Tracy Romano, a 1986 graduate of Saint Michael's College, Executive Vice President of Research and Zoological Operations for Mystic Aquarium in Connecticut, was inducted into the Saint Michael's College Alumni Academic Hall of Fame in ceremonies at the Vermont college on September 28, 2012.
Romano was cited for having pursued a career at the highest level of research science. "By studying the health and safety of dolphins, beluga, and bowhead whales, Romano has profoundly advanced understanding of human disruption to the sea habitat of these marine mammals," the citation said.
"With a resume of scientific research supported by over $1 million in grants and documented in a 20-page resume of journal publications and presentations, Dr. Romano has advanced understanding of these magnificent sea mammals immeasurably."
Founder of the field of marine mammal neuro-immunology
Tracy Romano earned her Ph.D. in neurobiology and anatomy from the University of Rochester in 1993. She was awarded a postdoctoral fellowship with the U.S. Navy Marine Mammal Program in collaboration with Scripps Research Institute in San Diego. Romano joined Mystic Aquarium in 2004. As leader of Mystic's research team, Romano is a founder of the field of marine mammal neuroimmunology.
The citation stated, "We are proud that Dr. Romano's Saint Michael's experience has led to such great heights. Her achievements are truly exceptional. Saint Michael's College is extraordinarily pleased to claim Dr. Tracy Romano as a graduate. We are humbled by her accomplishments and we applaud her!"
Tracy Romano reflects on her Saint Michael's experience
In response, Romano reflected on her Saint Michael's experience. "I am constantly reminded of my experience at Saint Michael's College," she said, "as I live my life even now 25 years later."
She said Saint Michael's affected her in three ways; it gave health in mind, body and spirit.
"I learned to calculate the molarity of a solution in chemistry," and I learned how to "truly appreciate the golden doors on the baptistery" when I visited Florence, Italy. At Saint Michael's, she said, "The teachers, challenged us to think for ourselves, yet were always there to guide, help, instruct - and inspire". She cited her continuing relationship with Emeritus Professor of Biology, Dr. Dan Bean, who inspired her then, and inspires her now, as a teacher, with his contagious passion for the subject matter.
Cross-country runner for St. Mike's and for Zaf
She said she learned much during her four years as a cross-country runner. "When I am faced with challenges in my life to this day, I still hear the words of my coach Zaf Bludevich (SMC Associate Director of Athletics) saying: 'c'mon Romano, get up this hill, work the hill Romano, you can do it'".
During one particularly grueling practice, Romano said, "Despite how exhausted I was, I knew if Zaf believed I could do it, then I better give it a shot... and I ended up running an even faster time for that last quarter than what he had asked for," she added. Running cross-country at Saint Michael's inspired her to be a x-c country coach today, she said. I try to inspire as Zaf inspired me and teach the kids self-confidence, self-esteem and to believe in themselves. "Believe it or not I even throw in one of Zaf's old jokes now and then."
Speaking of health in spirit, Romano said, "When I was at St. Michael's I remember hearing about some prime real estate that the Edmundites owned in a place called Mystic, Connecticut." Before long she was a visitor to the St. Edmund's retreat at Mystic, and "what a special gift this has been," she said. "To be able to attend mass there, spiritual retreats, special events; to know and learn from Father Tom (Hoar, SSE), to be reunited with Saint Michael's alumni and to see there on occasion, Father Mike, Father Berube and others from the Society of St. Edmund (founders of Saint Michael's College) and from Saint Michael's community..."
Romano closed with heartfelt thanks for her Saint Michael's College education.