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It Takes a Village
Dr. Jack Call, Criminal Justice Department
Submitted on the occasion of his retirement in Spring 2020
When Matt invited me (and other retiring faculty members) to write a “valedictory speech,” I admit that I was somewhat taken aback. As a political scientist, I immediately thought of George Washington’s Farewell Address when he left office and Dwight Eisenhower’s famous address about the dangers of the military-industrial complex when he left the presidency. Of course, I knew I couldn’t produce anything so memorable, and it seemed almost presumptuous to speak to colleagues about lessons learned from nearly forty years as a college professor.
I ultimately decided to accept Matt’s offer because I realized it gave me the opportunity to do something I very much wanted to do – to say “thank you.” Those of you who know me well, are aware that my decision to retire has been a very difficult one. In fact, three or four years ago I actually submitted a retirement letter in the spring, indicating that the next academic year would be my last. Then August rolled around, and I found myself eagerly looking forward to being back in the classroom. It seemed foolish to retire when I felt that way, so I asked the interim Provost, Joe Scartelli, if I could withdraw my letter. (I’m not sure which of Joe’s stints as interim Provost this was; I’ve lost track). My decision not to retire was based on my love for teaching and for the interaction with students.
The more interesting question is why did I spend nearly all of those years here at Radford? After all, there are a multitude of universities where I probably could have enjoyed teaching and interacting with students. Why stay here all that time? The answer to a question like that is nearly always based on several reasons. The New River Valley is a nice place to live; my wife had purchased a veterinary practice; and her extensive family lived not far away. Our sons were less than a year old when we moved here, and Deb and I wanted them to experience what family means. (And they did, believe me).
But one of the very important reasons I stayed here so long is because of what this university has meant to me. Colleagues, administrators, and students have treated me well and shown me a level of respect that I doubt I earned. I was given opportunities to serve in leadership roles in the Faculty Senate, the development of two university strategic plans, and two NCAA-required self-studies of Radford’s athletics program. I have taught students (like you, I suspect) who have remained in contact with me long after graduation.
But even all that was probably not enough to make me want to stay here. Radford has been a special place for me because of the way we approach our task here. We value teaching above all else, and that means we place a very high value on students. We also are a tolerant group. What I mean by that is that we respect the right of each faculty member to approach the task of teaching in the way that works best for that person. I have known many colleagues who have become convinced that a particular approach to teaching is ideal, but not one of them has ever said that I am cheating my students if I failed to adopt that approach. That’s special – to value teaching, to feel strongly about what works best in teaching, but also to respect how others approach their teaching, even when it is different from one’s own approach.
I also leave full-time teaching at RU with great hopes for the future of the university. Like all universities, Radford faces extremely trying and challenging times ahead. I believe that we have the best leadership at the highest levels of the university that we have had in my 34 years here. But it will take more than that leadership to maintain Radford as the special place it has been for me. That is up to all of you. I wish all of you Godspeed on that journey. Even in retirement, I will do anything I can to help you along the way. Good luck and thanks for all you have done for me!