Robinson, Leo V.
A familiar and eccentric presence on campus for many years, Leo V. Robinson was born in Petersham (or Pelham), Mass., on July 5, 1886, the son of Franklin D. and Elizabeth A. Dean Robinson. A veteran of the First World War, Robinson attended the two-year course in practical agriculture at Massachusetts Agriculture College as a Federal Student (the equivalent of the GI Bill). After graduation in 1922, it appears that he worked for General Electric for several years and on a turkey farm in Kelsey City, Florida, and during the Depression, he was said to have attended North Carolina State College, taking courses in Zoology and Sociology and studying the farmers' movements and community organization.
Regardless of what his post-graduation activities may have been, Robinson returned to Amherst in 1945, where he lived at various addresses, reputedly in the barns at one point, near the poultry farms, and at the end of his life, at 85 Fearing Street. From the time of his reappearance on campus, Robinson cut a distinctive figure, walking around bareheaded, wearing sandals and baggy, often soiled clothing. Rumors about him held that he was brilliant, a PhD, or a teacher, but whatever rumors and eccentricity may have implied, he was found by most observers to be a kind and well-informed man. Robinson was best known for spending most of his available money on feeding the cats that frequented the barns on the west side of campus and for serving as their guardian and protector. Said to be able to approach even the most feral of cats, Robinson was quoted as saying that cats mistrust other men because they had been treated brutally, adding that he knew how the cats feel. The responsibility of caring for them, he said, was “useful and patriotic to Massachusetts.”
Robinson died at the age of 84 on May 11, 1971, leaving his widow, Eva Hitchcock, and daughter, Venus Anderson of Hyannis. He is buried in the Quabbin Park Cemetery in Ware.
- Reynolds, Iona Mae, "A true eccentric: the Cat Man", Stockbridge Alumni News 62 (1994): 28-29.
- Fitzpatrick, Grace, "Bearded old man, familiar campus sight, will be 75 and hopes to live until 100", Massachusetts Collegian May 12, 1961.