University community grieves the passing of Neil Vroman

Thursday, January 14, 2016
For three decades, as professor and associate dean, Neil Vroman brought his encouraging voice to students in the College of Health and Human Services (CHHS) and across campus. There has been a hole in the halls of Hewitt since Vroman fell ill, and now there’s a hole in the hearts of many who are mourning his passing. Vroman died at home on Jan. 6.

Neil Vroman at UNH commencement
Neil Vroman at UNH commencement, one of his favorite days of the year

“While we have all known this day was approaching, it does not ease any of the grief and sadness we are feeling,” wrote Dean Mike Ferrara in a note to CHHS faculty and staff.

Vroman joined the UNH faculty in 1984 as professor of kinesiology. He received the CHHS Teaching Excellence Award in 1993. In 1995 he became associate dean of the college and remained in that position until his death. Vroman served as interim dean between 2011 and 2013.

His colleagues describe him as a great man with an unfailing sense of humor who had education in his bones and an extraordinary commitment to students.

“Neil Vroman was one of the warmest and funniest people I have ever known,” says President Mark Huddleston. “He was also completely dedicated to the University of New Hampshire and its mission. We have all lost a great friend.”

Ferrara says Vroman had an innate ability to get things done. “The college wouldn’t be where it is today without him.”

He also had a gift for understanding a problem and figuring out a solution, Ferrara says.

That skill made him particularly adept in the associate dean position — a role that regularly requires the graceful handling of people problems — and it served him well on several committees. He worked on the Curriculum and Academic Policies Committee, the Campus Master Planning Committee, the Institutional Review Board, the sesquicentennial committee and many others.

For more than 10 years, Vroman chaired the Academic Standards and Advising Committee (ASAC), which meets weekly to review students’ progress and, when necessary, determine academic disciplinary actions. Members of the committee grapple with the issues and life events that have contributed to a student’s academic challenges, such as illness or behavior.

“It’s a lot of tough work, and you have to be a fairly tenacious and resilient soul to do it,” says Ted Kirkpatrick, dean of students, who served alongside Vroman on the ASAC.

“Decisions have to be made, and they’re not always easy. Neil never ran from that. He always fulfilled the obligations,” and he did it with good nature and a certain sense of humor, Kirkpatrick says.

“Students’ lives can be messy. Faculty expectations are high. When those two things collide, determining exactly what to do is more art than science. Neil had a well-developed imagination about how to get to the right thing to do very quickly. Others would be paralyzed by the same challenge,” Kirkpatrick adds.

“This was a very good man,” says Janet Sable, professor and chair of the department of recreation management and policy, who worked with Vroman for 26 years. “A good man who led his life with integrity and made decisions and gave advice based on that integrity,” Sable says.

Vroman’s freshman orientation tradition of inviting students to keep him posted on their academic journeys resulted in a visit from Nicole Moody '18 one day at the beginning of the 2014 fall semester.

Neil Vroman with CHHS students
Neil Vroman with students from the UNH College of Health
and Human Services

Moody had just started in the UNH nursing program, and Vroman, she says, had played a role in her decision to enroll. She had heard him speak at an admitted students visit day months earlier, and, “The way he talked, he had such passion and energy — you could really feel it. It made me excited about UNH.”

So at orientation when he solicited visits, Moody took him up on the offer, stopping by to chat with him about her hometown, her transition into college and her career plans. She stayed in touch after that.

“I absolutely loved the conversations I had with him,” Moody says. “He took time out of his day to talk to me; that was awesome.”

Visits like these, and even simple, everyday interactions with Vroman, “were really a gift,” says Michele Stone, director of financial and administrative services for CHHS. “He was a great listener … and he’d offer good advice and good counsel to our students. To everyone.”

Heather Barber, associate professor of kinesiology who occupied the office next door to Vroman when he was on faculty, says, “He was the person you’d call when you were trying to figure out your alternatives. He was an extraordinary friend, and you don’t get many of those in life. The depth with which we will miss him we know is coming.”

But, as Sable puts it: “Neil’s still here. We carry him in our hearts. He’s inside all of us.”


Neil Vroman at UNH

Neil Vroman's family has established the Neil B. Vroman Memorial Fund at UNH. Contribute here.

A celebration of Vroman’s life will take place in the Granite State Room at the Memorial Union Building at UNH on January 29 at 2:30 p.m. More information



What We Remember

The UNH community shares its memories. Share your memories here.

UNH-built submarine circa 1989

My student mentor, colleague and friend Dr. Neil Vroman along with our cross-functional student CEPS and faculty team prior to the first Human Powered Submarine Race in Florida with UNH submarine “SPUDS" in 1989. Thank you, Neil, for your leadership, guidance and sense of humor.

—Christopher Clement '94



We, who sat with Neil in meetings as well as private chats in his office, know how much he contributed to his college and to the university. He was thoroughly impartial, fair and honest in his interactions with faculty and staff. We shall miss much his loyalty to the university and its traditions, his affectionate fellowship, his wit and humor and his unfailing tranquility and good sense.

—P.T. Vasudevan


Neil Vroman at UNH commencement

My office in Murkland Hall faces the courtyard, and when I talk on the phone, I often stand up and look out the window. Neil would walk by, and if he saw me through the glass, he would stop and salute.

—Ted Kirkpatrick


His two favorite days were move-in day, when he would go out and help freshmen move into their dorms, and graduation day.

—Janet Sable


Neil loved his family, golf, good wine and the University of New Hampshire. No faculty member was more dedicated to this institution. As an associate dean, he regularly dealt with complex issues and personalities, yet consistently maintained his sense of fairness, collegiality and humor. I will miss his perspective. I can't believe I won't see him on campus anymore.

—Jerry Marx


Neil Vroman and Mike Ferrara

He loved students! On my first move-in day at UNH, Neil took me around campus. We walked around and interacted with parents and incoming students. Neil would grab baskets and boxes and teddy bears and carry them to rooms.

—Mike Ferrara





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