For a combined 53 years, Dr. Kim Coffman-Romero and Prof. Fred Romero have been impacting students in Arizona and beyond in their respective roles at Ottawa University’s adult campus in Phoenix. The continued success and growth of OU in the Valley of the Sun can be attributed in large part to this beloved couple’s countless contributions and tireless dedication to the University and its mission.
So, this past spring, when the two of them announced their impending retirement, it was met with mixed emotions from colleagues who can’t imagine OU without Dr. Kim and Prof. Fred. Each admitted they are not sure how they will react once they actually step away in December 2020, however they both agree that it is what they want to do.
“It’s the right time in our lives to move on,” Dr. Kim said. “We deserve to slow down and relax, and I’m looking forward to spending more time with family and friends, traveling and experiencing a different station in life with Fred. That’s not to say we won’t miss it though. Ottawa University is part of us and always will be.”
Prof. Fred said his deep connection to OU makes leaving bittersweet. For him, it’s not just about a longtime employee leaving a job. It’s about values and about family.
“Teaching at Ottawa has been one of my life’s greatest joys,” he said. “It’s been more than a job for me, though. Following the University’s mission has become my mission in life. So, I may be retiring, but I will always be a part of OU because of how much it means to me.”
Pursuing new adventures is what excites Prof. Fred the most about retirement.
“I’m looking forward to having the freedom to go on new adventures with Kim, to travel, do community work, go fly fishing, all without worrying about meetings and committee work,” Prof. Fred said. “What I dread is the fact that I do get bored easily. I need to be doing something, even if I am not good at it, like golf.”
Dr. Kim has been serving as the dean of the school of education since 2017, and also teaches a variety of courses both in the graduate and undergraduate programs of the school. She began her journey with Ottawa University in 1994 as an assistant professor of education, a position she held for nine years. She has held several other positions at OU, including professor, faculty chair, campus dean of instruction and associate dean of education.
Throughout it all, whether she was in the classroom or the boardroom, Dr. Kim has had a passion for the success of OU and its students.
“This is the most caring institution I’ve ever been associated with, and that major student focus is what attracted me to come here and it’s what has kept me here,” Dr. Kim said. “I’m proud to have spent my career at a university committed to serving students first and making a real difference in their personal, academic and professional lives.”
Prof. Fred’s association with the University started on the other side of the podium as an adult student at OU pursuing his BA in psychology. He graduated in 1980 with distinction, and eight years later, after working in behavioral health and as a lobbyist, he joined the OU Phoenix faculty as an assistant professor of psychology and human services.
One of the University’s pioneering online instructors, Prof. Fred initially gained experience in online teaching in 2000 with Arizona’s first totally online offering in police science in partnership with Rio Salado College. His OU career has been a mix of instruction and administration, having included several years as a dean in various capacities, from 1993-2000 and 2008-2016, but he eventually gravitated back to classroom.
“I came to OU in the first place because I love teaching, and honestly I’m good at it,” Prof. Fred said. “I’m proud of the work I did as dean, but after so many years I experienced burn out. I wanted to go back to teaching and focus exclusively on it.”
With Dr. Kim and Prof. Fred both being unassuming by nature, the story of their liaison is one they prefer to keep private. It’s a distinction they both agreed was important from the beginning.
“We choose to be deliberately private about our personal lives, to keep the personal and the professional separate,” Dr. Kim said. “We’re married, but we don’t act like it at work. Here we are colleagues, and we take that seriously.”
Despite their decorum in the workplace, Dr. Kim and Prof. Fred share a fulfilling and happy life. The couple resides in Glendale, Ariz., and are the parents of five adult sons and the grandparents of 10 grandchildren. They enjoy spending time with family and exploring the great outdoors, and are looking forward to doing both as they settle into the next chapter of their lives.
During the next 18 months, both Dr. Kim and Prof. Fred will be easing into life after OU as part of a stepped retirement plan. Prof. Fred got a head start on this, having gone half-time in 2016 when he left his position as campus executive and dean of intruction. He now teaches a limited courseload within liberal arts studies, psychology and human services.
In June of this year, Dr. Kim began the stepped phase of her retirement plan. She has relinquished her duties as dean of the school of education and will now teach exclusively graduate and undergraduate courses.
This phased approach will allow them to better assimilate the change that retirement will bring to their lives, after lengthy and successful careers doing what they love to do. Furthermore, they will get to go out the way they came in – at the front of the class teaching students for the institution that will remain in their hearts forever.