For the Vroman family, music was a regular part of daily life. Mrs. Vroman was a music teacher, and Mr. Vroman was an undertaker. Their children — Neil, Susan, Lisa and David — were always in choirs, always singing around the house, always picking up a musical instrument. Mr. Vroman passed in 1977, and Mrs. Vroman remarried in 1979 to a choral music educator and professor, who brought three musical children of his own to the mix.
Neil Vroman grew up to become professor and associate dean of the College of Health and Human Services (CHHS) at UNH, in roles he loved for three decades. And after he passed way in January 2016, his emotional on-campus memorial service included songs and music performed by family, many with voices breaking and tears. The service even closed with his family and friends leading the audience in a rendition of the Scottish ballad “Annie Laurie,” a Vroman family favorite.
When he died, his family, including UNH occupational therapy professor Kerryellen Vroman, created the Neil B. Vroman Memorial Fund scholarship and invited friends and colleagues to honor his boisterous spirit and love of education by donating to help future students.
Now his sister Lisa Vroman, a lyric soprano and stage actress, is using her gift of song to honor his legacy and support the Neil B. Vroman Memorial Fund scholarship at UNH through a one-night-only concert, "An Evening With Lisa Vroman," on Saturday, April 28, in Durham.
“I’d been trying to figure out what I can do to help endow this fund. Neil and I were incredibly connected by our love for music, so I knew this was what I could contribute,” says Vroman, who has appeared on Broadway in classics like “The Phantom of the Opera” and is a frequent guest soloist with theatre and opera companies and orchestras from Seattle to New York and internationally. She recalls one of their earliest musical memories: when her brother threw an Elton John record on her bed and told her she should be listening to it. “I was 12 years old and thinking, ‘My older brother just talked to me; I’m so cool!’”
Neil 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 passing. 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.
Lisa Vroman is happy to share memories of her brother, and notes that a lot of family and friends are planning to attend the concert, but she wants to be clear: This isn’t some kind of somber memorial, and her brother would have agreed — this is a night for fun, entertainment and raising money for a good cause.
“Neil was one of the best men I’ve ever known,” she says. “His commitment to the students was so complete; his whole life was devoted to them, and who does that? He couldn’t wait for the first day of school, Commencement was his favorite time. There was this whole joy he had in being a professor … it was everything to him.”
If You Go
What: An Evening with Lisa Vroman (a benefit concert for the Neil B. Vroman Memorial Fund)
When: Saturday, April 28, 5:30 p.m.
Where: UNH’s Johnson Theatre, 30 Academic Way, Durham, N.H.
Tickets: $40 for the general public and $15 for UNH students and youth 17 and under. Buy online at www.unharts.com, or call the Johnson Theatre box office, call (603) 862-7222.