A foundation at Jacksonville University, Mike Bobbin, retires after 52 years of service to others

June 17, 2024

Behind the scenes of Jacksonville University’s bustling campus, where every student is searching for their path and purpose to build a better tomorrow, one figure has remained constant for the last 52 years. Mike Bobbin has been the heartbeat of Jacksonville University, his legacy woven into the very Bobbin older picfabric of a 90-year-old institution. As he steps into retirement at the end of June, the Jacksonville University community he has served selflessly for more than five decades comes together to recognize a man whose contributions are as vast as they are understated.

Without realizing it, Mike Bobbin’s legacy at Jacksonville University began when he moved into room 331 of Williams Hall, as a freshman from New York City, on August 29, 1967. Fifty-two years later, his name is synonymous with dedication and service. Jacksonville University President Tim Cost, reflecting on Bobbin’s tenure, aptly describes him as the “connective tissue” between the university’s past and present. “Mike is the ultimate Swiss Army knife,” said President Cost. “If you ask most people what he does, they couldn’t tell you his job title. But everyone knows that if you need something done, Mike’s your guy.”

As the Executive Director of Campus Services, Bobbin takes pride in being a go-to source, from purchase orders to changing the tires on a golf cart. “I hope nobody ever heard me say, ‘That’s not my job,’” said Bobbin. “My attitude has always been if it’s good for JU, I will do it.”
Following his graduation as a business major in 1972, Bobbin spent six months working as an assistant manager for a couple of pizza restaurants in Arlington. After a phone call from George Smith, who was the JU purchasing manager at the time, Bobbin’s career at Jacksonville University officially began on November 20, 1972. His roles have evolved over the years, from purchasing clerk to managing The Rathskeller, the beloved on-campus bar, to overseeing campus food services, to earning an executive title and being the ultimate “fill-in-the-gaps guy” for nearly every campus need. Yet, titles never defined Bobbin. His actions did.

Setting the bar on campus: The Rathskeller

Mike Bobbin mugThe Rathskeller was a bar located on the campus of Jacksonville University in a space that is now occupied by the bookstore and post office. As chronicled by George Hallam in “Our Place in the Sun: A History of Jacksonville University”:

“The new watering hole opened for business on September 5, 1975. Under manager Mike Bobbin, it had been in construction since May and survived a two-week trial opening in August. Nicknamed “The Basement,” it was ideal for disco parties, the rage of the ‘70s.”

As manager, Bobbin turned it into a haven for students, a place where disco parties and camaraderie flourished. “It was an immediate hit,” Bobbin recalls. “We were busy all the time. Wednesday night was pitcher night, and students were lined up to come in.” Frequently at capacity in its heyday, The Rathskeller overlooked the baseball stadium, with a perfect view of the field. “For one semester, when we’d hit a homer, I’d give away beer to students for the next five minutes,” said Bobbin. “You’d see all the students in the stands, like ants, coming up the steps to get their beer and then go back down to the baseball field. That was a big hit.”

The state raised the drinking age back up to 21 in 1986, which meant ‘last call’ for The Rathskeller’s operations on campus. Captain Matt Tuohy, Director of the University’s Aeronautics program and a dear friend of Bobbin, fondly remembers The Rathskeller’s golden years. “It provided students a safe place to enjoy themselves while remaining on campus. Mike didn’t run it with an iron fist. JU has always had a family feel, and The Rathskeller was just an extension of that.”

50 years of friendship: It takes Tuohy

Mike Bobbin and Capt. TuohyThe friendship between Mike Bobbin and Captain Matt Tuohy began in the early ’70s and is a testament to the bonds forged at JU. “When I first met him, we discovered we lived a mile apart in New York City,” Bobbin recalls. “The day I met him I said, ‘Hi, I’m Mike Bobbin,’ and he said, ‘Hi, I’m Matt Tuohy,’ and it sounded like a sneeze. So I said, ‘Oh, bless you,’” Bobbin said, laughing as he recalled the moment. This light-hearted exchange marked the beginning of a friendship that has endured for over fifty years.

Capt. Tuohy’s admiration for Bobbin runs deep. “Mike pretty much has the corporate knowledge of Jacksonville University in his head for the last 50 years. He knows everything and how everything works. It’s going to take more than one person to replace him as he moves on into his well-deserved retirement.”

Bobbin’s tenure at Jacksonville University is not just marked by his roles and responsibilities but by the spirit of service he embodied. Whether changing a light bulb, setting up stages for events, or moving furniture on a forklift, Bobbin did it all with spirit and a sense of purpose. “I’ve spent my entire adult life at JU,” he said. “Even though I’m leaving my job, I’m not leaving JU. Most people on this campus have my cell phone number. And if you don’t have it, come see me with a $20 bill and I’ll give it to you,” Bobbin said with a smirk.

A Legacy Cultivated “Behind the Scenes”

Mike Bobbin looking at stageThe late Dr. Frances Bartlett Kinne, a pioneering figure who Bobbin had the pleasure of working for while she was President at JU from 1979-1989, was renowned for her charismatic presence, empathy, and service to others. Like Dr. Kinne, Mike Bobbin’s legacy is rooted in service to others, but with more of a “behind the scenes” approach.

“Everybody in the last 50-plus years that has gone to and graduated from JU has benefited from Mike being there,” said Capt. Tuohy. “Whether they knew it or not. That’s a great legacy, to impact somebody’s life and not necessarily stand up front and try to take credit for it.”

Beyond the buildings and services he maintained, Bobbin’s legacy includes the culture he helped nurture. “If a guy like Mike had a personality that was cold or negative, that too could become your culture,” said President Cost. “Thank God that Mike has built a mindset that is positive, supportive, warm, and welcoming. That’s his legacy. We should honor it. And I wish him Godspeed.”

To the former manager of The Rathskeller, a man who has worn just about every hat there is to wear at Jacksonville University, we raise a glass to celebrate the incredible legacy of service, friendship, and unwavering commitment over the span of 52 years. Cheers to you, Mike Bobbin.

All Stories

See All News