University of New Orleans alumnus Mark Romig knows a thing or two about change, about being uncertain—and about consistency. When Romig started at UNO in the 70s, he felt sure that a career in dentistry was his calling, he told the fall graduating class of 2022.
“I enrolled with high hopes of being a dentist. Yes, I thought the pre-dentistry curriculum was for me … until I discovered chemistry and could not for the life of me figure out, less understand, how the H and the O got together to form water,” Romig said. “It was about a semester into it that I realized that dentistry was only going to be experienced as a patient.”
Romig said he took an interest test to figure out just what he wanted to do.
“It came back…YMCA counselor, funeral director, missionary. Seriously!” Romig said, as the audience laughed with him.
Romig was the principal commencement speaker for the ceremony held Friday, Dec. 9 in the UNO Lakefront Arena. The fall and summer candidates who were eligible to participate in the ceremony represented 28 U.S. states and territories, and 34 countries around the globe.
The arena stands were filled with friends and relatives of the graduates, who waved posters and pictures, applauded and shouted out words of affirmation or employed the use of an air horn to express their love and pride.
Among those well-wishers was a tearful Maurie Duhe whose daughter, Bryce Duhe, received a bachelor’s degree in psychology.
The tears were of pride for the perseverance her daughter showed to complete the program, Duhe said.
“This is my last get-through-college child and it’s very exciting,” Duhe said. “She’s worked really hard. This stands out because of the COVID situation … then (Hurricane) Ida; we lost so much. But she made it through!”
As they stood in the auxiliary gym waiting for the ceremony to start, some students took selfies, group pictures, or videos to memorialize the day. Others, like psychology major Jolie Bryant, commemorated the day with a witty phrase on her mortarboard. “See Y’all in Therapy” it read and included a drawing of an orange cat.
“Catmissioner Gordon, like Commissioner Gordon from Batman,” Bryant said. “He passed away earlier this year and he got me through college so I had to bring him with me.”
Keanna Keller-Theriot, who earned a master’s degree in hospitality and tourism, took time to reflect on her UNO journey and what the day meant.
“I’m anxious, excited and scared, all at the same time,” said Theriot, who wants to be a state hospitality and tourism commissioner. “The journey’s been great.”
During his speech, Romig shared that as a child he was fascinated with hotel lobbies. When his father told him about the new degree program forming at UNO in hotel, restaurant, and tourism administration, it piqued his interest.
“It turned out to be a pretty good fit,” said Romig, who is senior vice president and chief marketing officer of New Orleans & Company, the New Orleans tourism industry’s destination marketing and sales organization. He is also the stadium announcer for the New Orleans Saints, a role he has held since 2013 when he succeeded his father, Jerry, who performed the duties for 44 years.
“As I review the tools that I have put to use throughout my life, I have always been able to draw on the useful toolbox that I received from my studies here at UNO,” Romig said. “Tools that have stayed with me my entire life—from management to accounting, finance to leadership opportunities. And yes, even chemistry. I mean, how else is one to mix a good mocktail or drink in New Orleans!”
Romig said he understands the uncertainty some of the graduates might be feeling, as he was afraid as well. However, he urged them to embrace the changes that will come as they transition from collegiate life into the workforce and beyond.
“The key is to be adaptable, and to be ready at each fork in the road you come to—to make the best and right move because you believe it fits what you want to do, and when you do, you will grow,” said Romig.
Romig’s public relations career has spanned more than four decades and has taken him from teaching in college classrooms to the 1984 Louisiana World’s Fair, from working as a staff assistant to U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Elizabeth Dole during President Ronald Reagan’s administration, and the 1987-88 presidential campaign of U.S. Senator Bob Dole, to corporate and nonprofit public relations and marketing counseling.
“Never live by your resume. It is just a piece of paper,” Romig said. “What you can do is to live by the richness of the moments and people who you will discover along the way—helping you experience life.”