By Morgan Geyer, ’19

School of Professional & Continuing Studies (SPCS) professor Dr. April Greenan was awarded the 2019 Itzkowitz Family Distinguished Adjunct Family Award, which recognizes adjunct faculty members who challenge students to be better thinkers, organizers, students and persons. Along with this award, Greenan was selected to deliver a speech to the class of 2019 at SPCS Commencement Exercises on May 11th. 

Greenan’s career features numerous achievements, publications, and interdisciplinary research relating to the study of music. Greenan holds a Ph.D. in historical musicology from the University of Maryland. While working as an associate professor at the University of Utah, Greenan founded and directed the McKay Music Library while also directing the Mariska Aldrich Archive, a collection of over 100,000 recordings and historical documents.

In 2002, Greenan began working with Kim Peek, the world's only known megasavant on whom the 1988
movie Rain Man was based. Greenan discovered that Peek possessed extraordinary musical skills and an interest in music that had previously gone unnoticed. Despite his disabilities, by the time of his death in 2009, April had helped Peek learn to play the piano with both hands even though he could not button his shirt or brush his teeth. 

April’s work with Peek led to an interest in music and healthcare and ways in which 21st-century
physicians can apply music to comprehensive patient care, a topic she currently writes and lectures on. Upon marrying a University of Richmond professor, she relocated to Richmond and began teaching in the School’s Master of Liberal Arts program where she continues to lecture on music and medicine. 

When Greenan learned that she had been selected to give the adjunct faculty commencement speech to SPCS students, she was honored and challenged by the opportunity. “It’s so exciting to have a few minutes to say to them whatever I think is most important about life and education and their futures, but it’s so difficult to choose from that pool,” expressed Greenan. 

Despite the challenge of presenting relevant and valuable advice to a diverse audience, Greenan delivered an inspiring (and memorized) speech to the class of 2019, a class which features students of wide-ranging life circumstances and experience.

In her speech, Greenan thanked all of those who supported SPCS graduates along the way, emphasizing the sacrifices they made so that their loved ones could accomplish their educational goals. Greenan also noted the ways in which SPCS students comprise a diverse group: “the different ages, different cultural and social backgrounds, you’re in or preparing for different professions, and you’re at different stages in your lives,” she observed. 

Greenan celebrated this diversity and remarked how despite these differences, SPCS students welcome, support, and take an interest in one another. “We see that you learn more and better when you work together. You are a model of civilization. Please take this model and show it to the world. Show the world how to get along with people,” encouraged Greenan. 

Greenan concluded her speech with three pieces of advice: encouraging students to look critically at their lives, beliefs, and behaviors in order to live what Socrates called “the good life”; urging graduates to practice civility, and inspiring them to be lifelong learners. “Do these things, my friends, and you will live the good life, which is what I wish for each of you,” concluded Greenan.