ERAU Lost an Eagle

By Kiara Bean, Editor-in-Chief

During my time at Embry-Riddle, I have had many influential professors. One of them was the well-known Dr. Richard Bloom. Unfortunately, he’s not with us anymore, and our paths will never cross again.

            People who were lucky enough to meet Dr. Bloom know what an amazing man he was. One could easily recognize him by his well-tailored suit, fedora, and walking cane, which he often smacked across the board during lectures to make a point.

He had character like no one else. His love of philosophy, dry wit, and cryptic comments were the highlights of each conversation with him. Dr. Bloom was not only a great professor; he was also a very caring person with a big heart. He truly cared about his students and wanted to help them succeed in every way possible.

            I remember the first time I met Dr. Bloom. It was at the Parent/Student/Faculty dinner in Orientation week my freshman year. He was one of the oddest dressed professors there, and he immediately grabbed my attention. I recognized him based on his picture from the faculty website.

            Since I signed up for a class with him that semester, I went to introduce myself. I thought he would give me a minute or two of his time, and we would be done. But I was pleasantly surprised when he spent the next 15-20 minutes having a sincere conversation with me about my studies at ERAU and career goals. Before we said goodbye, he told me he was looking forward to having me in his class. After the conversation, I knew that if it would be possible, I would definitely take more than just one class with him.

Dr. Bloom made such a big impression on me that I knew that I would remember him for the rest of my life. That day, he had to meet a lot of new students and their parents. It was very shocking to me when I walked into the classroom on the first day of class, and Dr. Bloom referenced our previous conversation, which confirmed that he clearly remembered me. From this gesture, I knew that he was really present during our previous conversation and that he cared about me as a person; I wasn’t just another face in his classroom.

Dr. Bloom was available to his students not only during classes, but also during office hours. I had the honor of seeing his book-filled office on multiple occasions. Even when I didn’t have anything to ask related to the class, I would often go visit him just to talk. He was the kind of professor that could discuss anything and everything, and I enjoyed our long conversations immensely.

We both had an interest in books, so we often talked about literature. He even shared with his students the story of how he chose his wife: he said that he left her in a room full of books, and since she didn’t run away, he knew she was a perfect match. I am sorry, Mrs. Bloom, that you lost such an incredible partner in life.

I was lucky enough to have two different classes with Dr. Bloom. This semester, I was supposed to take a third one. Unfortunately, it will not happen. In July, I found out that Dr. Bloom had passed away. I was very upset and spent most of that day crying. That’s when I decided that I will honor his memory by writing this article about his legacy and his impact on the ERAU community. I wanted to keep his memory alive, even for students who had not had the opportunity to take a class with him. This is the least I can do for him to try to repay everything that he had done for me.

            I know that I am not the only one who loved and respected Dr. Bloom. I reached out to people whose lives he touched, and I received an overwhelming response. Here is what the ERAU community had to say about Dr. Bloom:

From Dr Frank Ayers, Chancellor, Embry-Riddle Prescott, 2009-2019:

“Dr. Richard Bloom was a good friend, respected colleague, and devoted educator. While neither of us were aware of it at the time, he and I both served together in Operation Sea Signal, the 1995 Cuban Haitian Boatlift, he in Panama with the intelligence community and I in Cuba with the US Air Force as a Camp Commander. When I arrived in Prescott in 2009, Richard was one of the first people I met, and he served as our Chief Academic Officer for over nine years until he returned to teaching in 2018. It was a privilege to be able to work with him again.

Dr. Bloom was committed to Embry-Riddle, to student success, and to the development of the College of Security and Intelligence. As one of the key individuals who had a hand in the college’s creation, Richard’s experience in the intelligence community, his education at Columbia University, and his commitment to Embry-Riddle combined to assure success.

On the lighter side, Dr. Bloom was always accompanied by a copy of the New York Times, which, along with several other national newspapers, he devoured every day. He was the perennial winner of the best dressed faculty award, always wearing a suit and tie on campus. He was especially noted for his “seersucker” summer suits, which our staff humorously said was the official indicator of the arrival of summer on the campus. And Dr. Bloom was famous for his use of complex language and quotations from ancient Greek scholars, some serious and some tongue in cheek!

