Black Student Athletics: Robert Pipkin

Another great Black athlete who went on to do great things outside of his collegiate basketball career was Robert (or Bob) Pipkin. Pipkin had come to renown while playing for the Aliquippa High School in Pennsylvania, where he was a two-time Section All-Star and named a preseason All-American in his senior year in 1963. After high school, he attended Dodge City Community College, where he led the team to a 60-4 record and was named a Junior College All-American.1 After his time at Dodge City Community College, he enrolled at the University of Idaho in 1965 and continued his excellent collegiate career. During the 1966 and 1967 seasons, he was named to the Big Sky Conference Team, was named the Big Sky MVP in the 1966 University of Idaho-Gonzaga game, and was named the Big Sky Conference All-Star.2

Pipkin would graduate from the University of Idaho in 1971 with his Bachelor of Arts degree, after taking a break for two and a half years for military service and professional basketball tryouts for Kirchein Tech in Germany. His collegiate and professional basketball careers saw him unsurprisingly inducted into the Aliquippa Hall of Fame in 1978 and the Beaver County Sports Hall of Fame in 2016.3 Pipkin’s basketball career was certainly notable and earned him a great deal of recognition, but his professional career outside of basketball also saw many commendations.

After the University of Idaho, Pipkin would enroll and graduate from Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, with his Master of Science in Education degree and principal certification. He would also complete his course work for his PhD in the same field. He then went into the Pittsburgh Public School District for 53 years to better promote the needs of Black students in the city and to further shrink the gap between the White and Black communities.4 He served many different roles in the system, including Principal of Prospect Middle School Center for Multi-Racial, Multi-Ethnic, and Multicultural Education, to give the Black community living there a better chance to succeed.

During the 1990s, when Pipkin was doing a majority of his work, Pittsburgh was in an economic downturn with one of the highest unemployment rates in the country, but the gap between White unemployment and poverty compared to that of the Black community was notable. Black poverty in Pittsburgh was reported as four times higher than that of White families who lived there.5 Due to the high amount of racial inequality and tensions in Pittsburgh at the time, Pipkin and his wife Yvonne founded the North Hills NAACP charter, where Pipkin served as its president for 14 years. He later retired, and the charter was unfortunately closed as no one stepped up to take the mantle of responsibility from him.6

Pipkin has had a substantial impact on the Black community and as such has received many awards; he was a recipient of the Greater Pittsburgh YWCA’s Racial Justice Award, was named to Talk Magazine’s 50 Most Influential African Americans in Pittsburgh, and was one of 300 board members from the PTA invited to the White House in 2012. Robert Pipkin’s life is another great story of a Black athlete who spent time at the University of Idaho and had a significant impact on the Black community around them as well as those of their White peers.


  1. “Bob Pipkin,” Beaver County Hall of Fame,
  2. “Pipkin Named Big Sky MVP For Holding Zags’ Lechman,” Moscow-Pullman Daily News, January 1966. 
  3. “Hall of Famers,” Beaver County Hall of Fame,
  4. Robert Pipkin (University of Idaho Alumni) in discussion with the author, September 2022. 
  5. T. Byrdsong and Hide Yamatani, “Historical Overview of Black Suffering in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA: Depth of Contemporary Social Work Challenges,” 10.5296/ijsw.v4i2. 
  6. Christian Morrow, “North Hills NAACP Office will Close June 30,” _Pittsburgh Courier, _June 2001, 1. 


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The Seminal History and Prospective Future of Blacks at the University of Idaho Copyright © 2023 by Brody Gasper and Sydney Freeman Jr. is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.