Victoria Wheeler-Romero ’70
Educational Consultant & Author
“How have you used your liberal arts education in your career?”
Since my retirement, I’ve written two books for educators: Building Resilience in Students Impacted by Adverse Childhood Experiences: A Whole Staff Approach (2018) and Race Resilience: Achieving Equity Through Self and Systems Transformation (9/14/21). Both published by Corwin Press. The professors who made the most impact on me were the ones who modeled ‘life long learning’. We would be invited into their homes to talk about current events. We were encouraged to read, think and advocate for ourselves.
“Do you have a favorite Monmouth Memory?”
I was Sophomore attendant on 1968 Homecoming Court- the first Black girl to be honored and I had the coolest car in the parade, a Corvette sportscar.
“Who made an impact on you at Monmouth and how?”
Dean Jean Liedman, Rev. Paul McClanahan, Professors James Mannon, Won Moo Hurh, Mary Crow, Walter Lichtenstein & whoever was chair of the Ed dept. and all of the friends I met from around the world. As a matter of fact, there’s a core group that we have managed to stay connected. I meet two of them who live in NJ when I go back east. And with the core group, we just had a Zoom cocktail party (9/19) which included my first roommate. Joanne Moy Robinson, Mike McCulley, Esq (MC Board member), Bob Riley, CEO of Feed Energy Co, Dr. Carolyn Rollins (professor at Albany State and took me to Namibia on a special project), and Nancy Sager (roommate and retired teacher and curriculum developer).
I was one of four Black girls entering MC as freshmen. Each of these individuals nurtured me, encouraged me and pushed me to make the most of my time in Monmouth. My friends helped me to feel like I belonged. Coming from Brooklyn, NY, I was in culture shock. There are housing projects in NY with larger populations than Monmouth. I have favorite stories for each one. The Black families like the Brooks and Burdicks also looked out after us. We attended their church and had home cooked Sunday dinners.
Dean Jean: After learning that she had called each of the families of our white roommates to make sure they were OK with their daughters rooming with Black girls, the four of us confronted her in her office. We asked why didn’t she call our parents to ask if they were ok with their daughters rooming with white girls? Without missing a beat, she looked at us and said, “You’re absolutely right! I will never make that mistake again.” So it really was a confrontation that didn’t happen. We were bummed, wanted to take over her office, like the college students at Columbia and University of Chicago.
The Rev. McClanahan took a bunch of us to Chicago. I don’t even remember why. We just had fun. He was a gentle spirit and a man of God. Always willing to actively listen without judgement.
Professor Mannon: I’d sign my papers “Black is Beautiful,” and he’d return them corrected with the sign off “Pink is Pretty.”
Professor Hurh would share his stories about being Asian in Monmouth. After one of his children was born, he noted that the birth certificate listed her ethnicity as white. He told the person it was wrong, his baby was Mongoloid. The person responded, “Oh no, Dr. Hurh, she’s normal.” Back in the day, children with Downs syndrome were labeled “mongoloids.”
Mary Crow: Just didn’t play, she had high expectations for all of her students. Was not necessarily huggy-feely, but you knew she cared deeply.
Professor Lichtenstein: Best French teacher ever. We had to speak French, read French and write French.
Chair of Education Department: Was so excited to tell me that I was going to be the first student teacher of color at the local school. Distressed when I said that can’t happen – they needed to make arrangements for me to do my student teaching in Chicago because I wasn’t going to teach in a rural setting, and they did. My schools were in the Robert E. Taylor Projects and Beethoven El in south Chicago – you can’t get any more urban than that. This took coordinating with a local professor who would do my observations, and they arranged for housing in the Hyde Park section, which is near the University of Chicago.
I learned how to slow down and live while at Monmouth. I knew I didn’t want to teach in a big city like Brooklyn, and that’s how I ended up in Seattle.
Do you have any advice for the senior class?
We come to this planet at the time and era that most needs our talents and creativity. Some are born knowing their purpose and the pursue it almost from day one. Others of us try a lot of different things throughout our life times and that is our purpose as well. I was a late bloomer within my field. I spent most of my years honing my craft as a teacher, supervising teacher and demonstration teacher. The last 7 years as a principal and helped two different school transform into high-performing schools. I am now an equity consultant and author for Corwin Press.