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Four Years at the Mount

Sophomore year

Leaving a legacy

Leeanne Leary
Class of 2017

(10/2014) As students, we often see only one side of our professors. Unless they are purposefully open about themselves, we occasionally catch glimpses of the other subjects they are passionate about. This is simply the nature of the teacher-to-student relationship. Occasionally, however, these working relationships can turn into personal connections. This is one of the many traits that help to define the faculty at the Mount as a whole. I have yet to have a professor who hasn’t truly and genuinely cared about the kind of person I want to be and how they can help in my development. With this in mind, I knew that finding a retired professor who embodies what Mount St. Mary’s stands for wouldn’t be a difficult task, and it certainly wasn’t. The first professor that I asked immediately had someone in mind, and I know I would have experienced the same reaction from several professors. When I first asked Dr. Sarah Scott, she said that Dr. Robert Ducharme was the first professor who came to mind.

Dr. Ducharme retired from Mount. St. Mary’s in May of 2006 after 39 years with the school. He received the title of Professor Emeritus of English and retired with distinction. The first sign that Dr. Ducharme was someone who embodies and loves the Mount was hearing that even though he retired, he continues to teach one class each semester. Dr. Ducharme has taught classes in Latin American literature, Irish literature, American Western literature, and Detective fiction, and he is especially passionate about Japanese literature and film. He takes a specific interest in film studies and incorporates this into his courses. Clearly, Dr. Ducharme has put a lot of time, work, and years into the Mount and its students. However, I recognized his true embodiment of the Mount and all that it stands for when Dr. Scott told me that he helped to craft the Mount St. Mary’s mission statement and its four pillars: faith, discovery, leadership, and community. As a student, I see the impact of this mission every day and everywhere. It’s not possible to walk from one building to another without being reminded of our values and yet I never thought about the people who created them. Now that I do, I realize that they must have been people driven by these four ideas and people who wanted students to have an experience surrounded by the same ideas. According to Dr. Scott, Dr. Ducharme would only exceed my expectations.

Dr. Scott came to work at Mount St. Mary’s a few months after Dr. Ducharme left, but she says that he has always been a presence at our school. She continued by saying that his reputation preceded him and she knew the importance he had. It wasn’t until she had started teaching that she realized how much his students truly cherished him. Referring to his students as his "legacy," Dr. Scott shared that this is what makes him so special, the connections he forms with students. Everyone loves his classes and his classroom presence is incredible, and it always has been. Many times, Dr. Scott explained, the English department has connected with English alumni and asked these students to return to speak on panels for current English majors. The panel’s main purpose is to help show students the wide variety of things that can be done with an English degree and to offer guidance. A recurring theme from graduates from the 80s and 90s up to the most recent of graduates has been the respect for Dr. Ducharme. It is clear that he has been cherished for decades, and this adoration for him has not faltered.

One of the most prevalent examples of this student legacy is Mount St. Mary’s graduate, Rafael Della Ratta. Della Ratta was a student of Dr. Ducharme and had such a connection with him that he just recently gave a donation to the College of Liberal Arts in the form of an annual lecture series. This series will be named "The Ducharme Veritas Lectures" at the request of Della Ratta. The inaugural lecture will be titled, "The Other War on Poverty: The Search for Meaning in America" and will be given by Dr. Leon R. Kass. This first lecture is simply the beginning and Della Ratta’s endowment proves the influence of Dr. Ducharme on his life. This example, although rather grand, is not the only one. It is just one example of a life that Ducharme touched throughout his years and the lasting impression he makes. Dr. Ducharme is able to form these connections because of his true care for his students. Dr. Scott explains this and uses the example of his Facebook page to assist. He has a "professor presence" on Facebook and connects with students where they feel comfortable. All that he has done and continues to do for our beloved school goes above and beyond the job description.

At the Mount, we are constantly surrounded by caring and genuine professors, but Dr. Ducharme seems to have had an influence on not only his students, but on his colleagues as well. Dr. Scott focused mainly on the love for Dr. Ducharme she sees in Mount students, but she said herself, "I would love to have been able to take his classes." The respect is clear, not only in this statement, but also in the way Dr. Scott talked about Dr. Ducharme. She mentioned that the entire school, student body and staff are lucky to have him at Mount St. Mary’s and that he truly embodies the four pillars of the Mount, the very pillars he helped to craft.

Read other articles by Leeanne Leary