Outgoing school dean Jim Narduzzi addresses graduating students during SPCS Commencement Exercises

May 12, 2015

When Dean Narduzzi took the podium to address graduating students of the School of Professional and Continuing Studies, he did so in typical style: He made a joke at his own expense.

After reeling off history-making commencement addresses he found conducting Google searches for inspiration — for the record, these addresses were George Marshall’s 1947 address laying out the Marshall Plan and John F. Kennedy’s 1963 outline for world peace in the face of the Cold War — Narduzzi admitted he was not likely to make so historical a speech. “All of that is quite interesting but not very helpful to me in crafting my remarks. So I will spare you trying to be profound and just make this personal.”

The next few minutes represented a rare personal glimpse into what motivated Narduzzi during his 21 years as SPCS dean.

First and foremost, SPCS Commencement is his favorite of all the university’s events because each diploma earned affirms his belief in the power of education for adults and working professionals.

“For me, that moment, when I get to shake each one of your hands, has always been a special moment,” he shared with the graduating students and guests. “That moment is powerful for me because of what it represents — the affirmation of all that I believe in and the opportunity to be part of a dream fulfilled.”

Second, the opportunity to serve as dean allows him to lead the University in making the remarkable resources of the institution accessible to the community, an honor afforded few deans because few schools like Richmond offer a professional and continuing education unit that local students can attend.

“You may not know this,” he shared with those in attendance, “but we are the only top 50 liberal arts university that has a separately organized school of continuing education. That’s a choice that this University makes, and it’s a choice that is now embedded in the very fabric of this place.”

Third, the tenacity of adult students is a quality he both admires and respects. Throughout his remarks Narduzzi recounted stories that SPCS students have shared over the years. Of a student who took pride in the affirmation of a professor after working hard to improve. Of a student who named the entire faculty of a program as having an impact on his life. Of the countless students who forego free nights and weekends to come to class several evenings a week. Of the students who spend years finishing a degree. Each story reflected his admiration for students and alumni of SPCS who tenaciously work to complete their degrees.

“To be an adult student means that you’ve got to want it bad,” shared Narduzzi. “I am constantly awed by your tenacity and uplifted by your success.”

Narduzzi concluded his remarks with a wistful look at what the moment of handing a diploma to a student walking across the stage means — a moment that, in a time warp worthy of Star Trek, encompasses all the other moments and all the other feelings he shared in his address.

“That moment represents for me all that makes the SPCS so special. So I hope that each of you will celebrate it and revel in it. And I want you to know that I am so very grateful to have been given the opportunity to share that moment with each of you. And so very, very fortunate to have been a part of this great School and this great University. Let me state, for the record and one last time, how proud I am to be your dean.”

As Narduzzi steps down as dean, he’ll start a year-long sabbatical followed by a return to SPCS — this time as an adjunct professor teaching more of those students he so deeply respects and appreciates.