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Robben Fleming was born in Paw Paw, Illinois on December 18, 1916. He received a BA (1934) from Beloit College and then attended law school at the University of Wisconsin where he received an LLB in 1941. He served in the Army for four years during WWII, then worked for the Veterans Emergency Housing Program in Washington before returning to Wisconsin as head of the Industrial Relations Center in 1947.
In 1952 he left Wisconsin for the University of Illinois to become director of the Institute of Labor and Industrial Relations, a post he held until 1958, when he became a professor of law at Illinois.
In January 1964 the regents approved Fleming’s appointment as provost (changed to chancellor in 1965) of the Madison campus, effective September 1. Fleming served as chancellor of the Madison campus during the early Vietnam War days, and protestors blockaded his office during demonstrations against the Dow Chemical Company in February 1967.
On March 28, 1967, Fleming was chosen as president of the University of Michigan. He served in that office until 1979 when he became president of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. He returned to Michigan as interim president in 1988. Fleming died in Ann Arbor, MI on 11 January 2010.