The Hon. Robert A. Underwood
Robert Underwood is a former Member of the U.S. Congress and recently retired as the President of the University of Guam. He is both a Professor Emeritus and President Emeritus and has the distinction of being the longest serving President in the University’s history.
As a lifelong teacher, he has served as a high school teacher, curriculum writer, administrator, Dean of the College of Education and Academic Vice President. He is a distinguished scholar with many publications on education, regional political issues, indigenous concerns and cultural change. He is widely quote in many publications regarding Guam’s history, politics and cultural issues. He writes regular columns challenging conventional political thought in a direct and, frequently, humorous way.
He served as the Congressional Delegate from Guam in the 103-107th Congresses (1993-2003) during which he sponsored major legislation for Guam, played an active role in Department of Defense authorization bills and was a forceful advocate for political development for insular areas. His major accomplishments include the resolution of many federal land issues and the return of nearly $2 billion worth of property to Guam. He brought honor to Guam’s World War II generation through legislation which created the Memorial Wall in the Asan Bay Overlook and established the Guam War Claims Commission. Over the course of a decade, he brought in major construction projects including the building of the National Guard Readiness Center in Barrigada.
He also played a national leadership role in Asian Pacific American issues especially in educational opportunities and legislation. He served as Vice Chair of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus when it was established and eventually became Chair of the caucus. He introduced legislation for the establishment of the Asian American and Pacific Islander Serving Institutions and fought for Filipino World War II veteran equity. He was the founding chair of the national Asian Pacific Islander American Scholarship Fund.
Early in his professional career, he became active in community issues. He was an original member of the Organization of People for Indigenous Rights, was the first CHamoru to present a case on Guam’s colonial status before the United Nations in 1982, led the fight against the Guam Constitution in 1979 and was a community organizer in the 1970s and 1980s in various groups. He organized demonstrations, petition drives and helped make social change. .
Upon becoming President of the University he took on the sustainability challenges that our region faces through the UOG Green Initiative and the creation of the Center for Island Sustainability. Through this unique institutional vehicle, the University seeks to address economic, environmental and social sustainability issues from an island perspective. Using its research and educational programs, it applies the intellectual and innovative capacity of the entire University community to energy matters, resources issues and the concerns of island societies in Guam and Micronesia.
He has also served on numerous boards and commissions including service as Chair of the CHamoru Language Commission, the National Board of Educational Sciences (Obama Administration), Guam Board of Education, founding member of the Guam Humanities Council and National Advisory Council on Bilingual Education (Carter Administration) and American Folklife Center Board of Trustees (Appointed by Speaker Pelosi). He has worked for the United Nations Development Program in Micronesia, delegate to the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environmental Program (SPREP) and WASC accreditation teams for universities and colleges in the Pacific.
He has been a mentor to dozens of young scholars and is a frequent invited guest speaker to community organizations and media outlets both locally and throughout the world. He is married to Nerissa Bretania Underwood who is a former Superintendent of the Guam Department of Education and Senator in the Guam Legislature. He has five children and, with Nerissa, they have 14 grandchildren and one great grandchild.