Robert Andrew Kirby g74
Robert "Bob" Andrew Kirby was a passionate, uniquely gifted basketball player far more concerned with the will of God than winning ball games; but his presence at Fort Wayne Bible College (FWBC) helped transform a struggling program into what was for a few years a small-college juggernaut.
Bob had starred at Ainsworth Senior High School in Flint, Michigan, where he led his team in a tough game that ended in a triple-overtime loss at the state regional championships. Prep honors included Most Improved Player his junior year, then Most Improved Player (MIP) and first Team All-District his final year. When he joined the Falcons in the fall of 1969, with the encouragement of his Youth for Christ mentor, Ron Hege, a small, inexperienced nucleus with few prospects for roundball success suddenly had a prodigiously talented athlete who could line up in any position against anyone. Fully ambidextrous, Bob could bury a sweeping sky hook or a graceful outside jumper with either hand. No one who watched Bob's gravity defying drives or saw him rise to block the shot of an opposing center would ever forget the amazing "Captain Crunch."
Nothing came easily to the small squad of eight players, one without access to a regulation gym; but Bob's determination and team play were infectious, and as long as he and the relentless Bruce Masopust were on the floor, extraordinary things could happen. Somehow that motley crew scratched out a 13-12 season (1969-1970) and won the Western Division of the North Central Christian Athletic Conference (NCCAC). Bob averaged 17.3 points and 10.9 rebounds a game his first year, while patiently guiding less talented teammates with his basketball skills and savvy. He took second team All-City honors and was named NCCAC All-Conference honorable mention.
Bob worked with Youth for Christ (YFC) during the school year and made the first of numerous mission trips in the summer of 1970. During this trip, he visited the Dominican Republic where he distributed the Gospel of John from door to door across the frontier. When he returned, he took a semester off from playing basketball to ponder God's place in and plans for his life.
The Falcons kept winning that next season (1970-1971), but everyone breathed an enormous sigh of relief when Bob rejoined the team several weeks into the second semester. Bob helped lead the squad to a 10-game winning streak, NCCAC regular season and tournament championships, and a resounding National Christian College Athletic Association (NCCAA) District 3 title game victory over arch-rival Bethel College. The run came to a hard-fought end against mighty Azusa Pacific in the NCCAA National Tournament, but the Falcons (19-8) had proved they could play with the big boys. Despite his late start, Bob made All-City honorable mention and was named to the NCCAC All-Tournament team. Bob and Bruce Masopust had together averaged over thirty rebounds a game.
During Bob's junior year (1971-1972), Bob and Bruce continued their mastery of the boards while anchoring a tenacious team defense. The Falcons led the entire National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) in both categories (some 700 schools at that time), with a 64.1 team rebounding percentage while holding opponents to a stingy 59.6 points per game. Bob and Bruce were co-MVP's of the Falcon Invitational, and Bob was named again to the All-City second team. But the team, which had gone on an amazing 26-3 run after Bob re-joined them the previous spring and ended the season 21-5, could not overcome the unexpected loss of their inimitable point guard with eight games to go, finishing second in the NCCAC conference, second in the NCCAC tournament, and a bucket shy in the NCCAA District championship.
Over the summer of 1972, before his senior year, Bob played on two Sports Ambassadors/Venture for Victory squads that toured Asia; one with Bruce Masopust, the other one taking on Olympic teams.
During Bob's final year (1972-1973), he blended his talents with experienced teammates such as Pete Strubhar and Bill Campbell as well as an infusion of exciting new prospects, including Todd Habegger, Larry Lewis, and Bob Batson, taking the team to a 23-6 record, a 14 game winning streak, and Bethel Invitational (now Gates Automotive Classic), NCCAC regular season, and NCCAC tournament championships. Others may have gained more awards or led different statistical categories, but Bob's worth was measured when he was voted Falcon MVP by his teammates and conference MVP by the NCCAC coaches. Bob also became the second person awarded the Roy Meyer Memorial Scholarship, a character and ministry award to an outstanding student athlete at FWBC.
Bob would finish his career with 1,378 points, 915 rebounds, and the school record for assists. No team had scored 100 points against the Falcons for four years. No conference team had beaten them at home over that same time-span, and only three had beaten them at all. City rivals could barely claim two one-point victories in four years, and FWBC had beaten Bethel soundly at Bethel each time when hardware was on the line.
Bob's life since graduation from FWBC in1974 with a degree in Pastoral Ministries has been one of youth and pastoral ministries, often in difficult circumstances which required him to serve bi-vocationally. Those domestic ministries have been punctuated with further education and repeated missionary outreaches to the far corners of the globe. Bob has studied at the University of Michigan, the Slavic Gospel Institute, and Wheaton College.
Though Bob was invited to play with a Sports Ambassadors' all-star squad against Olympic teams in Moscow, the plan fell through because of the United States of America (USA) boycott of the 1980 games. But nothing could stop Bob's faithful witness and outreach to the needy, whether in the US, including some twenty years in California, or in Mexico (1976), throughout the former Soviet Union (1978, 1991), or more recently, in Zimbabwe (1999, 2000, 2001) and Uganda (2005, 2007, 2008). An athlete with main stage talent who prefers to play for eternity.
Bob and his wife, Deborah, rejoice in their three children, Crystal, Joshua, and Tiffany.