Robert E. Chappell Jr. (56Ox, 58B, 68B), a fierce supporter of Emory sports and tireless University advocate, died on Jan. 15 at the age of 82. Chappell suffered complications from ALS.
A first-generation college graduate, Robert Chappell paved his Emory legacy through generous contributions to Emory sports. The Emory Sports Hall of Famer was a star tennis player at Oxford College and provided the funds for the University’s baseball field, Chappell Park, in 1994.
His sons Brett Chappell (87C) and Ted Chappell (91Ox, 93C) helped form Emory’s first club baseball and varsity baseball teams, respectively. In honor of his family’s dedication to baseball, Robert Chappell gifted the University with Chappell Park, named after his father.
“He thought it was important for Emory to have athletics, not just for the athletes, but for the community and the kind of community spirit it could help to create,” Brett Chappell told the Wheel. “He very much wanted Emory to be an example of an institution that executes its athletic programs with a high level of integrity and sportsmanship.”
During the first stages of the baseball program, Robert Chappell provided funding for team uniforms and catcher’s equipment and frequently attended games.
“Everybody knows about his contributions … but they have no idea what he did behind the scenes with our kids,” Baseball Head Coach Mike Twardoski told the Wheel. “I mean resume boosters, help … getting jobs, mentoring these kids through hard times. … He did so many things that people had no idea about. He didn’t want anybody to know about it.”
Robert Chappell attended every Division III regional and collegiate World Series game the Eagles played and often sat in the dugout with the players, according to Twardoski.
“The most proud that I was every year was at our fall banquet when Mr. Chappell spoke and … said how proud he was of the direction of the baseball team,” Twardoski said. “And I always sat back and said … if I could do that to him, then I must be doing something right.”
Robert Chappell’s career spanned several positions across New York’s Metropolitan Life Insurance Company (MetLife), where he eventually rose to the position of senior executive vice president and chief investment officer.
Robert Chappell religiously followed all sports from Emory baseball and University of Georgia football to Griffin High School (Ga.) athletics. In his first job after graduating from the Goizueta Business School, he joined a radio station in Griffin, Ga., broadcasting local sports. After retiring from his position at MetLife, he returned to Griffin, where he bought the radio station and hosted a show called “Let’s Talk Sports.”
An unlikely prankster, the dry-humored Robert Chappell is also remembered for sending a cow up the steps of Oxford’s Seney Hall, according to Brett Chappell. But his light-hearted personality did not detract from his hard work, as he went on to serve as the chair of the Oxford College Board of Counselors, president of the Emory Board of Governors (now the Emory Alumni Board) and as a trustee of the University. In 1999, he received the University’s most prestigious award for his contributions, the Emory Medal.
Brett Chappell recalls a story he once heard that sums up his dad’s personality. During finals week at Oxford, a friend found Robert Chappell with his feet up, reading the sports section of the paper.
“And he said, ‘Bobby, aren’t you worried about exams?’ And my dad said, ‘Well if I study too hard it won’t be a challenge,’” Brett Chappell said. “I’m sure he was often tempted to read the sports pages instead of whatever he was supposed to read for classes.”
Robert Chappell is survived by his wife Linda Brett Chappell, four children and 10 grandchildren.