Robert Bruce Reppa Sr., 85, who helped thousands of part-time adult students obtain college degrees when he introduced weekend classes at the University of Maryland's University College, died Aug. 23 on the way to Inova Alexandria Hospital. He had Parkinson's disease.
Dr. Reppa retired in 1978 as assistant vice chancellor for statewide programs at University College, a dozen years after joining the university as a graduate assistant.
He was born in Richmond Hill, N.Y., and raised in the Panama Canal Zone. He graduated from Amherst College in Massachusetts.
Called to active duty in the Army in 1941, he was initially assigned to the Panama Canal Zone and later served in the European theater during World War II. He was captured by Germans on the second day of the Battle of the Bulge in December 1944. Sent to prisoner-of-war camps at Nuremberg and later Hammelberg, he suffered through inadequate heat and food, depending upon twice-monthly Red Cross packages to survive.
According to a 1994 article in the Army's Soldiers magazine, the 4th Armored Division's Task Force Baum fought 60 miles through German territory to liberate the POWs at Hammelberg, but the force was too small to handle the hundreds of POWs who were wandering in the darkness. The task force was surrounded and wiped out. Dr. Reppa was among the few who escaped, but four days later, their group was recaptured by the Germans and returned to the camp, where they helped bury their fellow prisoners. After a month-long forced march to a point just east of Munich, Dr. Reppa and another soldier escaped again, taking refuge in a German house that flew a white sheet. U.S. forces finally freed them in May 1945.
After the war, Dr. Reppa remained in the Army. At Fort Hood, Tex., he commanded the 1st Medium Tank Battalion, 67th Armor. He was a staff officer in the Defense Intelligence Agency's national intelligence analysis and estimates office, Middle East branch, from 1961 to 1966, when he retired as a lieutenant colonel.
Dr. Reppa's doctoral dissertation at the University of Maryland was published in 1973 as "Israel and Iran: Bilateral Relationships and Effect on the Indian Ocean Basin."
Dr. Reppa, a resident of Alexandria, was a member of the Northern Virginia chapter of Ex-POWs, Veterans of the Battle of the Bulge, Veterans of Foreign Wars, the American Legion, the U.S. Cavalry Association and the Panama Canal Society. He also belonged to Beta Theta Pi and honor societies Pi Sigma Alpha, Alpha Sigma Lambda and Phi Kappa Phi.
His son, Robert Reppa Jr., died in 2002.
Survivors include his wife, Jane Maynard Reppa of Alexandria; a daughter, Katherine Reppa of Carbondale, Colo.; and two grandsons.