Robert E. Wiltenburg, who grew up in New York City, earned an undergraduate degree at Cornell University and a doctorate in English from the University of Rochester in 1982.
He joined the Washington University in St. Louis faculty in 1982 as director of freshman composition and as assistant professor of English in Arts & Sciences. His areas of expertise are Shakespeare, Milton and the Renaissance.
In 1989, he became director of the Expository Writing Program, adjunct associate professor of English and assistant dean in the College of Arts & Sciences. He was named director of the Summer School and associate dean of University College in 1995.
In 1996, he was named dean of University College, which was founded in 1931 and is the continuing education and professional studies division of Arts & Sciences.
As Wiltenburg sees it, University College is much more than a place where people learn.
“University College helps people further their education, but it goes beyond that,” he says. “Some people will take a class for personal enrichment, but most of the time we see people who really want to transform their lives.”
Students also manage to finish their education despite all kinds of competing pressures — something he found out firsthand on one of his early days on the job.
“Every year we give an award for academic achievement,” he says. “The first year I was dean, we gave it to a woman I’d never met. During the ceremony, I called her name, and she came up with an infant cradled in one arm, a toddler holding her hand and a child in the back shouting, ‘Way to go, mommy!’ At times like that, this is an extremely rewarding job to do.”
He served as president of the nationwide University Continuing Education Association in 2008-09.
Wiltenburg also takes pride in the mission of University College in the community.
“We are a centerpiece of the university’s special relationship with St. Louis,” he says. “In fact, Washington University has always had an intimate relationship with the city, more so than many similar research universities.