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JCC professor to retire after nearly 42 years

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Jefferson Community College speech professor Richard F. Young will teach his last class Monday, ending a 41-year career in which he became the longest-serving campus member in JCC’s history.

Mr. Young graduated from JCC in 1968 with an associate degree in liberal arts before moving on to SUNY Geneseo to obtain a bachelor’s degree in speech and communications.

When a JCC professor quit abruptly before spring semester 1971, Mr. Young was called to interview for the position.

“It was a temporary position for spring only,” he said. “As it turned out, I was the only one willing to take it on a full-time basis.”

James E. McVean, JCC’s first president, told Mr. Young that he could keep the position if he could obtain his master’s degree in the next few years while still teaching classes on campus.

For the next two summers, Mr. Young flew to the University of Oregon for its master of arts program. He was able to teach some classes there and started to see some of the differences between two-year and four-year schools.

“I had absolutely no interest in teaching at a four-year school,” he said. “I like the variety and diversity you have here. The blend is really interesting for the quality of education you get.”

Mr. Young said he has taught a 14-year-old, a 76-year-old and many ages in between. While teaching at JCC, he encountered some students who traveled 50 miles to attend each class.

“That creates a much different environment in the classroom and, in my opinion, a different learning experience,” he said.

In the nearly 42 years he has been at JCC, he has applied for only one other job.

“I never had a day I didn’t look forward to coming to work,” he said. “The only time I attempted to leave was when I applied to Blue Ridge Community College” in Weyers Cave, Va.

Mr. Young said he stayed at JCC for so long because he had more flexibility to experiment. He served as the first humanities chairman and liberal arts dean, and also established the first alumni association.

“I probably wouldn’t have been afforded those opportunities at a four-year school or even some two-year schools,” he said.

Other achievements include the inaugural Distinguished Alumni Award in 1989, the SUNY Alumni Honor Roll in 1994 and the SUNY Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Faculty Service in 2006.

Mr. Young has served on numerous committees on campus, including the panel that planned President Carole A. McCoy’s inauguration in 2007.

He said the class he’ll miss the most is the one he has the most experience teaching.

“I taught public speaking every year. I have a great affinity for that class,” he said. “I see people develop and grow and realize the limits they set upon themselves become much higher.”

Mr. Young said he hopes he is remembered not just for his work ethic, but also for his effectiveness in teaching. He said he has spoken to former students who said his classes have made them better people.

“They realize that when they finished one of my classes that it wasn’t just a class in communication,” he said. “It taught them lessons in life.”

Mr. Young’s next stop is the Hounsfield Town Council, to which he was elected in 2011.

“Certainly, there have been the barriers and breakdowns that come with any career, but I’ve been very happy here” at JCC, he said.

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