Harvard Press publisher, tireless advocate for a better Harvard
Worth Robbins. (Courtesy photo)
Worth Robbins, proud publisher of the Harvard Press and champion of small-town journalism, died Thursday, Feb. 11, 2021, after living with cancer for several years. In addition to the Press, his legacy includes the Harvard Solar Garden on Ayer Road and the Harvard Charter, both of which were his initiatives. He was an innovative problem-solver, always looking for ways to make Harvard a better place for all.
Born April 24, 1942, and raised in Louisville, Kentucky, Worth was the eldest son of Worth Robbins Sr. and Ethel Robbins. After studying engineering and math at the University of Louisville, he served in the U.S. Air Force from 1963 to 1967 in San Antonio, Texas. In the Air Force, Worth learned computer programming, which kindled a lifelong personal and professional interest in technology. When not “flying a desk,” he earned an amateur pilot’s license and honed his golf game in Texas.
His first job after the Air Force was with Ford Motor Company in Detroit, where he fell in love with a young colleague, Susan Plattis. Worth and Sue were married in 1968 and lived in Dearborn, Michigan, before moving to Ohio, where Worth worked as an analyst with White Motor Company. The couple’s next move was to Harvard in 1977, as Worth assumed a new role with Digital Equipment Corporation in information systems management. By then the family included two young sons, Ken and Mark.
Worth’s tenure at Digital included a two-year stint at its European headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland. While abroad, Worth introduced his sons to skiing and hiking, both of which became lifelong pursuits for the whole family. Back in New England and in search of a new adventure, the family set out to climb all of New Hampshire’s 4,000-foot peaks, a project that took the next three summers.
Golf: A lifelong passion
Another great passion of Worth’s was golf. He played all over New England, including several years competing in amateur tournaments. His happiest moments included consistently outplaying his older son, and occasionally convincing his younger son to join them on the course. Among his most significant golf memories were scoring a back-to-back eagle and hole-in-one, and his day keeping score for Tiger Woods at a PGA tournament.
Not long after moving to Harvard, Worth got involved in town governance, sitting on a variety of committees and boards. He won election to two terms on the School Committee from 1985 to 1991 and served as chair for two years. He ran for selectman in 1991, losing the election to Bill Ashe by 12 votes; Worth was fond of joking that six of his best friends must have voted against him, saving him from having to deal with the budget crisis that plagued Harvard in the 1990s. He was a founder of the Harvard Schools Trust in 1989, active for years as a trustee of the Harvard Conservation Trust and served as president of that organization from 1996 to 1997.
Greatest challenge, proudest achievement
Working as an independent consultant in the 1990s, Worth spent countless hours devising innovative technology solutions for clients and friends. Perhaps his greatest challenge presented itself in 2003, when the local newspaper, The Harvard Post, was sold and lost its local focus. With a handful of like-minded residents, Worth decided to start a new paper, the Harvard Press, which published its first edition Nov. 17, 2006. The Press quickly established itself as the town’s trusted source of local news and went on to win recognition from the New England Newspaper & Press Association. Harvard’s Select Board named the Press Harvard’s Citizen of Note for 2019.
Worth was intensely proud of the Press and of its support from the community. He loved working with Sue, founding partner Lisa Aciukewicz, and the staff to produce the paper every week. On production days, he always had a joke or occasional limerick to break the intensity of deadline day. He could be counted on to devise a solution to almost any technical challenge, even when the power was out for days.
In 2014 yet another of Worth’s initiatives came to fruition. After several years of legal, political, and economic wrangling, the Harvard Solar Garden came online, providing the environmental and financial benefits of solar energy to numerous residents and businesses. The Harvard Solar Garden was the first community solar facility in Massachusetts.
A ‘borderline obsession’
Rounding out Worth’s contributions to Harvard was his advocacy for a town charter. This work began in 2016, with two citizen petitions he authored and submitted at Annual Town Meeting. Worth’s conviction that it would result in more efficiency and accountability in town government was affirmed in 2018 when voters approved the charter.
As one of his sons said, he had a “borderline obsession” with doing whatever he could to make Harvard better.
Aside from his wife Sue, Worth is mourned by his son Ken Robbins and wife Roanne of Durham, New Hampshire; his son Mark Robbins of Crested Butte, Colorado; his granddaughters Nora and Quinn Robbins; his brother Tim Robbins and wife Meg, of Louisville, Kentucky; and his nephew Jeff Plattis, of Flagstaff, Arizona.
Burial in Bellevue Cemetery will be private; arrangements by Badger Funeral Home. A celebration of Worth’s life is planned for the spring when the community can gather safely.
Worth’s fervid hope was that the Press, Harvard’s local independent news source, would thrive long after his involvement came to an end. In lieu of flowers, contributions in Worth’s memory can be made to The Harvard Press at https://harvardpress.com/In-Memory-Of or by mail to the Press at P.O. Box 1, Harvard, MA 01451.