Robert received Bachelor of Arts at Yale University in 1961, and then he earned Bachelor of Laws there in 1967.
After a year as a Carnegie Teaching Fellow in American History at Yale in 1961-1962, he became the Legislative Assistant to Representative John V. Lindsay of New York, and then served as Director of the Republican Legislative Research Association, an organization established by Charles Taft and Alfred Landon to assist Republican Congressmen in the deliberations on civil rights legislation during the presidencies of John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson. As a principal aide to the House Republican leaders, he was one of the architects of the key bipartisan compromise of October 1963 that led to passage of the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964. He was appointed Curator of Yale University’s Collection of the Literature of the American Musical Theatre. He held that position from 1967 to 1971, and during his tenure began to write extensively about the American musical.
He has lectured on the history of American musical theatre at Yale, New York University, Brooklyn College of the City University of New York, and the Manhattan School of Music. He was a music and dance reviewer for the New York Post from 1973 to 1986, and the newspaper’s chief classical music critic from 1986 to 1988.
He was a consultant to and participant in the Chicago Humanities Festival for 12 years. From 2008-2011, he served as a Tony Awards nominator. His has edited or co-edited six books in Knopf’s Complete Lyrics series, and also has been the artistic director of six programs on the popular Lyrics and Lyricists series at New York City’s 92nd Street Y. Moreover, he appeared as a commentator on the 2004 PBS series "Broadway: The American Musical." He has lectured on the Gershwins, Cole Porter and Irving Berlin aboard Cunard, Holland America and Crystal Cruises ships.
On May 23, 1972 he married Abigail Leon Kuflik, with whom he raises two children: Philip Zachary Kimball and Miranda Erica Swaffield.