University of Michigan
News for Faculty and Staff

May 25, 2018

Obituary: John H. Romani

August 11, 2015

Obituary: John H. Romani

Topic: Obituaries

John H. Romani, professor emeritus of public health administration in the School of Public Health, died July 8 in Ann Arbor. He was 90.

Born in Milan, Italy, in 1925, he was raised in Milford, New Hampshire, and after military service in World War II, received his Bachelor of Arts and Master of Arts degrees in government from the University of New Hampshire in 1949. He earned his Ph.D. in political science in 1955 from the University of Michigan. 

He was a postdoctoral fellow at the Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C., then worked at the Cleveland Metropolitan Services Commission and taught at Western Michigan University and the University of Pittsburgh before coming to U-M as associate professor of public health in 1961. He was promoted to professor in 1965 and named professor emeritus of public health administration in 1993.

Throughout his 30-plus years on the U-M SPH faculty, he served in a variety of administrative capacities, including assistant dean (1962-66), associate dean (1966-69), first chair of the Department of Health Planning and Administration (1975-1980), and interim chair of the same department in 1991. He also served briefly (1969-71) as vice chancellor of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

“Simply put, John Romani had a constant desire to get things working well and he used his public administration skills to advance the academy, government, and countless organizations,” said Martin Philbert, dean of SPH. “John was more interested in seeing good ideas put into practice than in having his name out front, a concept that he imparted to his students.”

He was known statewide and nationally for his many contributions to public health.  He consulted frequently with local, state, national and international health organizations, and played a key role in the development of Michigan’s first and current Public Health Code in the late 1970’s. He chaired the working group that laid out the organizational structure of state and local public health, clarifying responsibilities and funding sources and creating a structure that became a model for health departments nationally.

Toby Citrin, who chaired the governor’s public health code commission, said, “John’s role in writing the code extended far beyond the work group he chaired.  He made sure that all of the components of the code, developed by different groups, were knit together in a consistent, well-coordinated document — the largest single piece of legislation in the history of the state.”

Among his other professional activities, he was president of the American Public Health Association and chaired the committee that led to the formation of the public health school accrediting body, the Council for Education in Public Health.

A committed classroom teacher, he continued, after his formal retirement from U-M in 1993, to teach both at SPH and in the U-M Program in the Environment.  His post-retirement years were also taken up with research on issues of population and health in South Africa, where he and his wife, U-M Professor Barbara Anderson, spent time each year from 1999 on, working with colleagues there.

“John was a leader in the field of public health administration, but in many ways it was his second act — his post-retirement career — that gave him his most pleasure, and clearly his greatest productivity as a scholar,” said Professor Ken Warner, a colleague and friend. “With Barbara, he delved into research and writing in a way he never had earlier in his career.”

Romani is survived by his wife, Barbara Anderson; his sons, David (Betty) of Durham, North Carolina, and Paul (Theresa) of Beltsville, Maryland; a stepdaughter, Theresa (Arun Rajmohan) of Arlington, Virginia; and three grandchildren. He was preceded in  death by his parents, Henry A. and B. Hazel Pettengill Romani; his sister, Cynthia; and his former wife, Nina.

A wake will take place 5-8 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 16, at Muehlig Funeral Home. A funeral service is planned at 3 p.m. Monday, Aug. 17, at St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church in Ann Arbor. In lieu of flowers, memorial gifts can be made to one of the following activities with which he was involved: The Public Health Special Scholarship Fund at the U-M School of Public Health (, Breakfast at St. Andrew’s (, or the Class of 1948 Endowed Scholarship at the University of New Hampshire.

— Submitted by Terri Mellow, School of Public Health