Skip navigation
Office of the Chancellor

Office of the Chancellor

Chancellor's Biography

Learn about the University of Denver's 17th chancellor.

Meet Chancellor Coombe

Chancellor Robert Coombe

Although he was born a fifth-generation Missourian, Robert Coombe has been a resident of Colorado for much of his life. After growing up in Denver and attending Denver public schools, he earned a bachelor’s degree from Williams College and a doctorate in chemistry from the University of California at Berkeley.

His doctoral studies were followed by a postdoctoral research appointment at the University of Toronto and then by a seven-year stint as a researcher for Rockwell International at its Thousand Oaks, California, corporate laboratory. He returned to Denver in fall 1981 to take a faculty position in the chemistry department at DU, beginning a long and rewarding association with the University that is now in its 33rd academic year.

For many of those years at DU, Coombe’s work focused on teaching students in his research laboratory and in his classroom (where he taught graduate and undergraduate courses in physical chemistry, quantum mechanics, statistical mechanics, and advanced kinetics and molecular dynamics).

His work as a scientist has long focused on the dynamics of interactions among energetic, inorganic molecules, its major applications lying in the development of new laser systems and new methods for deposition of nitride semiconductors.

Coombe has served the University in a number of leadership roles, including chair of the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry; dean of the Division of Natural Sciences, Mathematics and Engineering; and provost of the University. He began his current appointment as 17th chancellor of the University of Denver on July 1, 2005.

Apart from his work at the University, Coombe serves on the boards of the Colorado Forum, the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities, the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce, the Denver School of Science and Technology Advisory, the Denver Education Compact, and the University of Denver–based Institute for the Advancement of the American Legal System.

The father of two grown children and grandfather of six, Coombe’s principal avocations are associated with the arts and the outdoors. A devoted amateur musician, he plays the cello and a number of brass instruments. He and his wife, Julanna Gilbert, a chemistry professor at the University as well as a talented violinist, enjoy playing in informal chamber ensembles.