May 25, 2022

Beloved UMW Tradition ‘Devil-Goat Day’ is Back!

A uniquely UMW tradition brought an electric vibe to campus yesterday, with the revival of Devil-Goat Day. “It’s the first time back since the pandemic,” said senior Carleigh Rahn. “There’s a new energy.” Music was pumping on Jefferson Square, where a sea of students dressed in red (Devils, who graduate in odd years) and green […]

Eagle Awards Celebrate Campus Leaders, Dean Rucker

University of Mary Washington senior Brianna Reaves was presented with the Grace Mann Launch Award during the annual Eagle Awards last Thursday. Held in person for the first time since the pandemic, the event honored more than a dozen campus leaders in the University Center’s Chandler Ballroom. A newly established award was presented to Cedric […]

UMW’s ‘Bee’ Leaves Audiences Spellbound

U-n-e-x-p-e-c-t-e-d. Unexpected. Definition: unforeseen; surprising. Used in a sentence: University of Mary Washington Theatre’s season-closer, The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, is filled with UNEXPECTED and fun twists. In a battle of spelling prowess, this musical spells out what it’s like to be kids uncomfortable in their own skin and conveys the challenges of […]

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.

Renovated and Ready: Virginia Hall Welcomes New Students

For Terrie Gladney Hoelscher ’78, Virginia Hall meant Friday night singalongs at the parlor piano, cramming into the second-floor phone booth and gliding down stairs on a mattress. “She has good bones, and so much character,” Hoelscher said of the building she and generations of undergrads have called home for more than a century. “My […]

Eagles Soar During Virtual Awards Ceremony

University of Mary Washington senior Jessica Lynch received the Grace Mann Launch Award during the Eagle Awards ceremony, held virtually last night. Student leaders and outstanding campus organizations were honored at this annual event, presented by the James Farmer Multicultural Center (JFMC), Student Activities and Engagement, and Center for Community Engagement. Juniors Amber Brown and […]

UMW update on outdoor crowd size gatherings

The following message is from the Dean of Students:

As students at UMW continue to diligently practice our risk-mitigation guidelines and as the Governor of Virginia begins to increase allowable crowd capacities, we have decided to expand from 10 to 25 the number of people who can safely gather in an outdoor setting. Of course, masking and social distancing still will apply. Also, indoor gathering capacity remains at 10.

We are calling this MMDC 10/25. Our hope is that, as the weather improves, this will lead to more fun activities outside with friends. We also are looking at some organized entertainment, such as outdoor movies. We’ve all been cooped up too long!

Even so, it is imperative to remember that this pandemic is still rampant. Although the number of vaccinated individuals is on the rise, it remains critical to continue wearing a mask, maintaining a six-foot physical distance, and limiting indoor gatherings to no more than 10 people.

Our seniors who are on track to graduate are counting on the entire community being ultra-vigilant in the weeks ahead so that there will be the opportunity for in-person commencement events in May. To do this, we must avoid any spikes in COVID cases. Please commit to MMDC 10/25.

Thank you, and enjoy the balance of this semester.

Dean Rucker

UMW Plans Return to a Reimagined Campus

Like so many things in the wake of COVID-19, a definition in the Urban Dictionary will need to change. “Bench sitting”in that publication is currently defined as: “Leisure activity unique to University of Mary Washington, where one or more students observe the activities and/or listen to the conversations of others while sitting on a Campus Walk […]

Livestream Session Addressed Return-to-Campus Culture

Faculty and staff attended a live Q&A webinar via Zoom yesterday, as the state entered Phase 3 of the governor’s “Forward Virginia” reopening plan. Called “Commitment to Community,” the session focused on how the University will help students prepare for and commit to behavioral and social expectations and requirements when they return to campus next month.

UMW Chief of Staff Jeff McClurken moderated the livestream event, which featured panelists Vice President for Student Affairs Juliette Landphair, Associate Vice President and Dean of Student Life Cedric Rucker, Assistant Dean for Residence Life and Housing David Fleming, and University Physician and Director of the Student Health Center Nancy Wang.

“We know how much our students want to come back to campus,” Landphair said. “They want to resume their holistic Mary Washington experience as much as possible.”

Landphair explained that establishing a culture of compliance – an environment that encourages adherence to sound public health principles and a purposeful intent to prevent the spread of disease – is a “gating requirement,” or prerequisite to re-opening. In that vein, UMW’s Return to Campus Plan will be submitted to SCHEV for approval and shared with campus on Monday, July 6.

The plan, panelists said, focuses on moving forward the core mission of Mary Washington and builds on existing codes of conduct, as well as the University’s statement of community values, known as ASPIRE.

“We don’t want to see a situation where individuals feel stigmatized in any way,” said Rucker, who has spent the past several weeks speaking with incoming students. “That’s why ASPIRE is also important. We want to celebrate everyone but also make sure that everyone is committed to ensuring that the academic process moves forward as smoothly as possible.”

Students, faculty and staff will be asked to complete training modules focused on “MMDC” – monitoring, masking, distancing and cleaning – and all individuals must pledge to uphold the guidelines.

Among their many questions, employees who tuned in to the hourlong session asked how faculty and staff will be expected to enforce behavioral guidelines, how claimed health exemptions to regulations will be handled and how the University is collaborating with city officials.

The Return to Campus Plan will address many of yesterday’s topics of concern, such as quarantine and isolation, testing and tracing, and communication of positive cases, McClurken said. If questions still exist after reading the document, he encouraged employees to restate them at next week’s livestream Q&A event on Wednesday, July 8, at 3 p.m., via Zoom or YouTube.

Watch yesterday’s Q&A below.