Campus marks passing of Phil Romero, former Lundquist dean

Phil Romero

Philip Romero, former dean and longtime faculty member in the Lundquist College of Business, has died at age 62.

Romero’s death Aug. 24 at Oregon Health & Science University hospital was “completely unexpected,” said his widow, Lita Flores-Romero.

Romero served as dean of the business school from 1999-2004, overseeing record-setting fundraising efforts and construction of Lillis Business Complex, the now iconic building with the big O that overlooks the Memorial Quadrangle. After his deanship, he remained on the college faculty, teaching finance, macro and micro economics, and competitive strategy.

“Phil was always willing to engage in friendly debate and bring forth his ideas and suggestions,” said Sarah Nutter, current dean of the College of Business. “A valued and respected member of this college, he will be sorely missed.”

Romero grew up in East Brunswick, New Jersey. He earned bachelor degrees in economics and government from Cornell University and received master’s and doctoral degrees in policy analysis from RAND Graduate School, part of the Rand Corp. policy think tank.

His professional career included working at Rand Corp. as an associate economist and at United Technologies Corp. as director of corporate strategy. In 1991, he went to work for California Gov. Pete Wilson as chief economist, later serving as chief deputy cabinet secretary and acting director of the Office of Planning and Research.

He was, in his own words, an operations troubleshooter on issues of the economy and business climate.

“If it’s big and complicated, we give it to Romero and he fixes it,” Wilson once said, according to Romero’s bio page.

“His major strength was understanding a wide variety of different topic areas and synthesizing them to explain and come up with original ideas,” Flores-Romero said.

In 1999, he was hired as dean of the Lundquist College of Business. He decided to move into academia because he felt his strategic and economic background would be a good match for what the UO was looking for in a business leader, Flores-Romero said.

As a faculty member and teacher, “He was always concerned about his students learning, about conveying complicated ideas and disentangling them into pieces his students could digest,” said professor John Chalmers, head of the college’s Department of Finance.

“He was always inquisitive and always the first one to have his hand up to ask questions,” Chalmers added. “He unfailingly had a positive view on life. He was a pleasure to be around.”

Romero authored and co-authored numerous books, including “It’s the Income, Stupid: The Seven Secrets of a Stress-Free Retirement,” and wrote many op-eds for a variety of publications.  

Romero is survived by Flores-Romero, his wife of 35 years and a Lundquist College alum, and his brother, Paul Romero.

A memorial service is planned for 1 p.m. Oct. 5 at Harvest Community Church, 8215 NE Quatama St., Hillsboro. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to Harvest Community Church.