Posted: June 29, 2020

Our students, faculty and staff extend our sympathy to the family of Charles Peter 'Pete' Romaine, who died on June 26 at the age of 70. While Romaine retired from Penn State in 2012, his research continues to positively impact the mushroom industry in the U.S.

Charles Peter Romaine

Charles Peter Romaine

Charles Peter "Pete" Romaine, a leader in mushroom cultivation and biotechnology, died June 26 at the age of 70 in his home. 

Born July 5, 1949, in Bronx, NY, he was the son of the late Charles Peter and Dorothy Polchinski Romaine. He is survived by his wife, Carolyn Sweed.

Also surviving are four daughters, Tammy Davis and her husband, Darrin, of Purcellville, VA, Lisa Cummings and her husband, Tim, of York, PA, Kristina Bryan of State College and Laura Coho and her husband, Chris, of Port Matilda; two siblings, Dorothy Marion and her husband, Dan, of Canandaigua, NY and Arthur Romaine and his wife, Dori, of Hawthorne, NY; eight grandchildren, Madison, Shannon, and Paige Davis; Ella and Charlie Cummings; Max Bryan; and Ava and Connor Coho. In addition to his parents, he was preceded in death by a sister, Marilyn Eaton. 

Romaine joined the Department of Plant Pathology and Environmental Microbiology in Penn State’s College of Agricultural Sciences as an assistant professor in 1977. After 35 years of teaching plant virology and conducting research on commercial mushrooms and plants, he retired in 2012 as Swayne Chair Emeritus of Mushroom Biotechnology and Professor Emeritus.

He received his bachelor’s in general agriculture, master's in plant pathology and doctorate in plant pathology/molecular virology from Cornell University, Ithaca, New York.

He advised more than 30 graduate students during his career and was thought highly of by undergraduate and graduate students alike. Romaine, along with his students, visiting scientists and technicians, developed methods for molecular analysis of viral and fungal pathologies of the mushroom in the understanding of mushroom genetics, gene structure and function. 

Romaine founded and served as Chief Scientific Officer of Agarigen, a company dedicated to the use of Agaricus bisporus for recombinant expression. He also served as a principal investigator overseeing a multi-year Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) contract, as well as technical editor of the Mushroom News publication. 

He was also a member of the Good Shepherd Catholic Church where he was involved with the Back Pack Ministry and Out of the Cold program. His service work continued outside of the church at the Discovery Space in State College, Pennsylvania, where he donated and volunteered.