After more than 35 years at Howard Payne University, Dr. Evelyn Romig will be retiring from her position as the Distinguished Professor of Literature when the fall semester concludes next month.
As the news filtered out to Romig’s family, former students and the Howard Payne community, many reminisced online about the professor’s extraordinary career and her ability to inspire a passion for learning. The Bulletin contacted several people close to Romig and invited them to share their thoughts about the educator’s impact.
Romig’s son Robert said his mother’s impact went beyond the classroom. She served for 12 years on the Brownwood ISD Board of Trustees and taught Sunday school at First United Methodist Church. “She has taught thousands of students over the years,” Robert Romig said, “and she has been actively engaged in the Brownwood community all my life.”
Romig’s daughter Nancy teaches with her at Howard Payne. “My mother has had a wonderful career and throughout her 45 years of teaching, has been generous with her time and talents to the benefit of both the Howard Payne and Brownwood communities,” Nancy Romig said. “She is a role model for everyone in the workforce … because she has always given of herself no matter how many classes she was teaching, committees she was serving on or commitments she had to her family or church.
“I am excited to see what she does in retirement,” she said.
HPU’s provost and chief academic officer Dr. W. Mark Tew said Romig’s dedication to teaching is “unparalleled.”
“In my 30 years of service in Christian higher education I have known few faculty members of Dr. Romig’s caliber,” Tew said. “I was delighted when Dr. Romig was named the university’s first ‘distinguished professor.’ It has been an honor to work with her.”
The distinguished professor title was conferred on Romig in September 2015. An HPU article about the title said Romig began working at the university in 1988 after earning her master’s from Texas A&M and a Doctor of Philosophy degree from Rice University.
Dr. Millard Kimery, dean of the HPU School of Humanities, called Romig a “tremendous friend and mentor.”
“Her high standards reflect her commitment to her subject, while her rapport with students shows her love for them and for the university,” Kimery said. “She is all that a professor should be.”
One of Romig’s former students weighed in with a blog post when he learned of her retirement. Dr. Scott Jones, now the pastor of the First Baptist Church in Rockport, Texas, said Romig inspired him to change his major to English.
“I loved Dr. Romig fiercely when I was a college student,” Jones says in the post. “I took every class she offered.
“It is meaningful to me that Dr. Romig found ways to express her faith in Christ as we faced together all the raw beauty and ugliness humans have ever committed to words, poetry and prose. Her approach was hopeful and not cynical. I learned it is possible to look deeply into my own heart, to see all the beauty and horror of which I am capable, and not turn away in disgust or vainglory.
“God is consistent in His love toward me,” Jones says. “These things were taught in the Bible classes, I’m sure. But I learned them in my literature class.”
Romig herself expressed gratitude for decades of fulfilling work. “I love my students only a little less than I love my family,” she said, “and I am so grateful for a life spent in their company and the company of books.
“I have held every academic rank at Howard Payne except provost and president. I have brought to campus real-life jousters, falcons, black powder musket loaders, and [1950s] muscle cars. I have convinced cowboy professors to have tea parties in my office and football players to cry while reading Wordsworth,” she said.
Romig shared the words of a former student, Jarah Botello, who posted a tribute on Facebook when she found out Romig was retiring. “Methodist in a sea of Baptists. Feminist in a patriarchy. Indigo in a red state. Loves apple cider, Harry Potter and students. Always gave me space to think.”