On Sunday, December 15, 2013, I awakened at the usual time of 5:30 a.m., quickly reviewed my electronic appointment book to check my “to do” list for the day, which included attending Sunday church services with family, preparing lunch with my wife, Silvana, Italian-style, completing outdoor Holiday decorations, calling Fresno’s Superior Court to report for Jury Duty; somehow they always know when someone is about to retire, and last but not least, composing my “last lecture”, or more accurately described as my “last official E-mail message” to reach my friends and colleagues across America before they take a well-deserved break for the Holidays.
I have been writing E-mails of all lengths and content for several years now. I believe this medium has served me well to communicate casual, as well as serious information, inform students about their lessons and grades, and share positive and at times difficult and sensitive news. Therefore, I firmly believe that my last official message, “lecture”, communication, or whatever one wishes to call it, should be in the form of an E-mail message. I can just hear many of you now: “Thank goodness this is the last one!”
Brace yourselves; here it is!
California State University, Fresno has been my professional home for the past eight years; post-retirement time, after spending 33 and one half years in the Central San Joaquin Valley of California public schools –Fresno Unified, Central Unified and Sanger Unified School Districts, as well as State Center Community College District, where I held various educational responsibilities. I started teaching, Spanish and Italian, and after 11 very rewarding years, working with middle school, high school and community college students, I was given the privilege of teaching and mentoring adults, by serving in various school site and district office administrative roles until my retirement in 2004. Little that I know many years before (1959) at the age of 12, when I left my beloved family and my native Lucca, Italy, that my life’s journey would present me with such incredible experiences.
I never attended Kindergarten; therefore I cannot claim “everything I ever needed to know I learned in Kindergarten.” I can easily say, however, that I have learned most of what I needed to know from the personal and professional experiences referenced above. I truly believe learning is a life-long process, and as I approach my last days of employment with California State University, Fresno and The Renaissance Group, I am confident my learning will continue after this second retirement, officially concluding 43 years of public services in the most important profession in the world, education. And I will always remember the quote, “students do no care how much we know, until they know how much we care.” The past eight years, spent with amazing colleagues and friends at California State University, Fresno (Fresno State) and in The Renaissance Group, have shaped the culminating chapter of my professional life in ways I will never forget. I believe that is when I started relying more and more on E-mail communication and video teleconferencing to conduct organizational business, given members of The Renaissance Group, and friends and colleagues from TECSCU, AACTE and AASCU and other educational partners were located in various colleges, universities and organizations across America.
I am forever grateful to Fresno State’s leadership, including Dr. John Welty, now President Emeritus, and to his administrative and staff support team; Dr. Paul Beare, Dean of the Kremen School of Education and Human Development, and his incredible administrative team, comprised of Dr. Jim Marshall and Dr. Sarah Lam, not to forget the Kremen School’s faculty, as well as the most amazing and supportive clerical and technology staff to be found anywhere. These remarkable colleagues and friends have supported me with academic development, and the work I have been privileged to complete on behalf of The Renaissance Group (Fresno State has been the home of the Executive Office of TRG for the past eight and one half years). While serving as Executive Director of The Renaissance Group, I was also supported with continued teaching opportunities, and have been a proud member of the Kremen School’s ERA Department, teaching and serving students as adjunct faculty and advisor to students completing the Master of Arts Degree in Education, Educational Leadership and Administration – Higher Education/Middle Leaders Pathway. My experiences in the ERA Department, led and mentored by Department Chair, Dr. Ken Magdaleno, and Program Coordinator, Dr. Linda Hauser, supported by an outstanding team of faculty and staff, serve as a constant reminder that quality teaching and learning extends beyond elementary, middle and high schools, and that our post-secondary work dedicated to preparing future professional educators can and does contribute to life-changing experiences for students in all of our schools. The students from the various EAD 261 (Introduction to Administration) courses I have taught, the students I have had the pleasure and privilege to advise in Fieldwork, Research Projects and Theses courses, and the exceptional colleagues, in and outside of our universities and in local school districts, with whom I have exchanged ideas and compared instructional notes, have been incredible master teachers. Thank you, dear friends and colleagues; you have been some of the best mentors and teachers I have ever had! The future is indeed bright, and our students are in excellent hands thanks to your dedication, leadership and passion for excellence; teaching and leading with words and actions, and most importantly with your hearts.
In a few days, I will retire from Fresno State, and as Executive Director of The Renaissance Group, bringing closure to a very special and productive chapter of my life. The Renaissance Group, the only national consortium of colleges and universities, where Presidents, Provosts, Deans of Education, and Deans of Arts, Sciences and Humanities carry out the noble role for the preparation of professional educators as an all-campus responsibility, in partnership with local school districts, are poised to continue this most important work. Dr. Cathy Barlow, Provost Emeritus from the University of North Carolina, Wilmington, will serve TRG as its new Executive Director, while the University of Central Missouri, under the leadership of Dr. Charles Ambrose, President, Dr. Deborah Curtis, Provost, Dr. Gersham Nelson, Dean of the College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences, and Dr. Michael Wright, Dean of the College of Education will manage the financial aspects of the organization. The “Next Generation of TRG”, as it welcomes its 25th anniversary, will continue to be led by Dr. John Counts, President of The Renaissance Group Board of Governors, and President Emeritus of Western New Mexico University, as well as by the present and future members of the Board of Governors. Thank you Dr. Counts for your leadership, unconditional support of our work and for your friendship. You have been an amazing leader, colleague and friend! You have always believed in TRG, and because of that belief and passion, the future of “The Next Generation of TRG” will continue to be positive and bright. During my educational journey of 43 years, I have worked with several boards of school districts and organizations, but never with one as professional and supportive as TRG’s Board of Governors. This incredible team of colleagues and friends, representing the leadership of member institutions, using Dr. Counts’ description, is the finest “think tank” in the nation! I unequivocally support that statement, referencing almost six years of experience as proof.
Naturally no organization can exist without members, and although TRG’s membership list is not a lengthy one, the trust, dedication and commitment unconditionally expressed by the loyal few is commendable and greatly appreciated. Thank you Presidents, Provosts, Deans of Education, and Deans of Arts and Sciences of member institutions for your continued support and belief in the work of our national consortium. A sincere note of appreciation is also extended to TRG’s partners, whose programs and services, presence, and financial assistance have made possible the Annual Joint Conference held in Arlington, VA, as well as the development of various Signature Projects and services. Thank you, Dr. Mary Gendernalik-Cooper, Dr. Kenneth Witmer, Dr. Katy Heyning and TECSCU, Dr. Sharon Robinson and AACTE, Dr. Chris Kalmus and LiveText, as well as the University of Mary Washington, West Chester University, and California State University, Fresno. If I have omitted anyone, particularly when there are so many outstanding colleagues who deserve recognition, I assure you it was not intentional; simply a sign that retirement is overdue. Thank you for understanding.
TRG’s founders and leaders of this amazing organization would be very pleased about our national presence and contributions to education. For complete details about member institutions, founders and leaders, contributions of signature projects, research, programs and services, please visit www.renaissancegroup.org, TRG’s website, and www.educationalrenaissance.org, the Electronic Journal sponsored by TRG.