Longtime educator and St. Marys native Richard J. Rupprecht loves being in the classroom-- and his dedication to teaching has resulted in a very prestigious professional acknowledgement.
Rupprecht, a faculty member at Jamestown Community College (JCC), recently received the 2012 State University of New York (SUNY) Chancellor's Award for Excellence in Teaching.
“I've been here for 36 years at Jamestown Community College and I've had just an absolutely amazing career,” Rupprecht said.
He joined the faculty in 1976 after earning bachelor’s and master’s degrees in mathematics education at Indiana University of Pennsylvania. He also earned an associate’s degree in electrical technology at JCC.
The Chancellor’s Award is not his first professional acknowledgement during his years at JCC, however; Rupprecht was also the recipient of the JCC Alumni in Education Award in 2005 and the JCC Faculty Award for Excellence in 1985. SUNY is a 64-campus system, and the Chancellor’s Awards were announced following a review of nominations from faculty, students, and colleagues by an advisory committee. A recent press release from SUNY Chancellor Nancy L. Zimpher said Rupprecht “has demonstrated extraordinary dedication and service to JCC and is highly deserving of this distinction.”
Rupprecht is currently a mathematics professor and the director of JCC’s aviation program.
“We've got a two-year degree program to train students to become professional pilots, and I actually run the program,” Rupprecht said.
Although he is the director of the aviation program and a member of Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association, Rupprecht said his current position was not a result of experience with flying airplanes.
“I'm not actually a pilot. I've done a little bit of flying. I've actually soloed, but I haven't actually taken it any further,” Rupprecht said. “This opportunity came along while I was the assistant dean, so they needed somebody to run the program and I said I had an interest in flying. They've been running it for 12 years, and I've been working with it for 14 years getting the program registered and approved by the state.
He said the aviation program offered by JCC is “one of the best-kept secrets” around, although with the presence of the internet, a search will bring up the program and he frequently takes calls from potential students all over northwestern Pennsylvania who want to know more.
“There are a lot of people who just don't realize that we provide this opportunity,” Rupprecht said. “We do the same flight training that any flight school would do to get students started toward a career as a professional pilot. They do basically three ratings-- private, instrument and commercial, and then certified flight instructor.”
The 1971 graduate of St. Marys Area High School is the son of Mr. and Mrs. James Rupprecht of St. Marys. His brothers, Mark and Joe, live in St. Marys and are the owners of Elk County Ammo and Arms and Gunners Restaurant, and his sister, Sandra Miller, also lives in St. Marys.
Now in the education field himself, Rupprecht said he was inspired by a number of his own teachers while attending SMAHS, particularly Mrs. Mary Ehrensberger Pavlock, who recently passed away; her husband, Mr. Richard Pavlock, Mr. and Mrs. Guido and Phyllis Riccadonna; Mr. William Scilingo; Mr. Newman; and Mr. Fedorko.
All of them had an influence on what I am and who I am today,” Rupprecht said.
In his current position, Rupprecht explains what the aviation program is all about to potential students and their parents, and also serves as the advisor for students during their two years in the program. He also coordinates with community colleges and flight schools that JCC has relationships with to ensure that “everything continues to work well for the students."
“Running the program, working with students, working with parents, explaining what the program's all about and everything is very rewarding,” Rupprecht said. “It's like the best of both worlds, because that's half of my job, and the other half of my job is teaching math, which I still absolutely love. So I have the perfect job."
Rupprecht is also a member of the New York State Mathematics Association of Two-Year Colleges, of which he served as president for a year and was also on the executive board for eight years 1980s and early 1990s; and a member of the American Mathematical Association of Two-Year Colleges. Outside of work, he is very busy with a number of charitable and recreational activities. He is a member of the Lucile M. Wright Air Museum and serves on the Jamestown Skeet Club board of directors. He is also a volunteer for the Jamestown Audubon Center and Sanctuary.
"I enjoy taking young kids on nature walks, where we just enjoy looking at turtles and geese and snakes and things like that,” Rupprecht said.
He said the walks help children understand and respect rather than fear creatures found in nature, and recalled how one day earlier this spring, one of the children found a slug, and then suddenly all of his young charges had discovered more slugs and had picked them up.
“And they were all just standing there smiling. It was great. It was just classic stuff," Rupprecht said.
He also sponsors an annual chocolate chip cookie fundraiser for the pediatric cancer research program at Roswell Park Cancer Institute, and said the event has raised $39,217.04 for 21 years.
“I am the baker with a group of about a dozen helpers. My parents always come and help, and friends both from St. Marys and up here in Jamestown and people that I work with all come up and help me for the day. And we do something like 200 dozen [cookies],” Rupprecht said. “We get together in the school cafeteria and pound out most of the cookies in one six-hour day. You don't want to get in the way when we're working."
He said the reputation of the tasty treats has become known far and wide and people anticipate this event every year.
“The greatest portion of the cookies are sold here at the college. If I don't get the email out in a timely fashion, people start sending me emails,” Rupprecht said. “My dad also takes orders from people in St. Marys.”
He said the motivation for his charitable work is simple.
“I just enjoy doing those things. I enjoy giving back to the community," Rupprecht said.
While he is involved in many charitable events, Rupprecht also engages in some activities that are just for his own enjoyment.
“I have a lot of fun stuff that I do. I also make maple syrup-- I started about four years ago. I make about 17 gallons a year,” Rupprecht said. “It's called ‘Uncle Rick's Maple Syrup.’ The motto is, 'The Home of Happy Pancakes.'”
He also likes to go hunting.
"I still hunt in Pennsylvania every year, so I'm always looking forward to coming down to hunt with my brothers and my nephew, Stephen,” Rupprecht said. "It's about a two-hour drive and I can come back there whenever I want to or whenever I need to pretty easily.
“I have good family. I still have good friends. Just a bunch of friends in the community that I see on a regular basis.
“I still have fond ties to the community and fond ties to Pennsylvania. I still consider myself a Pennsylvanian, even though I've been here [in New York] more than half my life."
Even though he’s also been teaching for more than half his life as well, Rupprecht said he is not ready to step away from the field of education right now.
“Everybody asks when I'm going to retire. I've got some more years in me because I absolutely love what I do,” Rupprecht said.
‘Even though I have lots of other things I'd like to do, I'm not giving this up yet."