Robert Knipe remembered as a leader

Robert Knipe

BATAVIA — It’s somewhat impossible to list all the ways Robert Knipe contributed to the community.

He seemingly was seemingly involved in everything, whether a long-running career at Genesee Community College, to organizations such as the Batavia Rotary Club, GO Art! and the Genesee Symphony Orchestra.

Friends and colleagues say it’s just who he was: a “hands-on” leader who cared for, and was committed to, the people around him.

“Bob was an incredible, generous, hard-working and talented person who really believed in doing things in the community,” said friend and Rotary colleague Gregg McAllister. “I was just going off the top of my head, it’s just so incredible he touched so many things.”

Knipe, 73 of Batavia, passed away this past Saturday with his family at his side. He’s being remembered for his devotion and his service, garnering tributes from around the world.

Knipe had worked 23 years at Genesee Community College, retiring in 2013 as its dean of Learning Technologies. But his life was seemingly no less busy as he took on duties which also included serving on the City of Batavia’s Planning and Development Committee, and volunteering as a driver for the VA Medical Center.

Tom Turnbull of the Genesee County Chamber of Commerce is this year’s Batavia Rotary president. Knipe had served in the role immediately before him.

“He was very involved in Rotary — loved Rotary,” Turnbull said. “He’d been a member since 1991, so he had about 30 years in Rotary.”

Knipe’s contributions were many — Turnbull said he kept the club going, starting Zoom meetings when the COVID-19 pandemic hit. He also secured a district grant which saw benches and bicycle racks established last year along the newly-opened Ellicott Trail.

McCallister noted the “Summer Serenade” joint fundraiser conducted a few years ago in Le Roy by the United Way and GSO. After the fancy outdoor concert — in which he was also an orchestra musician — Knipe helped load chairs into the back of a pickup.

“He was that kind of hands-on person,” McAllister said. “It’s just a very vivid memory I have. The community is blessed to have had him here, and for 25 years probably he coordinated the youth exchange program for the Rotary Club.”

News of Knipe’s death has garnered condolences from as far away as Australia, Brazil, Switzerland and Finland, McAllister said.

“He had a very nice, wry sense of humor,” Turnbull said. “He was just very calm and easygoing and did a great job of leadership of the club during his time.”

Laurie Mastin was Knipe’s immediate predecessor as Rotary president and noted his devotion to club and community. She said he embodied the Rotary’s four-way test: Is it the truth, is it fair to all concerned, will it build goodwill and better friendships, and is it beneficial to all concerned.

She noted he still attended last week’s Rotary meeting via Zoom.

His loss is tough and creates a huge void, she said, adding that he’ll be sorely missed.

“He was a very quiet leader in Rotary but he did every single thing,” she said.

A tribute on the Batavia Rotary’s page said Knipe was a person who made Genesee County a better place to live and work.

Knipe is survived by his family. A complete obituary will be published later this week.

“Our hearts are very heavy,” Mastin said.

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