Remembering Horticulture University Professor Emeritus Roy C. Rom

Roy C. Rom

Roy C. Rom

Dr. Roy C. Rom, U of A University Professor Emeritus of horticulture, passed away Saturday, June 15, 2024, surrounded by his children. He was 102 years old. 

In 1959 Rom joined the U of A as a faculty member in the Department of Horticulture. He served the university in teaching, research and extension services for 30 years. He retired in 1989.

Rom was a renowned fruit breeder and pomologist and enjoyed an impressive career in horticulture. He was revered for his work in tree fruit breeding and taught numerous classes. Specifically, he taught courses in tree fruit science at the undergraduate and graduate levels, and they had a reputation for rigor and extensive content.  

He had a large impact on the people around him, and to this day many still reflect on his work, including Horticulture Department head Mary Savin. 

"Dr. Rom was a giant in American pomology and tree fruit science in the late 20th century," Savin said. "His research was always mission-oriented and developed applicable results. He contributed to the strong national reputation of the Horticulture Department and especially the fruit science program alongside colleagues Dr. Moore and Dr. Morris. He was a quiet but strong leader within the department, college and across campus. He was deeply engaged in the community, and his family's apple orchard became almost legendary among schoolchildren and apple eaters. He was the quintessential university professor." 

As a faculty member, he served in several officer roles of Gamma Sigma Delta, including the president; a long-time secretary-treasurer of the UA Foreign Student Association; and chairman of the Campus Council and Campus Faculty. He was executive secretary and editor for the Arkansas State Horticulture Society from 1964-89.  He was a long-standing secretary of the American Pomological Society and received the APS Wilder Medal for significant contributions to American pomology. The U.S. National Peach Council gave him the Mr. Peach Award for outstanding contributions to peach cultivation in the South. He received the Fulbright Fellowship to study in France and other fellowships to study and consult in Poland and Tunisia. He also founded many research projects and received many accolades from the USDA. 

Born Jan. 29, 1922, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, to Roy George Rom and Emmie Glaettli Rom, he grew up with three sisters: Betty, Rita and Carol. He attended the University of Wisconsin where he pursued a degree in horticulture. During World War II, his academic career was put on hold, and he became a P-51 Mustang fighter pilot instructor. He was honorably discharged as a second lieutenant at the end of the war, after which he returned to college to finish his degree. 

After college, he met his wife, Margaret (Meg), and after getting married and living briefly in New Haven, they returned to Wisconsin to start a family, and he completed a Ph.D. in fruit crop production physiology at the University of Wisconsin. Shortly after graduating in 1959, he accepted a position at the U of A. 

In his spare time, Rom had a rich volunteer life in the community. He also loved to camp, hike and canoe with his family. He had a passion for the outdoors and spent much of his time in the Rom Family Orchard, where he earned the name "Mr. Apple." He owned and operated the orchard from 1967-2010, where he sold fruit on the farm, locally and at the Fayetteville Farmers Market.  

He was also a loyal Razorback athletics fan and supported the men's and women's intercollegiate teams. 

He has since been recognized by the University Division of Advancement as a Tower of Old Main for his scholarship support.  

Rom is survived by his four children: Cristine, Gretchen, Curt and Mark, as well as their spouses and children. 

Memorials and gifts may be made to the Nathan Kitt Rom Memorial Study Abroad Scholarship or the Roy and Margaret Rom Endowed Award, mailed to the Gift Administration, University of Arkansas, 481 S. Shiloh Dr., Fayetteville, AR  72704.


Lauren Sutherland , communications and recruitment specialist
Department of Horticulture


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