospital, Amherst. He was 69.
A native of Abington, Pa., he grew up in the music profession, playing the harmonica with the Versatiles and other bands.
He earned his high school general equivalency diploma and went to work in warehouses and factories.
At 37, he went back to school and earned bachelor's degrees in English and Spanish and a master's degree in English literature at Buffalo State, graduating summa cum laude.
He later earned a doctorate in philosophy at the University at Buffalo, but the former Teamster never lost touch with his working-class roots.
"I think society is losing the working person's culture, and that's sad, because blue-collar values are worth preserving. They were about hard work and standing up for what you believe in. There is something genuine and real in that, and we could use more of it these days," Dr. Robinson said in a February 1990 interview with The Buffalo News.
Dr. Robinson was listed as an outstanding educator in Who's Who in America. He received the State University of New York Chancellor's Award for excellence in teaching and the ECC President's Recognition Award for outstanding classroom instruction.
He also received a Faculty Merit Award from Buffalo State's Educational Opportunity Program student group, the National Conference of Christians and Jews Brotherhood and Sisterhood Award in Education, the Buffalo Education Alliance's Pathfinders Award for Education and was named one of the Top 10 teachers in the area by The News in 1987.
He was president of the Western New York Boxing Council and was the executive director of Housing Opportunities Made Equal.
Dr. Robinson was a member of Alpha Sigma Lambda, Chi Alpha Epsilon and Kappa Delta Pi national honor societies.
He also wrote 25 books.
Survivors include his wife of 43 years, the former Patricia McNaney; three sons, Michael of Amherst, Zan D. Jr. of North Tonawanda and Rand of Canandaigua; a daughter, Joan; and seven grandchildren.
A memorial service will be held at 10 a.m. Tuesday in Bulger Communication Center, Buffalo State College, 1300 Elmwood Ave.