Richard was a devoted husband, and he and Nancy were a delightful presence when they came to events on campus and in town. Our prayers go out to Nancy and the family. Richard’s passing has left a big hole in our hearts.”

From Dr. Gazica, new Chair of the Psychology Department:

“One of my favorite memories of Dr. Bloom was when he recruited Dr. Andrea Irish and me to participate in a deception exercise for his class. He came to hear our stories, and as he was leaving, he said “you two are more interesting than I thought”. It was hysterical, even though we did not know if it was a compliment or an insult. It didn’t even matter … we were interesting to Dr. Bloom!

He was so well read and cerebral that anytime I had a conversation with him, I was convinced we were talking about two very different things … He had to think me a dunce.

Finally, Dr. Bloom was deeply committed to his students, going out of his way to help them succeed. I had the opportunity to work with him on a capstone project. The student wasn’t doing well and was having a hard time dealing with that fact. Dr. Bloom took it upon himself to call the student to ensure that he was ok and to schedule additional time, during which he would work one-on-one with that student. His dedication was unparalleled.”

From Dr. Bowen, former Chair of the Psychology Department:

“My first introduction to Dr. Bloom was during my job interview to become chair of the Safety Science Dept. He was running a few minutes behind, so I had time to review the NY Times obituaries posted ALL OVER the hallway walls around his office in AC-1. I could NOT figure out what the pattern was – how did he decide whose obit [sic] went on the wall – and more importantly, what is this crazy university where the Chief Academic Officer (CAO) posts obituaries all over a hallway? Stepping into his office was even more strange – the books everywhere. Eventually I thought it was the most interesting office on campus. Mostly because you never knew what Dr. Bloom was going to say in a meeting in there.

Dr. Bloom brought his iPad to every meeting I was ever in with him. He would sit there reading the NY Times on it while campus leadership was going over strategic plans, or problems, or anything else. You’d make the mistake of thinking he wasn’t listening – but then, bam! He’d casually drop some essential question or comment about the whole situation. It was uncanny.

My husband, Dr. Brent Bowen, had the privilege as Dean of Aviation of reporting directly to Dr. Bloom when we first came to ERAU. ‘Mr. Dr. Bowen’ (as students often called him to differentiate us) said that Deans’ meetings with Bloom seemed like “he always had an answer or an idea for anything. When he had a question, it was usually in three parts, and it was always exciting to hear what his next idea was. Sometimes you could understand, sometimes not.” I remember having to occasionally assist in interpreting Dr. Bloom’s obscure historical or literary references for Brent and others!

Richard was one of the few people on campus I ever met who could bounce back and forth with me on classical mythology and history. I used to write him emails in Latin on occasion, just to mix things up since I couldn’t match him for obscure literary and 70s rock music quotes. It was a fun stretch on my mind to talk and interact with him. You had to think more deeply and draw on more knowledge when talking with him. I think that was part of what made him such an outstanding teacher. That, and he embraced technology, and was so excited to teach even introductory Psychology courses – and he never complained. The speed with which he mastered new teaching tech and campus tech astounded me. Anyone who was on a Zoom meeting with him never forgot the absolute entertainment of his backgrounds or dramatic silhouettes. Our best department Zoom meeting may have been the one where we found out he had a dog! Our best in-person department meeting may have been the one where he explained Social Security benefits to us – I guess you really had to be there!

I never met a faculty member at his rank and experience so joyful about working with first year students. Behavioral & Social Sciences (BSS) is a young department – when I was hired at ERAU, Dr. Bloom and I were the ONLY full-time Psychology faculty on campus; he was CAO, and I was running Safety Science. He helped me build the BSS department and hire in all the wonderful faculty who are now there. He worked with me on designing all the psych programs, especially Forensic Psychology. That major would not exist without him – nor would GSIS. He used to regularly raise the idea of bringing GSIS into the BSS department and creating new collaborations between those programs; he saw so many links between them.

