Rutgers professor fondly remembers student Edward Romano

Letter to the Editor

Edward Romano, a School of Arts and Sciences senior majoring in history and political science, died suddenly on Sept. 30. He was beloved by fellow students, faculty and staff in both departments, along with the Eagleton Institute of Politics, history club, Rutgers University Democrats and a variety of other groups. Ed got involved — that’s what he did.

I first came to know him in my Civil War course. Ed sat in the front row. I called on him and he corrected me on some detail of a treaty that for some reason he knew a lot about. That was Ed — full of knowledge from a hunger for learning history, but still famished for more. His comments always came with a big smile and bright, disarming eyes.

Over time, we would often talk outside of class, and quickly I learned of his passion for railroads. I’m not sure why, but as a sophomore, he already knew that his senior thesis would be on the Camden and Amboy railroad. He began the research and was making discoveries that eluded generations of historians. Ed cherished the detective work, and he was good at it.

In another course, he wrote about a famous painting that depicted a railroad — "The Lackawanna Valley" by George Inness. Recently, he asked me if Abraham Lincoln ever rode the Camden and Amboy railroad. We discussed how to find out, and he was off on the chase.

Two weeks ago, in what would turn out to be our next to last class together, seminar members read Herman Melville’s story, “Bartleby, the Scrivener.” I asked how the tale might be understood as a critique of Ralph Waldo Emerson, and Ed blurted, “his solitude, how horrible.” We all laughed at the way he delivered the quote.

Ed Romano knew better than anyone how horrible solitude could be. In everything he did, he fought against isolation and cynicism. He was passionate about politics and devoted to history. He relished debate, but always respected the opinions of others. He even fell in love with a railroad line. He led a life of connection and engagement, of learning and involvement. We can honor his memory by doing the same.

Louis P. Masur is a distinguished professor in the Department of American Studies at Rutgers University.

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