University of Dayton shares Erma Bombeck with the world


DAYTON, Ohio – Erma Bombeck made people laugh at their foibles, put words to their lives. This year, on what would have been her 75th birthday, the University of Dayton shares her gift with the world via the Erma Bombeck Online Museum (

For three decades, Bombeck celebrated the extraordinary in the ordinary and chronicled life’s absurdities in a syndicated column carried by 700 newspapers prior to her death of kidney disease in 1996.

Dayton grad. She never forgot that she got encouragement as a writer at the University of Dayton, where she graduated in 1949 with a degree in English. Two years after the Bombeck family announced that they would donate Erma’s papers and artifacts to her alma mater, the University of Dayton is sharing part of the collection via the Internet. contains dozens of photographs, including Erma at age 9 in a tap-dancing outfit and shopping with Phyllis Diller on Rodeo Drive.

Samples of Erma’s writing include her typewritten remarks from the university’s 1982 writers’ workshop and eight columns written as a college student. More than 20 audio and video clips reside in the museum. They include Erma describing how Dayton English professor, Brother Tom Price, S.M., encouraged her to write, and memories shared by Erma’s family and friends, such as Phil Donahue, Bil Keane, Mike Peters and Liz Carpenter.

Inspirational. “The online museum makes Erma’s life story accessible to millions of fans and aspiring writers,” said Tim Bete, co-director of the Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop

“Many items were not previously accessible to the general public.”

March 9 fete. The museum will be formally unveiled at the March 9 Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop at the University of Dayton.

More than 20 prominent humor writers, human interest columnists and editors will speak at the sold-out event, which has attracted more than 250 attendees from 28 states and Canada.

Talk show pioneer Phil Donahue will join Bill Bombeck, Erma’s widower, in telling their favorite Erma stories. Donahue lived on the same street as the Bombeck family early in his career in Dayton.

In all, the University of Dayton has planned three days of tribute to Bombeck, including an award ceremony for winners of the annual Erma Bombeck Writing Competition and a dedication of the Bombeck Family Learning Center.


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