In a talk given at BYU, President Gordon B. Hinckley quoted Phillip Brooks when he noted, “How carefully most men creep into nameless graves… while now and again one or two forget themselves into immortality.”
I was impressed tonight to see a bunch of colleagues honor a local man who has done just that. Tapie Rohm was the founding chair of the department of information and decision sciences at Cal State San Bernardino in 1987. That department is now one of the most recognized schools/departments to the nation’s government as it pertains to cyber security and forward thinking high tech. Most people that live in Riverside and San Bernardino don’t realize that about this local program.
Well… there was Tapie Rohm, at the beginning of it all for that program. He literally hired the people that made that department what it is today. If you worked with Tapie, you knew that he was a Mormon… and the best kind of Mormon. He’s the kind of guy that has lost himself in the service of others. Tapie hired a man named Walt Stewart… also a Mormon, who happened to be serving as the chair of this department when I wandered into his office looking for some help. Walt was a healthy and strong man when I met him. I was a 25-year-old returned missionary, trying to figure out what to do with my life. All I knew was baseball in my pre-mission life, and that wasn’t really an option going forward. So I went to school to become a CPA in order to take over my Dad’s CPA firm. Deep down however, I couldn’t envision a life of t-accounts, debits, and credits.
When I walked into Walt Stewart’s office, he did what Tapie Rohm had been doing with students for many years. He listened to my passion for technology and then urged me to go for it. I changed my major, and followed my passion into the Department of Information and Decision Sciences. In subsequent classes, I remember sitting in Dr. Rohm’s classes and thinking to myself, “This guy is teaching us about technology by using the core principles of the gospel.” No one else realized where he was pulling his wisdom from, but I recognized Rohm’s faith oozing from his every word… and his every deed. What I learned in those classes shaped the sort of businessman I am today, and played an indirect but key role in my methods for sharing the gospel with the world through online media.
Rohm forgot himself in the service of others for decade after decade as he taught at the University. You can see in the video below that this was true. Everyone knew that Rohm was a Mormon, and everyone respected him and his faith. That is member missionary work at its finest. But what many of his non-member colleagues didn’t realize, was that Rohm was either up before dawn teaching seminary and institute year after year, or serving the YSA’s at night and on weekends as their bishop. Now he serves as the regional public affairs director. He never got paid for his lack of sleep, time preparing lessons, or the hours of ministration that came with his various callings.
Truly… Rohm took seriously the commission from Joseph that we “should waste and wear out our lives in bringing to light all the hidden things of darkness.” (D & C 123:13) He has become immortal to me because he served me. Very simply… that’s what he did for everyone. Served them. And if you’d like to gain a measure of earthly immortality in the lives of others, that is truly the only way to go about it.
The last time I was at CSUSB, I was in Rohm’s office and he was helping me with a startup project I was working on. We went down the hall to see his good friend and the man who helped me switch majors, Walt Stewart. I didn’t recognize Walt until I looked in his eyes. Six years of battling cancer had ravaged his body. Walt passed away few months ago.
Today, Tapie taught his last class at the University as he retires to fight his own battle with cancer. Undeterred… this brother is looking the brutality and unfair circumstances of life dead in the face and not backing down. He continues to serve and I expect that he will serve as hard and as long as he can.
When I saw this video tonight of his colleagues honoring his constancy of purpose, I couldn’t help but key into the kind of influence a person can have as an emissary for Christ just by quietly, honorably, and consistently serving others.
If you have the time… listen to the words of his coworkers in this video, and you’ll see why member missionary work is the most effective way we have to share the gospel with the world.