Professor takes pride in students
Bob Trumpbour has authored three books, contributed to multiple news publications, including the Mirror, worked in broadcast operations for CBS in New York City and served as professor at several colleges.
When asked what makes him most proud, however, Trumpbour talks about his students’ accomplishments — not his own.
“I’m just proud of the fact that I’ve helped a lot of people move in incredibly positive directions,” Trumpbour said, explaining he taught students who have won Emmy awards and played in Super Bowl games and have excelled in their careers and personal lives. “Just the laundry list of people I’ve taught, and what they’ve accomplished is amazing. When you work closely with folks and they become really good at stuff, it’s so rewarding.”
Trumpbour, 60, is an associate professor of communications at Penn State Altoona, but he began his college teaching career in 1985 at Saint Francis University, where he earned an undergraduate degree in English in 1979.
Trumpbour didn’t set out to become a teacher. His first love was writing, though he said never aspired to write the “great American novel,” either.
He was more infatuated with news, sports and journalism, which is how he landed his first job at CBS after finishing his graduate degree at Western Illinois University.
“It was probably one of the most miserable times in my life. I was looking for a job in media in the New York metro area, and I’m trying to cut into the industry,” Trumpbour said. “I got rejected by CBS about a half dozen times before I got hired by CBS as a file clerk. I was doing no writing. I knew it was a part-time position.”
Trumpbour then moved into broadcast operations at CBS, where he often worked big events, like the Super Bowl, the World Series and presidential elections. He also helped with the coverage of the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster.
In 1985, he wrapped up his decade-long career at CBS as broadcast operations supervisor.
“New York City was great, but it can be a tough place to work,” he said. “I enjoyed broadcasting, but the crazy personal schedule, the fast pace and constant deadlines can be tough.”
Return to Saint Francis
So, he headed back to Saint Francis, where he became the alumni director. During this time he met his wife, Jill, who was a graduate assistant at the time, though the two didn’t marry until 1998. They have three sons — Luke, 17; David, 14; and Nathan, 10.
Upon meeting Trumpbour, Jill was instantly struck by his kindness and generosity.
“He’s like one of those guys who would do anything for you,” she said. “I would say he is the nicest person I ever met in my life. He would do anything for us or really anybody.”
Realizing he wanted to teach, he went back to earn his doctorate in mass communications at Penn State University. When working toward his Ph.D., Trumpbour taught classes at Saint Francis and then later at Penn State Altoona.
During this time, Trumpbour also began contributing to the Mirror’s sports opinion page.
“If you want to get into teaching, you have to get a Ph.D.,” Trumpbour said. “I had plenty of experience in communications, but you need your Ph.D. You need to know theory and how media affects things.”
After earning his doctorate, Trumpbour landed a professorship at Southern Illinois University, so he and Jill moved to Illinois for two years. After that short stint in Illinois, the couple moved back to Blair County when Trumpbour was hired as an associate professor of communications at Penn State Altoona, where he remains today.
Colleagues describe Trumpbour as a favorite with students and faculty members because he is resourceful, kind-hearted and a great listener.
“He is well known for his attention to detail and his concern for his students and colleagues. He will devote his time and efforts to ensure that a student’s degree program will work out or that a colleague’s proposal will be approved,” said Shaheed Nick Mohammed, associate professor of communications at Penn State Altoona. “Beyond his professionalism and dedication, we all know and cherish his humanity and his kind and gentle nature. Bob is a friend to all and a champion to those in need.”
Meets future co-author
It was at Penn State Altoona where Trumpbour met his friend Kenneth Womack. The two would later co-write their latest book (published in 2016): “The Eighth Wonder of the World: The Life of Houston’s Iconic Astrodome.”
Womack, now the dean of humanities and social sciences at Monmouth University in New Jersey, was serving as associate dean for academic affairs at Penn State Altoona when he met Trumpbour.
“I was immediately struck by Bob’s good-natured attitude and positive approach,” said Womack, explaining the two became friends, and often talked about writing a book together. The idea of writing about the Astrodome came about as the 50th anniversary of the stadium approached.
“We had toyed for a long time with the notion of writing about the Astrodome, given his place as a leading scholar about stadiums and sports culture, as well as my background as a native Houstonian and longtime Houston Astros fan,” Womack said.
Trumpbour had always been infatuated with stadiums. His second book, “The New Cathedrals, politics and media in the history of stadium construction,” was published in 2007.
The Astrodome was especially intriguing to both Trumpbour and Womack because it transformed the city of Houston. It was state-of-the-art for its time and influenced the building of numerous other stadiums and structures across the country, including Altoona Curve’s Peoples Natural Gas Field.
“I wrote my dissertation on stadiums and how the media is immersed in stadium building. I really had a passion for figuring out the stadium issue and why as a culture we are preoccupied with these sports edifices,” Trumpbour said. “The Astrodome was the first huge multipurpose stadium that reveled in luxury. It was a game changer for stadiums. It was a facility that actually changed the way we thought about spectatorship.”
Womack, however, had an even more personal connection to the Astrodome, considering his grandfather was the structural engineer on the project.
“He was responsible for several of the engineering innovations that keep the building standing tall into the present,” Womack said.
The two spent about two years working on the book, which was published a year after the 50th anniversary of the Astrodome. Though they slightly missed their deadline, Trumpbour is glad they took the time to make the book thorough, accurate and entertaining.
“It appeals to sports enthusiasts, sports historians and historians in general about architecture and engineering,” Womack said.
Writing the book was a rewarding experience, Womack and Trumpbour both said. Their strengths complement one another, Womack said. While Womack is extremely adept at producing text, Trumpbour is a master researcher, Womack said.
The two agreed they may write a book together again sometime in the future, but Trumpbour said he doesn’t dwell on the future. Instead, he tries to focus on the present, take opportunities as they come and enjoy life with his family and at his job.
When his mother, Virginia Trumpbour, passed away in October at age 86, Trumpbour realized how quickly life passes, and that you have to make the most of every moment.
“You don’t know when your time’s up,” he said. “When you have opportunities, you’re going to have to take them. As a teacher, you have a unique opportunity to help other people and shape and model their lives.
“Whether you’re here or not, your legacy is when you’re teaching, if you are a good teacher. What I would hope for more than anything is to have a positive influence on the young men and women that I work with both in the classroom and within the community.”
THE TRUMPBOUR FILE
Hometown: Born in Queens, N.Y. Raised in Sea Girt, N.J.
Current residence: Duncansville
Family: Wife, Jill; sons Luke, 17, David, 14, and Nathan, 10.
Education: Undergraduate degree from Saint Francis in 1979 and a graduate degree from Western Illinois.
Noteable: Author of three books, the latest about the Houston Astrodome.