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46-year Kent State Faculty Member Honored by Former Students

David Riccio's 46-year career in teaching will be recognized over several days this week

At 73, David Riccio is not planning to retire anytime soon from the teaching job he's held for more than half his life at .

Riccio, a Kent resident and psychology professor at Kent State, spent an impressive 46 years teaching students who have since fanned out across the globe to pursue careers in New York, California, Texas and even Australia.

Starting Thursday, about 30 of Riccio's past students will return to Kent for a three-day "festschrift" to honor his lengthy career.

"I guess basically I enjoy it," Riccio said of his disinterest in retirement. "I enjoy teaching, I enjoy researching with my students, both graduate and undergraduate, and I very much enjoy my colleagues. We're fortunate to have a department that is productive and collegiate. Unfortunately, those two things don’t always go together."

A festschrift, by definition, is a volume of articles, essays and other such works contributed by many authors in honor of a colleague. The articles are usually published on the occasion of retirement or for an important anniversary.

On Thursday, from 4 to 6 p.m., former students and colleagues will meet at for what Riccio said is similar to a tradition used to introduce new students to the psychology department in a relaxed atmosphere. The gathering takes a serious turn on Friday and Saturday, when three keynote speakers will give scientific presentations on their work followed by brief presentations from the others. The presentations will take place in Kent Hall from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Friday and from 9:30 a.m. to noon Saturday with a reception at the Friday night.

Members of Riccio's family also will come to Kent for the presentations, which are free and open to the public.

"The festschrift is a sort of a celebration of scholarship which often takes the form of a series of papers by former students, in this case mine, but I don’t know if that will come about," Riccio said. "It’s sort of like an extended family affair.

"It’ll be busy, but it’s really a very special event," Riccio said. "I’m both flattered and honored that they would bother to do this for me."

Riccio has published more than 170 journal articles, had 40 years of uninterrupted research funding from the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation, and he's received Kent State’s Distinguished Scholar Award.

Steven Harrod, assistant professor at the University of South Carolina and former doctoral student of Riccio’s, will be one of the speakers this week. He said Riccio was the main influence in his decision to become a research scientist.

"Professor Riccio positively influenced my life as my mentor," Harrod said. "One unique attribute of his is that he spends a lot of time with students who need it. He has accomplished just about everything that you can as a scientist, but I don’t think that's what drives him. I think he is driven by being able to work with students and teach people."

Riccio joked that the festschrift is sort of odd because he's not retiring and 46 years is not a particularly meaningful anniversary.

"I think they probably would have liked to do it for the 45th year," he said. "In some ways I think they also would like to wait for 50, and by that time there would be a new hotel and conference center in downtown Kent and that would be nice. But 50, I’m not young anymore, and I think they probably figured they should play it safe."

Riccio said there are only two things that would force him into retirement: if he bcame ill, or if pending changes in the state retirement system made retiring early the only way to keep his full benefits.

Until then, you can expect to find him where he's been for the last 46 years — teaching at the place where he started his career.

"I thought it was a good place to start, and I soon realized it was a good place to stay," Riccio said. "As long as I keep enjoying what I’m doing and the people I’m working with and we’re getting good students, then I figure I’d just keep on going."

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