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I first met David in 1980 when I was visiting St. Lawrence as a candidate for a tenure track position in the Economics Department. Dave and Sally took me to dinner at the Tick Tock, and then invited me to spend the evening visiting in their home. I met their three sons, and though I do not remember what we talked about, I do remember the evening as a warm and congenial time. I was subsequently offered the position and have been in the SLU department ever since. The evening with the Vroomans was an important part of my introduction into what I believe is one of the best academic departments for collegiality that I have ever experienced or heard of. Dave Vrooman as my colleague for 19 years was an important reason why relationships within the department were (and continue to be) warm and friendly with little to no professional jealousies and rivalries that plague much of academia. Dave was a pillar in the department for many years, and he brought an exemplary combination of teaching excellence, scholarly commitment, and hospitality which contributed in no small way to the warm and productive atmosphere I have found in the Economics Department here. I inherited Dave's office (carpet included) when he retired, and for several years thereafter enjoyed his returns visits to check up on how I was keeping his office (and of course for a brief chat). I have missed that in recent years, but the legacy he helped create in the department remains.
David will be dearly missed. Such a sweet man. He didn't have a lot to say but his smile said a thousand words. So kind and caring. He will be fondly remember as a professor, tennis player, friend and neighbor. We were honored to have him visit the SLU Fitness Center. He liked riding the bike and using the weights. Joe, a SLU student and his assistant , enjoyed their time together. He always appreciated the attention.
We will miss him!
Dave was my colleague for 15 years before he retired. He was an incredibly gracious man. I knew that I could always go to him for advice and sometimes just to vent. I knew I could trust him. Dave would listen, smile, and let me talk -- even if I was being foolish. He might briefly offer correction so gently that it didn’t seem like correction. If he had advice, he would give it only if asked. If he didn’t know, he would say so.
With Dave it was always about others: his colleagues, his students, the university. Dave was the kind of guy who if he saw the lights were left on in a classroom, would go in and turn them off. While he was at it, he might turn down the heat on the registers as well. Others might see that as a job for a janitor, not a professor. With Dave, if something needed to be done, he did it. It wasn’t about him.
As Jeff Young so wonderfully wrote, Dave set an example that shaped the culture of the economics department. I have taught full-time at four universities and as an adjunct at a few more. Of all colleagues I have worked with, the two I admire the most both retired within a few years of each other: David Vrooman and David Richardson. We need to remember these men. In particular, we need to emulate the graciousness exhibited by Dave Vrooman.
David and Sally had close to 20 apple trees at one point in their back yard, bearing delicious, large size apples of different varieties. About 7 years ago David and I pooled our efforts to prune these trees, spray them and share the produce. At harvesting time, he would insist that I take more apples than what I had put in my car; (I had my own apple trees). He would often say, “What am I going to do with all these apples?”
Once someone walking by heard our conversation and shouted, “Find some unlocked automobiles on campus.”
David looked at me with a grin on his face and said, “You want to do it?”
While working on the apples we often humored each other with jokes and anecdotes. One day I asked him, “Why don’t you buy a riding lawnmower, instead of having a push mower or hiring someone to mow your lawn?”
He pointed me to look down towards the river and said, “See the steep slope from the yard running into the river. I am afraid the riding mower somehow will go out of control and crash into the river with me on it.” He had a big smile on his face.
I said, “You are joking!”
“Yes,” he replied. “But I just don’t like riding mowers.”
In the late 70s or early 80s we both signed up to cut fire wood from the State land. I think it was $2 a face chord. It was summer time. One day my son Shaili and his son Eric were with us while we were in the woods. I had the chain saw running in a 4-5 feet high stump about two feet in diameter at the base. David was standing 10-15 feet away watching me. All of a sudden he shouted.
“Chanchal, stop, look…” pointing me to a rather large size garter snake coming out of the stump and moving towards the chain. I did not see the snake but he did. The snake was just about to get tangled in the chain or mangled by it. I stopped the saw and walked towards him.
While laughing, he said, “Aren’t snakes worshipped in India? You were about to mangle one mercilessly.”
“But this is an American snake,” I replied.
“I am not aware of snakes claiming any citizenship,” was his quick rebuttal.
We both laughed. Our sons stopped loading the truck and wondered what the joke was about.