Robert Maske’s ’59, ’60 life was nothing short of charming. He spent time in the Navy, married his high school sweetheart, attended Illinois State Normal University, and had a long fulfilling career as a high school industrial arts teacher.

“The highlight of my graduation was when I went through the line to shake hands with Dr. Bone, who remarked on that fact that his father and grandparents were in the crowd.”

Maske enrolled as a student at ISNU in January 1957 without any previous college experience and as a married navy veteran. He spent the next three years taking 18 hours each semester of coursework. He graduated with a Bachelor of Science in industrial arts in 1959.  Maske’s GI bill funding remained active, so he decided it was best to stay and receive his master’s degree. He graduated one year later with an master’s in industrial education. “In my time as a student at ISNU, I worked as a bus driver for Normal Community, managed a rooming house with 18 members of the ISNUs wrestling team, and became the father of two sons, both who later graduated from ISU,” Maske said during an interview with the Graduate School. “The highlight of my graduation was when I went through the line to shake hands with Dr. Bone, who remarked on that fact that his father and grandparents were in the crowd.” Maske was stunned because they in fact were in the crowd, but cannot to this day understand how Dr. Bone knew that.

Maske with son, Mike, for master's graduation in 1960

Maske taking a picture with his son, Mike, before graduation in 1960 of his master’s degree.

Maske describes fond memories of his time at ISNU. “It was a different campus back then.  I had a class in the Old Main building before it was torn down.” He also recalls attending weekly assemblies held in Capen Auditorium. “I remember as a student you would have to have a good excuse not to attend. Students had their own assigned seat and I used to take roll call. I remember seeing Miss America on stage during one of the assemblies.”

Maske lived in an apartment close to campus, which was located at 313 North St. At the time, it cost $25 a month to rent a room. He ate at the Pilgrim, a local fast food restaurant next door, or McDonalds, where it cost 90 cents for a hamburger, shake, and fries. Going to college meant a lot for Maske and his wife, JoEllen. They both came from families that only went to school through eighth grade. Between the GI Bill and scholarships, they graduated from the university with $250 in debt, which was still a significant amount of money. Their two oldest sons were born while they attended school.

A picture of Bob Maske taken at 313 North Street in Normal. He found morrel mushrooms under the steps.

June 1959, taken at 313 North St. in Normal. Maske found these morrel mushrooms under the steps.

He always knew he wanted to be a teacher. After his time as Illinois State, Maske went on to teach for nearly 50 years, most of those years at Mt. Pulalski High School.  He also stayed active in the Naval Reserves and retired in 1995 as Master Chief USNR. He is a proud parent of four ISU graduates and is still a huge supporter of the University. He owns a farm in Mt. Pulaski and lives with one of his sons, Rob. He and his wife were happily married for 58 years.


ISNU Activity card from 1857

1957-58 ISNU Activity card. Maske notes that he won best mustache at the ISNU 1957 Homecoming event.

Picture of JoEllen Maske in 1957

JoEllen Maske in front of steps at old Cardinal Court for Homecoming in 1957. Maske always sent her an orchid while he was in the Navy, so he got her one for Homecoming this year.

Maske, his wife and son

Maske, his wife and son, as they take a picture in front of 313 North St. for his bachelor’s degree in August 1959.