By Mike Caputo
It was September of 1963, and a young freshman named Earle Rommel walked around the new Lawrenceville campus, wearing the traditional purple and gold beanie and a nametag. He was supposed to wear it for a week, but Rommel said, “that’s enough” after only two days.
The 18-year-old Rommel probably never imagined being on that same campus 44 years later. Yet, to this day, Rommel is still actively on the phone with local media and passionately typing up his next piece for the University’s weekly Newswire.
Yeah, he’s that guy. He is also behind that voice message that either excites or disappoints you on an early winter morning when a few inches of snow are on the ground.
Rommel, now 62 years old, is retiring from his position as director of Public Relations, effective on August 31.
“If you told me two years ago, I couldn’t fathom that I would be retiring now,” Rommel said.
Originally, Rommel planned on retiring from his post sometime around 2010. However, after going through a series of chemotherapy treatments for cancer that was found in his body last spring, he decided that the time was now.
Rommel, who is still lovingly known by some of the older faculty as “Fox,” has been working at Rider for more than 35 years and has been through the many changes that have taken place during that period.
“One side of me bleeds purple and gold, and the other side bleeds cranberry and white,” Rommel said.
He not only witnessed the change in school colors but also was part of the first group of freshmen that went through the full four years on the Lawrenceville campus (Class of ’67).
After graduating from Rider, Rommel reported for local newspapers, including The Times of Trenton, up until his hiring at Rider. He also served for America in the Vietnam War as a counter-intelligence agent.
According to Rommel, his “first love” to this day is sports. In 1972, Rommel accepted the position as Rider sports information director. Rommel was an ideal fit for the position because during his time as a Rider student, he traveled with both the basketball and baseball teams, writing articles and keeping statistics. He was also the sports editor of The Rider News during his senior year.
As director of Public Relations, Rommel has the responsibility of serving as the spokesperson for the University, while also doing work within community relations and, of course, acting as the bridge to the media. Throughout his three-plus decades in the Public Relations department, Rommel is satisfied with his constant contact with the media, even through the toughest of times.
“I believe I have had credibility with the media,” Rommel said. “I feel they listen to me. When they have an inquiry, for the most part they are coming to me. And that’s important to have that kind of relationship.”
Before the electronic version of Newswire, Rommel, along with his staff, published a printed newsletter throughout the academic years. This printed publication was known as Communiqué, and was in existence before Rommel took the reins as director. During his time, Communiqué won a silver medal in a national organization known as the Council for Advancement in Support of Education.
Rommel now lives with his wife, Kathy, a Rider graduate, in the Yardville section of Hamilton Township. He plans to continue being active with the community through the Hamilton Rotary Club. Before then, Rommel hopes to take a fishing trip and also spend quality time with his 32-year-old son Sean’s family in Rochester, N.Y.