Mary Washington’s University Center is four stories and 100,000 square feet, but a new name is about to make it even bigger.
“Today we are celebrating two giants,” Vice President for Student Affairs Juliette Landphair said Sunday at UMW. “One of the giants is behind me, the University Center. The second giant, of course, is Cedric Bernard Rucker.”
The structure’s new moniker becomes official when Rucker retires later this month as associate vice president and dean of student life. That means the central campus building dedicated to student success will bear the name of the man who’s devoted his life to that goal.
It’s a story decades-long in the making. Arriving on Double Drive as an undergrad in 1977, just as institutions of higher education began accepting more students of color, Rucker was the first African-American male graduate to live in a residence hall. He quickly became an integral part of campus culture, immersing himself in clubs, activities and organizations.
“All these doors opened, and Mary Washington just felt like mine,” said Rucker who majored in sociology and went on to earn a master’s degree at the University of Virginia, where he began his career before returning to his first alma mater in the late ’80s.
His 33 years at UMW – as professor of sociology, and as dean of student activities and student life – have come with myriad achievements and accolades. He’s collected countless awards and appointments across the community and the commonwealth. But it’s the care, compassion, energy and enthusiasm he’s brought to generations of students that have made him a Mary Washington legend.
So, under bright skies and brushed by a delicate breeze, city officials, former students, and members of the UMW faculty, the Fredericksburg region and Rucker’s family gathered to honor him at the end of Reunion Weekend. Here, in order of their presentations, are excerpts from their words about the iconic dean.
- Vice President for Student Affairs Juliette Landphair: “What a blessing for Mary Washington that it has been Dean Rucker who has led the experience for decades of students.”
- Board of Visitors Rector Heather Crislip ’95: “One of the most extraordinary people I’ve ever met. As students, he trusted us to make big decisions and learn from our mistakes.”
- President Troy D. Paino: “He makes the deep respect and kindness he shows everyone look easy. If the measure of a life is how much you are loved, you’ve lived quite the life.”
- Fredericksburg Mayor Mary Katherine Greenlaw: “The positive energy that is Cedric Rucker extends beyond these walls and this campus. Wherever he is, his infectious enthusiasm changes the climate for the better.”
- Associate Professor of Sociology Tracy Citeroni: “The manner in which he lives his fierce principles is instructive for us all. We must dedicate ourselves to ensuring that the spirit of Mary Washington synonymous with Cedric continues.”
- Former UMW Chief Diversity Officer Sabrina Johnson: “With Cedric in the room, one was assured of deep expertise, balcony-level thinking. There could not be a more suitable tribute. Well done, University of Mary Washington.”
- Attorney Andrew Painter ’02: “No individual has loved Mary Washington more consistently, more intensely and more sincerely.”
- Former SGA President Jason Ford ’20: “I look forward to seeing everything Dean Rucker will do with the Peace Corps. I know he’ll continue to change people’s lives for the better.”
- Rucker’s youngest sister, Diane Rucker: “We, your siblings, are sure that you are leaving an indelible mark on every student at UMW. We’re so proud of you.”