When SMU senior Amie Kromis leaves her Political Communication seminar in Dallas Hall, her father is waiting outside the door for her. 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 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.
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 and a moderator for the Tate Distinguished 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.”
Written by Philip Haigh