Bob Chilstrom died of a heart attack July 8, 2011, while fishing in Colorado. A great and thoughtful personality, he was generous to family, church, community, charities, and Princeton.
Bob attended McDonogh School in Owings Mills, Md., and later served on its board. At Princeton, he was an international-affairs major, Wilcox headwaiter, and Terrace member. A heavyweight rower, he later became a Rowing Association trustee. He roomed in 1937 with Chesham, Lem, McConnell, Nelson, and Rakowski, and, with Joye, rode in the “Royal Polish Cavalry.”
After earning a master’s degree from Columbia, Bob served in the Army Reserve and graduated from Yale Law School. He was a senior partner at Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom in New York.
Extraordinary personal effort from Bob was a given, and he cajoled, encouraged, and inspired all he met to do their best through his unique combination of challenge, intelligence, humor, honesty, and support. Bob was a loyal friend who made concerted efforts to maintain Princeton friendships.
Bob was a class leader and active alumnus: His thoughtful and beautifully written Annual Giving letters to classmates are treasures. Bob was especially proud that son Per ’97 and daughter Mikaela ’99 chose Princeton. They and his beloved wife, Buena, along with all attending, rose to sing “Old Nassau” at the close of Bob’s memorial service.
Note: The following is an expanded version of a memorial published in the March 7, 2012, issue of PAW.
We are sad to report the sudden, unexpected, and untimely passing of Bob Chilstrom July 8, 2011, a victim of a heart attack while fishing in Colorado with his wife, Buena, and longtime friend, Chris Seglem ’68. Bob was a great and thoughtful personality. He was eulogized not only for his professional accomplishments, but also his gregariousness and generosity to his family, church, community, charities, and Princeton.
Bob prepped at McDonogh School in Baltimore and later served on its board. At Princeton, he majored in international affairs at the Woodrow Wilson School, rowed on the heavyweight crew team, and was headwaiter at Wilcox Hall. He was a member of Terrace and roomed in 1937 Hall with David Chesham, Bob Lem, the late Bruce McConnell, George Nelson, and Jim Rakowski. Along with Don Joye, they formed the “Royal Polish Cavalry,” an informal bike-riding crew for exercise and exploration.
After Princeton, Bob attended Columbia School of International Affairs, served in the Army Reserve, and graduated from Yale Law School. Except for brief stints in Paris and London, Bob spent his entire legal career in New York. He was a senior partner specializing in international corporate finance at Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom.
Bob, like many boomers, was an overachiever. Not only did he expect to make great effort of his own, but he cajoled, encouraged and inspired everyone he met to do his or her best with his unique combination of challenge, intelligence, and honesty.
Intellectually, Bob was a great companion. He was engaging, reasonable, and humorous, as well as cognizant of his own foibles. A lover of Gilbert & Sullivan, Bob was known to recite lyrics that he changed to match an occasion.
Bob was a good judge of character and formed strong friendships with those he liked. Once Bob became your friend, you had him in your corner for life. He made continual efforts, large and small, to keep up friendships formed at Princeton almost half a century before. The most effective method was sending postcards from various locations that he collected during his many travels. The scene and message of the card somehow connected to the receiver through a special reminiscence that they shared. This personal concern made his friendships solid, and they remained as alive now as they ever were.
Bob’s ability to judge character also helped him find a wonderful wife. Her weekend visits to Princeton delighted all, and his roommates knew from the start that Buena and Bob were going to make a great team. Their mutual support led to both making meaningful contributions to their professions, community, and family.
Bob believed strongly in Princeton’s mission and values, and applied his characteristic energy in their support. The thoughtful and beautifully written series of Annual Giving letters he sent to classmates were retained and treasured by many. This enthusiasm for Princeton engaged his family, and he was especially proud that his son, Per ’97, and daughter Mikaela ’99 chose Princeton. They, along with all attending, rose to sing “Old Nassau” at the close of Bob’s memorial service.
Princeton has lost a great and loyal alumnus. May there be many more to take his place. The class and friends extend condolences to Buena; son Per and his wife, Mindy; grandson Andrew; Mikaela and her husband, Brian Baker; Bob’s sister, Marne; and the extended family.