September 24, 2022

University Center Naming Celebration Honors Rucker

Upon the retirement of Dean of Student Life Cedric Rucker next week, the University Center will officially bear the name "Cedric Rucker University Center."

Upon the retirement of Dean of Student Life Cedric Rucker next week, the University Center will officially bear the name “Cedric Rucker University Center.”

Mary Washington’s University Center is four stories and 100,000 square feet, but a new name is about to make it even bigger.

“Today we are celebrating two giants,” Vice President for Student Affairs Juliette Landphair said Sunday at UMW. “One of the giants is behind me, the University Center. The second giant, of course, is Cedric Bernard Rucker.”

The structure’s new moniker becomes official when Rucker retires later this month as associate vice president and dean of student life. That means the central campus building dedicated to student success will bear the name of the man who’s devoted his life to that goal.

It’s a story decades-long in the making. Arriving on Double Drive as an undergrad in 1977, just as institutions of higher education began accepting more students of color, Rucker was the first African-American male graduate to live in a residence hall. He quickly became an integral part of campus culture, immersing himself in clubs, activities and organizations.

“All these doors opened, and Mary Washington just felt like mine,” said Rucker. Read more.

Rucker Wins Spotlight During UC Naming Celebration

Associate Vice President and Dean of Student Life Cedric Rucker

Associate Vice President and Dean of Student Life Cedric Rucker

Associate Vice President and Dean of Student Life Cedric Rucker caught some media attention centered around the naming celebration to recognize the University Center’s new name – the Cedric Rucker University Center – upon Rucker’s retirement next week. During his decades-long career, Rucker’s big personality, strong standards and compassionate demeanor have led him to leave a bit of a legacy on campus. Read more:

Trailblazing Dean to Be Honored at the University of Mary Washington (NBC 4)
Walking around the campus of the University of Mary Washington with Cedric Rucker is like walking around with a celebrity.

University of Mary Washington renames campus hub to honor trailblazing dean (The Free Lance-Star)
University of Mary Washington renames campus hub to honor trailblazing dean (Culpeper Star-Exponent)
Watch Now: UMW University Center renamed in honor of ’81 grad (Roanoke Times)
A 1981 University of Mary Washington graduate who never ventured far from his alma mater was honored Sunday morning during a ceremony in which the school’s bustling University Center was renamed in his honor.

From humble beginnings in Richmond to a stellar career–and a university building named in his honor (Richmond Times-Dispatch)
The grand, four-story hub of student activity at the University of Mary Washington has a new name: the Cedric Rucker University Center.

 

 

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University Center Naming Celebration Honors Rucker

Mary Washington’s University Center is four stories and 100,000 square feet, but a new name is about to make it even bigger. “Today we are celebrating two giants,” Vice President for Student Affairs Juliette Landphair said Sunday at UMW. “One of the giants is behind me, the University Center. The second giant, of course, is […]

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UMW Renames Campus Hub in Honor of Longtime Dean

His big laugh and bowties may not be present at the University of Mary Washington much longer, but a decision at today’s Board of Visitor’s meeting ensures that Associate Vice President and Dean of Student Life Cedric Rucker’s legacy will live on in the heart of campus. The UMW Board voted today to name the […]

Cedric Rucker: His Majesty the Dean

A groggy haze hung over Marye’s Heights when Dorm Mother Mrs. Fee, still in her bathrobe, opened the door to Madison Hall. She slid on her glasses to sum up the freshman who stood on the porch, the first in his class to arrive, well before Move-In began: “Eager.”

Beloved longtime UMW Dean of Students Cedric Rucker, known for fastidiously helping soon-to-be grads with their regular year after year at Commencement, will retire in June.

Beloved longtime UMW Dean of Students Cedric Rucker, known for fastidiously helping soon-to-be grads with their regalia year after year at Commencement, will retire in June.

More than four decades later, Associate Vice President and Dean of Student Life Cedric Rucker is still proving her right. As a student, he wove himself into Mary Washington’s fabric as its first residential African-American male. As a faculty member since the late 1980s, he’s brought direction to students, inclusiveness to the classroom and energy to campus.

