In Memoriam: Edmund S. Rumowicz

With profound sadness, the Department of English announces that Edmund S. Rumowicz, Class of 1957, and longtime benefactor and supporter of the Department, the College of Arts and Sciences, and the University of Rhode Island, passed away on Sunday, July 16, 2017. Mr. Rumowicz was 86.

After an impressive career in the textile industry and a lifelong passion as an intrepid sailor, Ed Rumowicz and his wife Nathalie established an endowment in 1993 to commemorate his keen interest in literature and nonfiction writing about the sea.  Thanks to their generosity and that of his sailing partner, Commodore Henry Anderson, URI, via the Department of English, offers a seminar each year on the literature of the sea, hosts special event programming, and holds an undergraduate essay competition on nonfiction writing about the sea.

The endowment has also sponsored area colloquia for scholars of oceanic humanities at the John Carter Brown Library and at URI; supported the presence on campus of poets and writers whose work contributes to the traditions of maritime literature; and awarded scholarships to the winners of the Rumowicz Maritime Undergraduate Essay Contest to participate in the annual Ocean State Writing Conference. Mr. Rumowicz took special delight in seeing years of winning undergraduate essays published in two volumes, Writings About the Sea (2003) and Writ on Water (2015). The volumes stand as testimony to the vitality of student engagement with the sea, oceanic literature, and the maritime environment at the University of Rhode Island. Hundreds of students across the University of Rhode Island have benefited from these programs and a generation of scholars and writers have been supported through Ed’s vision.

Mr. Rumowicz also chaired the campaign for the construction of URI Sailing Pavilion located in Wakefield, RI and dedicated in 1992. The facility’s outdoor deck, overlooking the docks and Salt Pond, is named in his honor. He remained an avid supporter of the URI Sailing Team.

Born in 1930 in Gloucester, Massachusetts, Mr. Rumowicz described the sea as being a key element of his life. His mother’s family earned their living in the fishery of Georges Bank, between Cape Cod and Cape Sable Island, Nova Scotia. His father spent his life in the U.S. Navy, serving from 1917 to 1946. As befitting such forebears, Mr. Rumowicz was a lifelong sailor who served in the U.S. Navy during the Korean War and was a member of the New York Yacht Club.  Like Melville’s Moby-Dick, which has long inspired other writers, artists, and musicians to create their own works of art out of their encounter with the book, Mr. Rumowicz has encouraged our community’s continuing imaginative and physical engagement with the sea through gifts such as those to URI Sailing and to the English Department.

Mr. Rumowicz attended De La Salle Academy in Newport, RI. Though his education was interrupted by his naval service, upon his return, he graduated from the University of Rhode Island and studied law at Temple University (Class of 1959). He was first employed by the DuPont Company and subsequently worked for Burlington Industries in Executive Marketing positions from 1960 to 1987. In 1988 he became a founding partner of Galey & Lord, which became the largest producer of apparel textiles in the world. Flirting with retirement, he then moved to Florida but shortly thereafter in 1993 returned to the workplace as an executive of Garment Corporation of America, a major producer of work clothing. Most recently, Mr. Rumowicz served as Vice President of International Sales for Hinson & Hale Medical Technologies, a North Carolina based manufacturer of surgical textiles.

When he no longer sailed his own boat, he maintained his ties to the sea as an active member of the New York Yacht Club and by supporting the sport of sailing, advocating for oceanic literature and humanistic study, and through his own writing about the sea. Mr. Rumowicz wrote historical fiction, told amazing stories of his sailing pursuits, had a marvelous sense of humor and sharp intellect.  He will be missed by all who had the pleasure of knowing him.

Edmund S. Rumowicz is survived by his wife, Nathalie; his children, Ann & Alan Henning, Mary Strickland, Ed Jr., Gregory, Carolyn & Michael Fernandez, Raymond and Debra (nee Genereux); and his beloved grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

His obituary appeared in the Miami Herald on July 21, 2017. A funeral mass was held on Saturday, July 22nd at Saint Joseph Church in Davie, FL.

Mr. Rumowicz’s life and legacy will be remembered by the University at the Spring 2018 Edmund S. and Nathalie Rumowicz Lecture on Literature of the Sea (details forthcoming).

— Travis D. Williams, Associate Professor and Chair of English &

— Martha Elena Rojas, Associate Professor and Director of the Edmund S. and Nathalie Rumowicz Endowment in Literature of the Sea