As the longest continuously operating ombuds office at any college or university in the United States, the ombuds that have served Michigan State University have left behind a long and prestigious legacy of ombuds practices. Their work and devotion to the office continue to be valued.
- Robert Caldwell, Ph.D. (2012-2018)
- Stan Soffin, Ph.D. (1998-2011)
- Joy Curtis, Ph.D. (1991-1998)
- Carolyn Stieber, Ph.D. (1974-1991)
- James Rust, Ph.D. (1967-1974)
Robert A. Caldwell served as the University Ombudsperson for six and a half years, between January 1, 2012 and June 30, 2018 when he retired. He received his undergraduate degree from the University of Rochester and MA and PhD degrees in Clinical Psychology from the University of Colorado. He joined the faculty of the Psychology Department at Michigan State University in 1982. He earned tenure in 1987 and became a Full Professor in 1994. He served as the Associate Chair in the Department of Psychology (2002-05), the Associate Dean for Graduate Studies in the College of Social Science (2005-10), Senior Advisor to the Dean of CSS (2010-11), and the Faculty Excellence Advocate for the College of Social Science (2009-11). His research interests are in the prevention of child maltreatment.
After graduating from the University of Michigan in 1964, Stan Soffin taught journalism and English at Monte Vista High School in Whittier, California. He joined the faculty of the MSU School of Journalism in 1968 and served as its director from 1982 to 1998, when he was appointed MSU's fourth University Ombudsman.
As J-School director, he guided the J-School successfully through three accreditation reviews and into the top echelon of journalism programs. He attracted outstanding new faculty to the J-School and led fund-raising campaigns that brought new technology, 13 new scholarships, and several innovative programs to the school. These included the endowed Knight Chair in Journalism, the Hispanics in Journalism Program, the Victims and the Media Program, and the Michigan Interscholastic Press Association.
His research interests included the First Amendment rights of students and an assessment of fairness and balance in daily newspaper coverage of controversial issues.
As University Ombudsman, he served on the Board of Directors of the University and College Ombudsman Association, developed an innovative online problem-report form, established the office website as a "go-to" campus resource, and participated in more than 200 workshops, seminars and class visitations.
He was inducted into the Michigan Journalism Hall of Fame in 1998 for his contributions to journalism through journalism education, and he was inducted into The State News Hall of Fame in 2010. He holds two degrees from MSU, a master of arts degree in journalism and a doctorate in English: American Studies. He retired August 15, 2011.
The third University Ombudsman, Joy Curtis, came to the position from the College of Nursing in 1991 and served until 1998. She joined the faculty of the MSU College of Nursing in 1966 and served as director of student affairs for 14 years before being appointed university ombudsman.
She has published and lectured extensively about ethics in nursing and co-authored four editions of Ethics in Nursing. She wrote or co-authored more than 30 articles for various professional journals and bulletins and presented her work at numerous conferences and workshops in the United States and abroad. She also edited a journal and co-directed a national Endowment for the Humanities summer session.
Professor Curtis established Nursing in Great Britain in 1985 in conjunction with the Royal College of Nursing of the United Kingdom and the MSU Office of Study Abroad and taught the summer course in London eight times. She also established an educational exchange program with faculty and students from the Nightingale School in London.
Professor Curtis earned a diploma in nursing from Iowa Methodist Hospital School of Nursing, a B.A. in psychology from the University of Iowa and a M.A. in Student Personnel Work in Higher Education, also at the University of Iowa. She was a staff nurse at several hospitals in Iowa and Kansas from 1956 to 1966.
She is a member of Phi Kappa Phi, Phi Beta Delta and Sigma Theta Tau honor societies. She received the MSU Woman Achiever Award in 1985 and the 1996 James B. Hamilton Award from the Office of Programs for Handicapper Students.
She retired July 1, 1999. She lives in East Lansing with her husband, Bruce, professor emeritus at MSU.
Carolyn Stieber's tenure as University Ombudsman extended to 17 years, from 1974 to 1991. Pointing to the independence of the office, as prescribed by the Academic Freedom Report, she said none of the four university presidents who paralleled her years in office ever interfered with her work. She joined the Political Science Department in 1957, teaching courses in state and local politics. She earned an undergraduate degree in political science from the University of Chicago and a master's degree in political science from the University of Pittsburgh.
Like her predecessor, James Rust, she was a member of Phi Beta Kappa. Professor Stieber was named "Spartan of the Year" in 1987 by The State News, the campus daily newspaper. She also served as president of the University and College Ombuds Association for two years.
Carolyn retired from MSU in 1991.
James Rust served as the first ombudsman at Michigan State University from 1967 to 1974. He was the nation's second university ombudsman, following by one year the appointment of an ombudsman at East Montana State University. His tenure spanned the tumultuous period of campus unrest connected to the U.S. involvement in the war in Viet Nam. As the first MSU ombudsman, Professor Rust established the procedures for reviewing primarily student problems involving both academic and non-academic issues. His charge was included in Article 8 of the seminal Academic Freedom Report of MSU, which called for establishing the Office of the Ombudsman. The AFR (now called SRR) was approved by the MSU Board of Trustees on March 16, 1967.
Professor Rust came to the position after serving for five years as assistant dean of the College of Arts and Letters. He joined the faculty of the Department of English in 1947, after teaching at Grinnell College, Indiana University and the University of Missouri.
A member of Phi Beta Kappa, he earned a bachelor's degree and master's degree at Indiana University and the doctorate at Yale University.