Robert Coombe is a chemist and an educator. He has been a faculty member at the University of Denver since 1981. In 2005 he became the chancellor of the university. On January 17, 2014, he announced that he would step-down as Chancellor in June of 2014, after 13 years as Chancellor or Provost.
Education and Work Background
Robert Coombe was born in 1948 in Kansas City, Missouri, but lived in Colorado for the majority of his life. He attended Williams College,a small school in Williamstown, Massachusetts, which is part of the New England Small College Athletic Conference. Coombe graduated in 1970 with a bachelor’s degree. He went on to the University of California at Berkeley to get his doctorate in chemistry in 1973. He did a postdoctoral study at the University of Toronto after UC Berkeley, and then worked at Rockwell International in Thousand Oaks, California for seven years as a researcher.
In 1981, Coombe returned to Colorado and began his career as an educator. He was hired by the University of Denver to be a professor in chemistry. From there, he took on many leadership roles at DU. He became Assistant Dean of Graduate Studies from 1985-1987. He served as a chair in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry from 1988-1995. He was dean of the Division of Natural Sciences, Mathematics, and Engineering from 1995-2001. And in 2001, Coombe was named the Provost at DU, a position he held until July 1, 2005 when he was named the 17th Chancellor of DU, taking over for Daniel L. Ritchie, who had been chancellor since 1989.
In his acceptance speech on April 20, 2005, Coombe said, "There are simply no words to express the joy with which I accept the honor of becoming the Chancellor of this truly wonderful university, in this truly wonderful city."
DU Decisions ’05-Present
Due to the economic crisis, Coombe implemented a hiring freeze on October 2008. He halted the search for new faculty and staff because the campus was at or near capacity and was quoted as saying that he wanted administration to “rethink the centralized operating model and make appropriate modifications” due to the current economic situation. Over 111 staff members applied for voluntary severance as a result, receiving a lump-sum payment equal to six months’ salary by willingly leaving. The hiring freeze has since been lifted.However during this time tuition rates continued to be raised by the University.
On October 2008 in an email to DU students and alumni, Coombe defended the administration’s decision to retire mascot “Boone” back in 1998 after students had tried to bring the mascot back. Coombe said in the email that Boone “does not reflect the broad diversity of the DU community” but recognized that “we are certainly an institution that honors its past. Hence it seems reasonable that students and alumni be allowed to use the image as a celebration of that past, to the extent that they may choose". 
On May 29, 2009, Coombe announced a smoking ban that would ban smoking in all university buildings, and within 25 feet of entrances and exits buildings on campus. The ban was based on a recommendation by DU’s Tobacco Task Force headed by Sam Alexander, the executive director of University Health Services. The smoking ban was implemented on January 1, 2010, officially banning smoking on and around all areas of campus.
Personal Life and Other Activities
Chancellor Coombe is married to Dr. Julanna Gilbert, a professor at the University of Denver in the chemistry department. They have two grown children and four grandchildren. Coombe and his wife are amateur musicians. Coombe enjoys playing the cello and other bass instruments, while his wife is a violinist, and together they perform informal chamber ensembles. Coombe's wife also plays the bell tower at the University of Denver's Ritchie center. Coombe also has an interest in the outdoors and enjoys outdoors activities.
Besides being the current chancellor at the University of Denver, Coombe also holds other roles in the community. These include: member of Higher Education Working Group of the Council on Foreign Relations, on the Committee of Accountability of the Board of the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities, member of Rocky Mountain Regional Advisory Board of the Institute for International Education, and trustee of the Colorado Symphony Orchestra.
In January of 2014, Coombe announced he would step-down in June of 2014.