It was while Robert was a student at the York Collegiate Institute, a private preparatory school in York, Pa. that he finished second in the 100-yard breaststroke at the 1935 national interscholastic championships, earning a berth on the prep All-America swim team. He matriculated at F&M the next year, and a great collegiate swimming career was launched. A breaststroke specialist, Spangler also swam relays and other events to help an F&M team short on manpower. During the 1937 season, Spangler recorded eight firsts and two seconds, swimming the 200-yard breaststroke during dual meets, finished second in the same event at the Eastern Collegiate Swimming Championships, and participated on the 300-yard medley relay that set a pool and F&M record of 3:09.
The next year, the medley team won six races without a loss, Spangler won six 200-yard breaststroke events, seta pool record of 2:43.3 against Villanova, and placed third in the Eastern Collegiate Swimming Championships (ECSC). In addition, he was the silver medalist in the 200-yard breaststroke at the national YMCA Championships. In 1939, as the team captain, he closed out a brilliant collegiate swimming career by winning the 200-yard breaststroke at the ECSC, which was the equivalent of the present day NCAA championship. Spangler's collegiate record time in the 200-yard breaststroke stood from 1937 to 1964. He graduated in 1939 with a degree in history, and attended dental school and returned to York, where he practiced pediatric dentistry until his retirement.
Spangler may have retired from the professional world, but he never retired from swimming, participating in many age-group meets. The highlight of his masters swimming career came in June, 1992, when Spangler swan in the Pennsylvania Senior Games at Shippensburg University. He won the gold medals in the 50-yard breaststroke, 50-yard butterfly, and 100-yard individual medley in the 75-79 age group. His performance qualified him for the National Senior Games, which were held in June 1993, although surgery prevented him from participating. Spangler lives in York, Pa.