Lila and Robert Dibble
Lila and Robert Dibble

Robert and Lila Dibble, both graduates of UW-Madison, devoted a lot of time, energy and financial support to people who, through no fault of their own, struggled with the basic aspects of living that we take for granted. Believing that every individual has a right to safety, dignity and well-being, their actions in both their professional and personal lives reflected a commitment to social justice.

Robert received his BS in Engineering from UW-Madison in 1942 and worked as a mechanical engineer. Lila graduated from the social work program in 1940 and went on to pursue a master’s in social work at the University of Chicago. There, she was particularly inspired by two of her teachers, Sophonisba Breckinridge and Edith Abbott, pioneers and national leaders in the field of social work. While in college, she also had the opportunity to accompany a labor organizer to a coal miners’ meeting. At that time it was a potentially dangerous activity for all involved, but the experience with advocacy stuck with Lila.

Lila developed and supervised the Homemakers Program at the Family Service Association in Racine, Wisconsin, serving families and individuals in crisis.  In 1962, the first year of the program about 40 families were helped. The Homemakers Program was serving about 360 families by 1975, when Lila received a commendation from the Wisconsin State Senate “for her years of dedication and devotion to families in distress and to the whole Racine community.”

Both Robert and Lila enjoyed travelling and had friends around the world. Their interest in helping people also had a global reach. Once, upon returning home from a trip abroad where they observed people living without the means to cook their food, Robert designed a solar oven using the materials he had seen readily available to those people. He then sent the design to a bishop who was helping people in the area.

In addition to Lila, three Dibble children and a son-in-law have graduated from the School of Social Work.  A grandson also earned a masters in social work from the University of Minnesota. Although they were not rich by American standards, Robert and Lila still felt very blessed and wanted to help others in the United States and throughout the world. Hunger was a special concern of theirs, and both were involved in World Neighbors and Bread for the World.

The Dibble, Geyer and Tupper families established this scholarship in honor of their parents Robert and Lila, who made a difference in little and big ways to improve others’ lives.