One of my favorite things about Dr. Bloom was his suits – I’m sure everyone will mention this. Even the BSS faculty would gently tease about how he was our own personal Groundhog Day icon; we knew when fall/winter was really happening (regardless of the calendar date) because he switched from his white linen suit to his winter charcoal, and spring wasn’t officially spring for us until he returned to his summer whites. He took being in a department full of female faculty making fashion jokes in great stride!

As an academic administrator, a scholar, and a teacher, I didn’t realize how much I relied on Richard until suddenly, he wasn’t there. Dr. Bloom was the anchor of the BSS department, even if the rest of us didn’t always realize how much we depended on him and his guidance. He and I were the only two tenured full professors in Psychology, and he had been there much longer than I was. I went to him so many times with questions about managing people, dealing with the university system, and even career advice. In fact, one time when he was CAO, I told him I’d like to eventually have his job! Guess that wasn’t in the cards, but he was so supportive and such an excellent listener. He made me a better teacher, a better scientist, and a better leader. I regret I didn’t take the opportunity to tell him how big of an impact he has made on my career.”

Dr. Irish, Psychology Professor:

“When I first started at Riddle 5 years ago, Dr. Bloom was the Chief Academic Officer, so I didn’t work as closely with him until he stepped down to teach because the students and their success were truly his passion.

I will never forget the semester that a group of Dr. Bloom’s students asked if I could assist them in an activity in his Deceptions course. Once I had agreed, Dr. Bloom contacted me and another colleague that was also assisting another group in this course. He asked us to come up with either a true or deceptive story, and we were to meet with him to tell him what we had come up with. Needless to say, once my colleague and I explained our either true or deceptive story, Dr. Bloom turned to us as he was getting up to leave the meeting and said, “I gotta say, you are both a lot more interesting than I thought you were.” My colleague and I both looked at each other trying to translate what he meant as he grabbed his hat and cane to exit the office. To this day, I do not think we deciphered exactly what he meant, but I do think that if Dr. Bloom thought you were interesting, then it is a compliment! 

Dr. Bloom was a legend at Riddle, one whose shoes could never be filled by another, and this was shown through the years of service to the University and the incredible commitment and devotion to our students and their success.”

Dr. Bailey, Physics and Astronomy Professor:

“Dr. Bloom had a big impact on me during my 14 years so far at ERAU.  First off, while Dean, he took the recommendation of the search committee and hired me to be Assistant Professor of Physics in 2007, on site, a day I will always remember and a decision I have been grateful for ever since. Second, with his interest in philosophy, he would always ask the physics professors profound questions about quantum mechanics and the like: “What is an electron?  Is it something tangible?”. This would always start a long enjoyable discussion. I always admired Dr. Bloom’s vast collection of books. Finally, Dr. Bloom provided excellent mentorship to me in the beginning of my term as Department Chair in 2017. I will sincerely miss Dr. Richard Bloom, but he will be remembered and his impact felt for years to come.”

Victor Peinado, former student and capstone mentee of Dr. Bloom’s:

“I first met Dr. Bloom in PSY 101. He had a very serious and calm demeanor, but I quickly learned that he had a great sense of humor and approachability. I truly enjoyed all of his classes and teaching style overall. He was someone that truly cared for his students. He would always make time and ensure everyone understood the material. Working on final projects for his classes, you really felt he cared and wanted to help. He would go over the requirements step by step and whatever principles were applied to ensure you got the best quality work you could.

As a senior working on my capstone, I felt honored working with him, and every meeting was always a pleasure; we would go from talking business to making jokes. When I heard about his passing my heart sunk. He had put in so much time that he didn’t need to to work with me on my capstone, and if it wasn’t for him, I would not have put something together to pass onto capstone II. From all his classes and meetings with Dr. Bloom, the biggest thing I learned was he had a big heart and wanted to impart his knowledge to every student he could.

I have not finished the capstone project. This semester, I’ll be putting my best foot forward for him.”

            Thank you, Dr. Bloom, for being in our lives and touching our hearts. You will not be forgotten. Rest in peace.

1. Dr. Richard Bloom. “ERAU for Horizons”

2.  Dr. Bloom in the classroom. “ERAU for Horizons”

3. Dr. Bloom as an expert in terrorism. “ERAU for Horizons”