ROCK-SOLID marriage can be a bulwark to anyone in the white-hot
glare of public life. It certainly was for Jackie Robinson,
baseball's pioneering black player. This comes through clearly in
speaking with Rachel Robinson, Jackie's widow.
College sweethearts at the University of California, Los
Angeles, they married in 1946 after a five-year engagement, the
year before the Brooklyn Dodgers made Jackie the first black player
in modern major-league history.
"When couples are put under that kind of pressure," she says,
`it can push you apart and create a tension between you. For Jack
and me, it was just the reverse. We formed a kind of partnership:
s us.' It wasn't just him and it wasn't just me. There was nothing
coming between us.
Rachel Robinson shared this and other insights in two recent
Monitor interviews, one via phone from New York and the other
during a visit to Boston, where she was honored by Northeastern
University's Center for the Study of Sport in Society.
Mrs. Robinson, who is presently writing a book, collected an
award for her work with the Jackie Robinson Foundation, which she
established in 1973, one year after her husband's passing. "I
wanted a vehicle to perpetuate his memory, his name, and his spir
she says. Family members and friends formed a board, and in 1977
the foundation began a college scholarship program that targets
I chose education because I feel and Jack felt ... that
education was the key to any kind of productive life," she says.
These are not sports scholarships, she says, and the competition
is intense only 31 of 12,000 applicants were selected last year,
bringing the current number of scholarship recipients in school to
150. One star alumnus is Elaine Steward, assistant general manager
of the Boston Red Sox. (See related story, right.)
Robinson, a foundation volunteer, is an achiever in her own
right. A nursing major in college, she returned to that field after
her husband's retirement from baseball in 1956. Upon earning a
master's degree in psychiatric nursing from New York University,
she turned to teaching at the Albert Einstein School of Medicine
and Yale University. She also was director of the Connecticut
Mental Health Center.
Though born and raised in Los Angeles, she has lived in New York
and Connecticut ever since baseball brought the Robinsons east. For
many years she helped to run a company started by Jackie that built
and managed lower-income housing developments in the New York
Her sporting loyalties moved west with her husband's old team. …