Dr. Joe Romine passed away yesterday after a long illness. As I reflect today, I lost someone who had an impact on my life second only to my parents. Please let me explain. (This post will trend very personal. It will have some application to Worthington Schools, but if you don’t like the personal stuff, you may want to stop reading now. Just fair warning.)
I did my undergraduate education at Taylor University from 1991 – 1995. During my time at Taylor, Dr. Romine was the Athletic Director and an assistant football coach. As a coach he was my position coach in football for the 1991, 1992, 1993 and 1994 seasons. He taught me how to use my hands to catch the football, how to fight for the ball and catch it at its highest point, and how to keep my body between the ball and ground. But, he personally taught me much, much more. So, much more that I wouldn’t be who I am today without Coach’s tough love and influence in my life. Here are three small examples:
In the fall of 1991 I began my time at Taylor. I had graduated from Worthington High School in June of 1991. My first weekend on campus I met Ms. Doreen Rager at President, Jay Kessler’s house (welcome weekend). We began to hang out around campus. Evidently Coach Romine noticed. He also noticed that I had come to Taylor in a relationship with a young lady still in Worthington. Around mid-September he pulled me aside after practice. He looked me in the eyes, a look I’ll never, ever forget, and simply said, “Bowers I see you walking around campus with a blonde girl. When we go on the road I see a brunette sitting with your parents in the stands. You’re playing with fire and you better fix it. Now!” Coach was right. I married the blonde girl (Doreen) and have been married going on 18 years now. I’m glad he didn’t beat around the bush and let me screw up the best relationship a person could ever have.
Later that same year we were returning from Christmas break. The first semester had ended and we had received our first semester freshman grades. I walked into the Olde gymnasium and spotted Coach Romine. Immediately I tried to pretend I didn’t see him, and I prayed that he didn’t see me. No such luck. From across the entry I heard Coach bellow, “Bowers, come here.” I went. He then began to ask about my first semester grades. Let me preface this, school was always very difficult for me. I was a special education student, diagnosed with a learning disability, and I graduated from Worthington High School in the bottom half of my high school class with a 2.6 G.P.A. My parents were fairly certain I may flunk out of college. Thus, that Christmas break when my grades were mailed out (in the pre-internet and email days, grades were actually mailed to your home) and I had a 2.8 first semester G.P.A., my parents and I literally danced around 790 Ashler Ct., with joy. So when Coach Romine asked about my grades, I proudly told him about my 2.8 G.P.A. Immediately he took out a napkin, did some calculations on the back, and said, “these are the grades you need to get this semester to get your G.P.A. up to a 3.0. Get it done.” I realize these weren’t revolutionary words. But, at the time, I had never considered that I was capable of a 3.0. I still wasn’t sure I would be able to do college work, yet here was Coach Romine, not only believing in my ability, but removing any allowance of failure. I did what he said, and eventually, graduated from college with a respectable 3.2 G.P.A. I don’t believe that would have ever been possible with Coach’s words. I hadn’t even dreamed it was possible. He set the bar high for me.
Fast forward three years. We’re heading into my senior year of football and we have a new head coach. Having been a three year starter under the old coach, I wasn’t excited about having to prove myself all over again, especially as a senior. I was sitting in Coach Romine’s office and he said, “listen Trent, I realize having a new coach for your senior year is hard, but, you’ll face lots of challenges in life. You need to trust your talent and work as hard as you can.” Those words have carried me through many changes in life. “Trust your talent and work as hard as you can.” Many times over my career I have wondered whether I had the ability to be a school principal, to open a new school, or to follow Mark Glasbrenner as the Assistant Superintendent, I would hear Coach Romine in my head.
There is much, much more I learned from Coach. Today I have a Doctorate in Education not because I needed it to become the Assistant Superintendent of Worthington Schools, or because someday I aspire to become the Superintendent. I earned my Doctorate because as a student at Taylor I wanted to be just like Coach Romine. I wanted to have that kind of impact on people.
Dr. Joe Romine, my coach, was a great, great educator. I know we have many like him here in Worthington. They do little things everyday and they live their life in a way that is worth emulating. The three conversations with Coach Romine that I shared in this post were likely not memorable to Coach, but they hit me at the right time and will always be memorable to me. I believe they changed my life. Educators have that kind of power. Life changing power.
Sometime this week I will ask for a personal day from my job in Worthington Schools and I will make the three hour drive to Upland, Indiana to pay my respects to Dr. Romine and his family. I can never repay what Coach Romine provided me, and my family, but I do hope that over time I can help others to have that kind of impact and pay forward to others what was given to me.