By Julia Ernst
Even after years as the director of University Communications, the Rider Athletics Department remained an important part of Earle Rommel’s life.
At funeral services for Rommel, who died of cancer on Sept. 3 at the age of 63 and is survived by his wife, son, daughter-in-law and two grandchildren, Dean of Students Anthony Campbell recalled attending a sporting event with the long-time Rider employee.
“Sitting next to Earle at a basketball game was like having my very own color commentator,” Campbell said. “I grew to cherish the stories about a player’s high school and college accomplishments, his halftime analysis of the stat sheet or the opinions on the tendencies of an opposing coach.”
Before becoming director of University Communications, Rommel served as the Sports Information director. Bud Focht, the current Sports Information director, worked with Rommel when he was part of the Athletics staff.
“Earle was a self-proclaimed stat head,” Focht said. “He loved stats, especially basketball.”
Rommel graduated from Rider in 1967 and worked for the university for 35 years. Before returning to the university to work, he spent two years in Vietnam, where he was an army counterintelligence agent. He earned two Bronze stars and an air medal for his service.
Dan Higgins, Rommel’s successor as the director of University Communications, said Rommel’s passion for Rider was evident and that he made the transition easy.
“He was positive and encouraging of me,” Higgins said. “He cared about this institution and this office. He saw a program that needed to be promoted and he worked tirelessly to ensure its success.”
In his eulogy, Campbell discussed working closely with Rommel, especially when events occurred on campus and local media came to Rider.
“There were more than a few phone calls in the middle of the night and long days working side-by-side to respond to media requests,” Campbell said. “Even in the most hectic of times, Earle always maintained his poise and calm. Reporters could count on his honesty and integrity. He taught those around him that the truth will get you further than spin.”
Focht had similar memories of Rommel’s experiences with the media.
“Any time something happened, Earle was the one who dealt with the media — the good and the bad,” said Focht. “The newspaper and TV people loved Earle for being honest. He was always direct.”
In his announcement to the university about Rommel’s death, president Mordechai Rozanski highlighted another important aspect of Rommel’s life.
“Throughout his career, Earle’s dedication to community service was truly admirable, as evidenced by his involvement with the Rotary Club of Hamilton Township, Lawrence Township Tricentennial Committee, Mercer Science and Engineering Fair, Heritage Days and as the United Way campus campaign chair,” Rozanski said.
Campbell concluded his eulogy with a look at the many aspects of Rommel’s life that helped him to teach all of those who surrounded him.
“I can truly say to you that Earle was an educator,” Campbell said. “He taught us the value of integrity, the power of humility and the nourishment of love. He loved his wife Benita, his son Sean, his daughter-in-law Andrea, his grandchildren Brian and Timothy and the rest of his extended family more than anything in the world. He taught us that leadership is derived from service to others and that relationships matter. Whether it was serving his country, community, university or family, Earle taught us by example that service is the path to greatness.”