Bob Frost, a professor in the School of Information at the University of Michigan, used the legacy of his great-grandfather, the poet Robert Frost, to promote open access to information.
Professor Frost gained his first degree in history and philosophy from Grinnell College and then went on to the University of Wisconsin-Madison to study for a master's. While there, he began to campaign against nuclear power and at the same time switched his academic focus from social policy and poverty research to technology. He studied for a year at the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales in Paris before returning to Wisconsin-Madison to complete a PhD.
He taught at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Carthage College, Wabash College and American University before joining the faculty at the University of Albany, State University of New York, where he remained for eight years, first as assistant professor and later as associate professor.
He then moved to the University of Michigan, where he served as a visiting associate professor in history between 1995 and 1998. He rejoined Michigan as a visiting associate professor in the School of Information in 2000 and joined the faculty the following year.
In 2006, Professor Frost and his wife, Margaret Hedstrom, who is associate dean for academic programmes at Michigan's School of Information, set up the Frost Open Access Fund to support staff and student projects related to open access to information.
The idea for the fund, which is financed by royalties on the work of Professor Frost's great-grandfather, grew out of their belief that "the value of artistic works that are considered classics comes less from the original writing act of a long-deceased author than from the public's embrace of the work". Professor Frost said: "The public creates value by its appreciation of the work, and it's to that public that the work should belong."
Jeffrey MacKie-Mason, dean of the School of Information, paid tribute to Professor Frost, who continued to teach until three weeks before his death. "He had remarkable courage and fortitude," he said. "Bob was passionate about teaching, about his students and about our school. He insisted on continuing to teach a full load, and even developed new courses during his illness."
Professor MacKie-Mason added: "I have known Bob since shortly after he arrived in Ann Arbor, and over the years was proud to become his friend. His death is a great loss to me." Professor Frost died of cancer on 26 March. He is survived by his wife.