Past WSU chancellor and Spokane Riverpoint Campus leader Rom Markin passes

Saturday, December 11, 2021

Rom Johnson Markin Jr., 89, was born to Rom J. and Genevieve Markin on March 16, 1932, in Ironton, Ohio. He completed his elementary and high school education in Ironton and yearned to leave the rough-and-tumble limestone mining town and pursue a college education. It was a dream, as no one in his family had ever gone to college. In high school, he began working on the sales floor of a local men’s clothing store. The owner took young Rom under his wing and taught him about customer service, retail and marketing. That same year, Rom was elected as the National President of DECA (Distributive Education Clubs of America). He had to put himself through school and attended community college in Ashland, Ky.

He later was accepted on scholarship and completed his bachelor’s degree in business administration at Marshall University, Huntington, W.Va. He continued his education by pursuing his master’s degree in business at the University of Indiana in Bloomington. While working as a teaching assistant, he met a cute and very smart woman who was also a teaching assistant for the same professor. Rom fell in love over coffee with Marcia (Mitzi) Coppes. They married Nov. 2, 1956, in Bloomington. After obtaining his first graduate degree, he needed a break from work and school. A professor suggested he fill in for a colleague on sabbatical at the University of Montana, Missoula. The newlyweds loaded up their old car and headed for Montana. They found a small home in the woods outside Missoula. The welcoming faculty, hunting, fishing, climate and beauty of the area made an impression.

They welcomed their first child and Rom gathered his inertia to return to Bloomington and complete his Ph.D. in business administration. His professors praised his energy and enthusiasm. Upon completion of his Ph.D., Rom was offered several faculty positions including one at Harvard University, but the west called to him and he turned down Harvard and took a position at Washington State University in the College of Business and Economics in 1961. A decision he never regretted.

The now family of four moved into a small house in Albion. Soon after came the birth of their third child, a daughter. In 1963, they moved to Pullman and built a home they resided in for 33 years. Rom wrote seven textbooks on retail and marketing and published numerous papers. His marketing textbooks were considered some of the definitive works in the field. He was selected as Dean of the College of Business and Economics in 1980. He is widely credited with leading academic excellence and development, raising the reputation of the WSU College of Business and Economics. He teamed up with outstanding business leaders with ties to the state of Washington. He cajoled these experts to lecture and take part in actual classes. His efforts increased the gifts, scholarships and visibility of the WSU College of Business.

His time as dean allowed him to travel not just within the United States — he was also invited to teach a summer course in Le Bouveret, Switzerland, and in France. He also was an invited lecturer in Russia, China and Oslo, Norway. He returned to teaching at WSU in 1995 and created the Center for Entrepreneurial Studies. Rom was selected as interim Provost of WSU from 2000-02 and chancellor of WSU Spokane in 2002-04. As chancellor, he worked to establish the management, planning, cost-sharing and capital development between EWU and WSU for the development of the Spokane University District Riverpoint Campus. He enjoyed working with the Spokane Area Economic Development Council and the Spokane Business Community to embrace a vision of what a University District Riverpoint Campus could mean for the community. The growth of the nursing, pharmacy and the possibility of a future medical school was very important personally, since all his children had pursued careers in the medical field.

He retired in 2004 and enjoyed his retirement in Sandpoint, Idaho, and Tucson, Ariz. Rom and Mitzi moved back to Spokane in 2014. Rom died peacefully Saturday, Dec. 11, 2021, at Orchard Crest Alzheimer Care Unit. He was preceded in death by a grandson, Ryan, and very recently preceded in death by daughter Melinda.