His big laugh and bowties may not be present at the University of Mary Washington much longer, but a decision at today’s Board of Visitors meeting ensures that Associate Vice President and Dean of Student Life Cedric Rucker’s legacy will live on in the heart of campus.
The UMW Board voted today to name the University Center – the four-story hub of student activity on bustling Ball Circle – the Cedric Rucker University Center.
Rector Heather Mullins Crislip ’95 said of the decision, “Cedric Rucker has had an indelible impact on thousands of Mary Washington students and alumni. He made us better people and inspired us to live lives that are authentic, pursue justice and seek to deeply understand each other. I can think of no other person who perfectly defines the Mary Washington ideal than Cedric.”
The renaming goes into effect upon Rucker’s official retirement on June 24, 2022, more than four decades after he arrived on Marye’s Heights in 1977 as an undergraduate who’d go on to study sociology and weave himself into the fabric of Mary Washington.
The first African-American male graduate to live in the residence halls, Rucker soaked up campus life, joining the anthropology club, working at the library and radio station, and forming unbreakable bonds with his classmates.
“Mary Washington just felt like mine,” he said during a recent interview.
President Troy Paino noted, “Since his arrival on campus almost 45 years ago, Cedric Rucker has dedicated his life to making the Mary Washington community better. UMW is a more caring, compassionate and inclusive place because of him, and this is a fitting tribute to honor that legacy.”
As a junior, Rucker enrolled in a graduate program at the University of Virginia, where he later earned a master’s degree, began a doctoral program and took a job in Admissions.
He made his way back to his first alma mater in 1989, becoming Mary Washington’s dean of student activities, a position he held for nearly a decade, before moving on to his longtime role as dean of student life. In these roles, he has breathed immeasurable vitality into campus, serving as an energetic and consummate supporter of students.
As an adjunct faculty member for 33 years, Rucker taught sociology to hundreds and hundreds of undergraduates, and worked with his colleagues to create enlightening courses, like Ethnic Studies, designed to bring inclusivity into the classroom.
All this while he was regaling the UMW community with annual rituals that lifted spirits and fostered a sense of connection and caring. Every year, he hands out Halloween candy dressed as Winnie the Pooh, helps soon-to-be grads adjust their regalia, and simply shows up – for the arts, for athletics, for the students.
A relationship-builder, Rucker is also a collector of antiques and all things “Mary Washington.” And he’s a world traveler, having peered into the Grand Canyon, hugged the giant sequoias, climbed inside the Great Pyramid, stood on the ground in Hiroshima, gone on safari and visited the Great Wall of China. And that’s just for starters.
Upon retirement, he plans to join the Peace Corps, once again wielding his unstoppable energy far away from Mary Washington.
But Rucker will always be at UMW in spirit, with generations of future students reading his name every day when they enter the Cedric Rucker University Center to share meals with their friends, meet with their clubs and keep campus life moving … just like he has.
“I’m stunned,” Rucker said through tears at this morning’s meeting, where he received a standing ovation. “It’s because of the level of engagement of this community that I’m able to dedicate myself to the success of the students and to the success of this institution.”
In honor of Dean Rucker’s upcoming retirement, the UMW Alumni Association will offer a dollar-for-dollar match – up to $5,000 – for gifts made April 5 during Giving Day to the newly formed Cedric B. Rucker ’81 S.O.S. (support our students) Fund. The endowment will be used to support students with unexpected and life-altering emergencies.
Suzanne Van Ness says
Congratulations Cedric!! How wonderful they chose to award you this honor during your lifetime so that you can fully enjoy this well deserved accolade. Thank you for all you’ve given to the Mary Washington community❣️
Cathy Finn-Derecki says
Very, very proud to have known Dean Rucker. He is a force of nature. This is well-deserved, and a beautiful legacy for a man who has dedicated his life to the students at Mary Washington.
Gary Veeder says
I have a graduating senior granddaughter this year. She and I often talk about UMW. Many of those talks included Dean Rucker. First I said he is as crazy as me. In my mind this evolved into “That is one amazing person”. I could not think of a better honor than to name a building after him. Dean Rucker thank you for special connections to YOUR students. This grandparent knows this first hand from our granddaughter.
