University of Mary Washington Associate Vice President for Student Affairs and Dean of Student Life Cedric Rucker ’81 has been recognized for his dedication to promoting diversity and inclusion.
NASPA, a leading association for the advancement and sustainability of the student affairs profession, awarded Rucker its Region III Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Award. The honor is reserved for senior student affairs professionals who have shown a deep commitment to advancing these values throughout their career.
“It’s a great honor,” Rucker said of the award. “Mary Washington has been the sort of place that has allowed me and other members of the community to do things to bring about change. It’s a symbol of all that Mary Washington has accomplished over the course of time.”
Much has changed, Rucker said, since 1977, when he arrived on campus as a freshman, the first African-American male student to move into the residence halls. Since then, UMW has embraced diversity, he said, and has become more vocal about celebrating it. Rucker earned a master’s degree at U.Va., where he served briefly as assistant dean of admissions, before returning to UMW. His infectious laugh, signature bow ties and sincere concern for students’ well-being have endured through the decades, endearing him as a beloved administrator and sociology professor.
In a letter supporting Rucker’s nomination for the award, Mary Washington Professor of History Allyson Poska called him “a critical force on campus,” known for “transforming student life through his remarkable ability to build strong organizations for underrepresented students.”
Poska, who also lauded Rucker for “engaging with faculty to ensure a diverse, inclusive curriculum,” was among UMW faculty, staff and alumni who submitted letters of recommendation.
“Cedric is perpetually in motion,” wrote UMW Board of Visitors member Heather Mullins Crislip ’95, a Richmond-based civil rights attorney. “In my days at Mary Washington, he was instrumental in ensuring that it was an inclusive, open and supportive environment.”
In response to an email from Crislip, thanking him for his guidance, Rucker returned the credit to all UMW alumni and students. “Each of you has had the most magnificent impact on my life …,” he said. “If we are all at some point willing to share the bounty of our talents with others, we can make our communities better places and enhance the humanity in all of us.”
NASPA received a record number of nominations for this year’s Excellence Awards, which cover 11 categories crucial to the success of students and growing the student affairs profession. Region III encompasses Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia; Mexico, Bulgaria, Taiwan and Japan; and several Caribbean islands, and African and Middle Eastern countries.
NASPA will present Rucker’s award at its summer symposium in June. For more information, visit the NASPA Excellence Awards web page.