“Mary Washington is a part of me,” said Rucker, who’s known for handing out Halloween candy as Winnie the Pooh and lovingly aligning Commencement regalia for soon-to-be grads. “Relationships have been integral to my ability to not only be successful but to enjoy the journey.”

And what a journey it’s been.

Arriving from his hometown of Richmond just as higher education began admitting more students of color, Rucker found few faces like his on campus. Rather than throw in the towel, he threw himself into college life, campaigning his heart out for class council publicity chair.

“I lost the race, but I met the entire first-year class,” said Rucker, who joined the anthropology club, worked in the library, deejayed at WWMC radio station, and joined water balloon fights, toga parties … and panty raids. “All these doors opened, and Mary Washington just felt like mine.”

He majored in sociology – a subject he’d go on to teach – and, as a junior, enrolled in a graduate program promoting diversity at the University of Virginia, where he later earned a master’s degree, started work on a Ph.D. and took a job in Admissions.

Rucker arrived as a student at Mary Washington in 1977. After a stint working in Admissions for UVA, where he received a master's degree, he returned to his first alma mater.

Rucker arrived as a student at Mary Washington in 1977. After a stint working in Admissions for UVA, where he received a master’s degree, he returned to his first alma mater.

Then, a life-changing event – the murder of his partner – shattered his world, shuffled his priorities, and led him to travel, volunteerism … and, in a way, back to Double Drive. “Life is too short,” he said. “You can think about accomplishments, but you also have to think about happiness.”

Through 33 years as Mary Washington’s dean of student activities and student life, he’s organized Orientation, ruled over Residence Life, kick-started the curriculum and collected a bevy of community honors – all in his signature bowties and over-the-shoulder sweaters. All while putting students first.

“I never wanted to be the dean that sat behind a desk and pushed out edicts,” said Rucker, who plans to retire in June and join the Peace Corps. “I always wanted to be immersed in the student experience.”

Q: What’s a typical day on the job?
A: There is no typical day. It’s the rhythm of a university campus. Most important is being flexible and agile enough to address university issues as they come forward. Students in crisis take precedence.

Q: What’s most rewarding about your work?
A: The people of this community. Our faculty and staff are committed to ensuring the best possible outcomes for those who call this campus their home. Our students are amazing, creative, innovative. They push back. They’re committed to making sure this institution represents them.

Q: Most challenging?
A: Time. There are so many things I’d like to do, programs I’d like to attend, sporting events, lectures, exhibitions. Students like it when you show up for them, when you’re there to celebrate them. But you can’t do it all. I invest whatever time I can and try to be present.

Known for his astute attention to every facet of student life, Rucker has traveled the world and amassed an extensive array of Mary Washington memorabilia. Upon retirement, he plans a stint in the Peace Corps.

Known for his astute attention to every facet of student life, Rucker has traveled the world and amassed an extensive array of Mary Washington memorabilia. Upon retirement, he plans a stint in the Peace Corps.

Q: How has your job changed through the decades?
A: The complexities of the institution have changed. Mental health issues have significantly impacted what we do. There are homeless students, students struggling to cover the cost of their education, students needing community resources. I spend a lot of time helping students begin conversations with faculty, navigate the institution, and finding those things that will allow them to actualize their dreams, desires and aspirations.

Q: What’s something people would be surprised to learn about you?
A: I’m an introvert who knows how to behave as an extrovert.

Q: Any mottos you live by?
A: For me, it’s always been the golden rule. I learned that as a kid.

Q: After so long at UMW, how do you want to be remembered?
A: People will have different things they remember. I hope any reflection is an honest one, and I hope it’s something that for that person is positive.

In honor of Dean Rucker’s upcoming retirement, the UMW Alumni Association will offer a dollar-for-dollar match – up to $5,000 – for gifts made April 5 during Giving Day to the newly formed Cedric B. Rucker ’81 S.O.S. (support our students) Fund. The endowment will be used to support students with unexpected and life-altering emergencies.