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College Classmates: Marine vet and daughter attend SMU together

University holds luncheon honoring the 170 veterans currently enrolled at SMU

Thomas Kromis and Annie Kromis
Thomas and Amie Kromis
See the Fox 4 News story. video

November 9, 2012

By Philip Haigh
SMU News

DALLAS (SMU) – When SMU senior Amie Kromis leaves her Political Communication seminar in Dallas Hall, her father is waiting outside the door for her. Retired U.S. Marine Corps Master Gunnery Sergeant Thomas Kromis isn’t just there to spend some time with his daughter – he is on his way to class himself.

Thomas transferred to SMU this fall as a junior combining credits from undergraduate courses he took while in the Marine Corps. A career Marine, Thomas served 21 years in numerous countries, including Japan, Egypt, Jordan, Israel, and Norway.

“We didn’t have the traditional father-daughter relationship when Amie was growing up,” Thomas says. He and Amie’s mother divorced early in Amie’s life, so Amie lived with her mother in Nashville, Tenn., while Thomas’ military duties took him all over the world.

“Whenever we wanted to see each other it took a lot of work and it took a lot of money,” he says.

SMU Luncheon Honors Vets

Retired Navy Admiral Patrick Walsh addresses a Veterans Day luncheon at SMU

DALLAS (SMU) –SMU military veterans were honored at a Nov. 7 luncheon featuring keynote speaker Patrick Walsh, a retired U.S. Navy admiral and senior fellow in SMU’s John Goodwin Tower Center for Political Studies. There are currently 170 veterans enrolled at SMU.

SMU representatives collected toys and care package items at the event to donate to the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve and U.S. military service members. SMU’s Office of the Provost, the Cary Maguire Center for Ethics & Public Responsibility, the Division of Student Affairs and the Central University Libraries joined to honor SMU’s military veterans.

“We truly appreciate the tremendous contributions of our U.S. Armed Forces service members, and it is a privilege to honor our SMU faculty, staff, students, and family members who have served and sacrificed so much so that we may live in freedom,” said Lisa O’Donnell, Office of the Provost representative.

Patrick Walsh is a retired U.S. Navy admiral and senior fellow in SMU’s John Goodwin Tower Center for Political StudiesWalsh recently served as commander of the U.S. Pacific Fleet. Prior to that assignment he served as vice chief of naval operations and as special assistant to the director of the Office of Management and Budget as a White House fellow. He also has chaired the Department of Leadership, Ethics and Law at the U.S. Naval Academy and directed the Navy Quadrennial Defense Review. Walsh began his career as a naval aviator and flew with the Blue Angels. His career awards include two Distinguished Service Medals, the Defense Superior Service Medal, four Legion of Merit Awards and two Meritorious Service Medals.

Rita Kirk, director of the SMU Maguire Center for Ethics and Public Responsibility; Daniel Cross and Ken Larsen of the U.S. MilVets of SMU; and David Wood of the Cox Veterans in Business also spoke at the ceremony.

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Despite the physical distance, Thomas was a part of Amie’s life. “He always sent letters from countries he visited and thought of clever souvenirs,” Amie says. “He sent bottles of sand from all the countries in the Middle East.”

Amie began attending SMU in 2009, the same year Thomas retired from the Marine Corps and moved to Dallas.

“I still wasn’t able to spend much time with her, because she is just so involved,” Thomas says. But when he received the admission letter from SMU in 2012, he knew that would change. Thomas is one of 170 veterans attending SMU. He receives G.I. Bill benefits along with the SMU Opportunity Award and the Tuition Equalization Grant.

Amie is a resident assistant at Boaz Hall, an SMU ambassador, a moderator for the Tate Lecture Series and recently received the All University John L. Freehafer Award for demonstrating an interest in student life, activities and government.

Thomas also maintains a packed schedule. The applied physiology and sport management major works full-time as head of personal training at Life Time Fitness in nearby Flower Mound and attends class on his two days off.

“I call him Mr. Superman,” Amie says. “Whenever I feel like I need to complain about schoolwork, I think of my dad and feel humbled. Everything that he has gone through, and he is still pursuing this degree.”

This fall, Amie took on another campus role – passing along to her father SMU insight about professors and courses.

“It was so exciting to share my academic experience with him,” Amie says. “I suggested he enroll in a class with one of my favorite professors, Rita Kirk.”

Thomas and Amie walk together on Tuesdays and Thursdays across the main quad until they part ways toward their respective classes.

“Just the ability to go have dinner together on a weekday… it’s a big deal,” Thomas says. “I don’t take this relationship for granted.”


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