Janet J. Cropp says
Congratulations, Cedric. What a wonderful way to acknowledge all you have done for Mary Washington and its students! Wish you the best.
Kevin McCusty says
Congratulations, Cedric, on your well-deserved retirement after many wonderful years of improving lives at your beloved UMW. This is a great honor and fitting tribute. But “Cedric Rucker” was already immortal at UMW! Godspeed, my friend.
Michelle I Rucker says
To a wonderful and amazing big brother. I am so proud of you for all of your accomplishments and achievements. Mom and dad are looking down and Smiling. As Mom would say, that’s my Cedric. You have truly worked hard for this. I love you!!!
Sandy Slusher Smallwood says
Wow, so honored to have been just one year ahead of you as class of 1980 and attended while you were a student where you were well known and making differences back then! congratulations and best wishes in your next chapter
Dana Hall says
Congratulations Cedric! Such a very deserving honor bestowed upon you! I am proud to have worked with you over your tenure at MWC/UMW.
Best wishes to you and your next chapter in life!❤️🦅
Suzanne Liotta Whelchel ‘90 says
Congratulations!! You started at UMW my senior year and Monday I will bring my high school senior for a tour. What a legacy you leave and what a fantastic and deserving honor. I wish you much luck in your retirement and great adventures in your next endeavor.
Becky Ericson says
Congratulations Cedric! Your love, care, and enthusiasm have rippled out farther than you know. No better name for a place where students gather. This is perfect. And I am so glad you could celebrate with that strawberry pineapple shake!
Doug Cureton says
Wow! What an amazing tribute for all of the wonderful contributions you have made to the students and community at UMW! I am so very proud of you my dear friend!!
Cindy Cherisier Bridges says
So well deserved! This recognition brought tears to my eyes and filled my heart with joy for you. It is wonderful to read about you receiving this honor. Cedric, you have sown love, dedication, compassion, loyalty, fun and most importantly laughter into MWC/UMW. Today, Dean Rucker, you received your flowers! I am one of the lucky ones who had the opportunity to be your student and later a friend. Enjoy the next chapter of your life, Cedric and may God continue to bless you and keep you safe.
Dr. Cynthia S. Brown says
Congratulations, Cedric! So very, very proud of you and this amazingly deserved honor and awesome legacy! You are loved!
Donald Rallis says
Congratulations, Cedric on a great honor, richly deserved!
Mark Scott says
Congratulations! What a fitting capstone to a distinguished career. I still remember you cutting through the lobby of Westmoreland to or from Hamlet…
Vicki Ravenel says
Cedric, there is no one more deserving of this honor. You arrived at MW the same year I graduated, so I did not have the pleasure of getting to know you until my MW chapter on the AAB Board began. I’m just so grateful for the opportunity over the last 8 years to connect with you and for the privilege of calling you my friend. Your contributions to our beloved University are myriad and your legacy at MW will be deeply engraved always. Vicki Ravenel
Honored to have had some time overlap with Cedric at the College. Thanks for all you have done for students and for our Alma mater!
nazre bad ki dua says
Congratulations, Cedric on a great honor, richly deserved!
John Coski '81 says
You’ve done the 1977 Madison Men proud, Cedric. Congratulations — and thank you.
William L. Helton says
Congratulations Cedric on this well-deserved recognition, and now, we know that no matter where you go, you will aways be on campus. With best wishes and pride, Bill and Cindy Helton
Brian Williams says
Cedric congratulations on this great recognition. I remember when we met my freshman year back in 1979 and I’ve continued to see your support of the school. Best wishes on your new endeavors.
Betsy Dake says
Oh, Cedric!! I’m so thrilled for you!!! What a well-deserved honor for so many years of service. I’ll always remember writing notes back and forth with you in the Reference Library notebook during the 2 years we worked there. You were such a wonderful friend!
Doreen Warner says
With no connection whatsoever to Mary Washington, it has simply been a privilege and a joy to have called you my friend for thirty years, give or take. I am so very proud of that and look forward to following the next chapter of you enriching the lives of others. This world would be a far better place if there were only more like you.