Cover photo for Robert Carroll's Obituary
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1945 Robert 2016

Robert Carroll

May 18, 1945 — August 25, 2016

Robert Todd Carroll, age 71, passed away peacefully in Davis, California, August 25, 2016, from pancreatic neuroendocrine cancer, a rare carcinoma affecting fewer than 3 in a million. After diagnosis, he became an advocate for research and education about this uncommon disease.

He was born May 18, 1945 in Joliet, Illinois to Robert J. and Dionysia Carroll and moved to Ocean Beach, California where he graduated from University of San Diego High School, lettering in baseball and football and making many lasting friendships. Bob attended the University of Notre Dame, where he met his future wife and became a lifelong fan of the "Fighting Irish." He received a PhD in Philosophy from UC San Diego and taught Philosophy and Critical Thinking at Sacramento City College for over 30 years. He loved engaging with and challenging his students and colleagues, as well as giving lectures across the country on topics related to skepticism.

A prolific writer, Bob is best known for his contributions in the field of skepticism. In 1994, he published one of the world's first web-based books, The Skeptic's Dictionary, which was published in print in 2003 and translated into several languages including Spanish, Dutch, Japanese, Slovak, Korean, Russian, and just last year, Chinese. His Skeptic's Dictionary website continues to attract more than 400,000 visitors a month.

Bob loved to travel and had a particular fondness for Ireland, returning many times, relishing the music, the people, and the deep beauty of the land. He also loved the game of golf, a source of good friendships and camaraderie. He enjoyed the Davis Golf Course as much as courses he played in Ireland, Scotland, and Hawaii. Ask a skeptic if it was the luck of the Irish that he shot 5 holes-in-one over the years.

A voracious reader with a passion for music, especially Bob Dylan, he also enjoyed many camping trips, hikes, and travels with his family. He leaves behind a legacy of intellectual curiosity and a love for music, the outdoors, nature, and reading that continues to enrich the lives of his children and grandchildren, all of whom pursue the same with equal passion.

Although his many intellectual and recreational interests kept him busy, Bob's family and grandchildren always came first. Loved for his strong but gentle manner, his quick wit, his integrity, his storytelling, and his songwriting, he will be remembered and greatly missed by his family, his dear friends, the skeptical community, and by the many people whose lives he changed through The Skeptic's Dictionary. He asked the hard questions and accepted that reasonable probabilities rather than absolute certainties provide the most useful and accurate information in matters of substance.

Bob is survived by Leslie, his wife of 48 years, daughters Jennifer Ruhe (Rodney Ruhe) and Allison Carroll (Daniel Dreilinger), and grandchildren Olivia and Flynn Dreilinger. He is also survived by sisters Pat Stafford, Mary Gismondi, and Joe Ann La Rue. He was preceded in death by his parents and nephews Aram Carroll and Nicholas La Rue.

A memorial will be held in late October in Davis to honor and remember the father, friend, and scholar who freely shared his vast knowledge, belief in critical thinking, and actively inquiring mind with warmth, intelligence, and humor.

In lieu of flowers, donations to the Northern California CarciNET Community would be greatly appreciated: NorCal Carcinet Community: 946 N Ripon Rd; Ripon, CA 95366 (

Special gratitude to the staff at Sutter Davis Hospital for their kindness and expert care, to Dr. Pamela Kunz and her team at Stanford University Medical Center and Dr. Damian Wild at University of Basel Hospital in Switzerland for their expertise, compassion, and remarkable dedication to their patients, and to fellow patient and advocate Josh Mailman and the Northern California CarciNET Community for vital support, education, and guidance in helping people live with neuroendocrine cancers.

To order memorial trees or send flowers to the family in memory of Robert Carroll, please visit our flower store.


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