Philip Robbins, 74, a former Washington Evening Star metro news editor who also was a professor of journalism and department chairman at George Washington University, died of pancreatic cancer Oct. 13 at his home in Elkton, Md.
Mr. Robbins worked nearly 10 years for the Washington Evening Star before accepting a position as journalism professor at GWU in 1971.
He became chairman of the journalism department two years later and implemented a number of initiatives, including a degree program in political communications. He served as chairman until 1991, when he became director of journalism at the university's National Center for Communication Studies.
During his tenure at GWU, he taught a variety of courses, mentored legions of young, aspiring journalists and became a leading authority on First Amendment rights. He worked on establishing libel case law precedents and helped draft freedom of information statutes.
"Professor Robbins conveyed a love of the news business," Steve Komarow, a former student and former chief congressional correspondent for the Associated Press, wrote in a letter to support Mr. Robbins's nomination for a teaching award. "He grew up in it, lived it and made the reporting life seem a noble and rewarding direction."
Mr. Robbins was highly involved in several professional organizations, serving as president of the Washington chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists, chairman of the national freedom of information advisory group to the Stars and Stripes military newspaper and a member of the national board of directors of the Student Press Law Center in Arlington.
Mr. Robbins received professor emeritus status upon his retirement from GWU in 1995 and continued to work on other projects.
From 1995 to 1998, he was the ombudsman for Stars and Stripes, traveling often to Germany, Japan and South Korea while championing expository coverage of military affairs.
He was then awarded a Knight fellowship with the International Center for Journalists to train reporters in the former Soviet bloc, China, Nepal, Nigeria, Peru, Ecuador and Colombia.
"The movement toward world democracy won't happen without an accompanying movement toward free press," Mr. Robbins once said.
Mr. Robbins was born in Hickman, Ky., and raised there and in Hopewell, Va. He graduated cum laude from Washington and Lee University, served in the Army as a sergeant major in the Korean War and received a master's degree in journalism from Columbia University in 1955.
He began his journalism career in the mid-1950s as a reporter with the Baltimore Evening Sun. At the time, he also wrote "The Port of Baltimore Handbook."
He was city editor of the Hopewell Daily News before joining the staff of the Washington Evening Star in 1962.
Mr. Robbins was a recipient of the Society of Professional Journalists' 1989 Distinguished Service Award and GWU's highest service honor, the George Washington Award.
In retirement, Mr. Robbins divided his time between his homes in Elkton and Carnelian Bay, Calif.
Survivors include his wife of 49 years, Patricia Robbins of Elkton; two daughters, Lynn Robbins of Arlington and Elizabeth Robbins of Annapolis; a son, Frederick Robbins of Palo Alto, Calif.; and four grandchildren.