Popular journalism professor to retire

By Cassie Negley, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF  The Stylus

Published: Tuesday, December 4, 2012

He could break out into John Wayne impersonations at any moment. He makes faces and movements that combined would make a perfect video montage of the 11-year adjunct communication professor. 

His stories range from being denied access to Miami Dolphins great Dan Marino for an interview to the Jim Kelly years in Buffalo. Any of his students could tell you about the time he broke a story by getting sneaky and calling the airline for canceled flight information. Or about the time he was paged in an airport and had to grab a flight to a different city than home for a breaking news story. 

He’s been a sports writer since his college days and has won more than 20 awards. 

His coworkers on occasion call him “The Rickster.” He is the man, the myth, the legend: Rick Woodson. 

 Woodson started as an adjunct professor at Brockport in the fall of 2000, teaching news writing. After 15 years of teaching at Monroe Community College (three semesters), St. John Fisher (two semesters) and a long stay at Brockport (11 years and one semester), Woodson is putting his Trapper Keeper into storage and retiring from teaching.  

“It’s been a great 11 years,” Woodson said. 

Woodson has taught newswriting, feature writing, media reporting and research, a semester of editorial methods and sports writing, which he started at the college.  Four or fiveyears ago, Woodson suggested the course because as he said, “so many students want to be sports writers,” and it filled up quickly. It’s now an official course taught by Woodson every other fall. 

It’s that kind of enthusiasm, the kind that makes the spots in the sports writing class fill up quicker than a boat taking in water, that Woodson said he loves about his job as a teacher. 

“[My favorite part] is seeing students improve and their interest in journalism increase,” Woodson said. “Obviously not all of them do that, but quite a few do.”

He also likes staying friends with his students, which usually happens through various social networking sites and emails. 

“I get Facebook and LinkedIn [requests] from former students who want to stay in touch, and that’s rewarding,” Woodson said. “It really makes you feel good. You’re always going to have some wish you drop dead.”

One of those students who stayed in touch is alumni Mike Baggerman, who graduated in May. 

Baggerman, who worked at 89.1 The Point all three years at Brockport, spent the summer with the Brooklyn Cyclones and is at the baseball winter meetings in Nashville trying to break into the field. 

“The biggest thing I learned from Rick, aside from the basics of writing, was a quote he said,” Baggerman said. “‘It doesn’t matter if the Bills lose the Super Bowl. If the garbage guy doesn’t come to your house, then you’ve got a real problem.’

“It taught me not to take sports too seriously in the grand scheme of things.” 

Baggerman commonly played into Woodson’s humor in class, an aspect of Woodson’s personality that shines in the classroom. 

“I like to bring a little sense of humor [to teaching] and try not just being dry and boring,” Woodson said. “That’s just not me, no matter what I’m doing: Playing golf or teaching or doing brain surgery. I try to make life fun.” 

But, as Woodson has drilled into his students’ heads, “if your mother says she loves you, check with another source.” 

“Rick is the kind of professor who makes sure that the students learn and earn whatever grades they receive,” communication department head Monica Brasted said. “Not only will he be missed in the classroom, but I’m going to miss having him as a colleague. He is always cheerful and just a pleasure to work with. Many of us will also miss his John Wayne impersonation, which was always sure to bring a smile to our faces.”

Brasted calls Woodson an “old-school journalist” who knows how important quality writing and sound reporting are. 

Again, it’s a sentiment correctly checked with another source. 

Mark Ricci had Woodson as a professor and now shares an office space with him as a fellow adjunct. 

“One could learn enough for an entire semester just in reading a book about his experiences alone,” Ricci said. “He was a stickler for ‘J-style’ (formal journalistic style) in our writing, but it definitely helped me understand what it took to be a good sportswriter. 

“The man is a living legend, so sharing an office is a privilege,” Ricci said. “The experiences and success he’s had is what they write books about. He is what all journalists aspire to be, and Brockport was so lucky to have him.”  

Woodson will continue to write his weekly sports column for the Rochester Business Journal, which he writes Tuesdays and is printed Thursdays. He’ll also continue his Sunday morning radio show, The Golf Tee, that airs at on WHTK-AM at 9 a.m.

In the place of teaching, he’ll be finishing the novel he started years ago and getting back to painting. The novel, titled “Marci,” is about a nerd whose father gets a new job and moves the family. Equipped with dorky, thick glasses, the boy joins a new school and meets Marci, the only person who is nice to him. 

She’s what Woodson calls a high school cliché: head cheerleader, most popular, attractive and dating a football star. Things get complicated when the two go off to college. He goes to Boston College, where Rick and his wife took a trip a few years ago for research for the novel.

The painting may have to come first, though, as the holidays are right around the corner and Rick and Beth Woodson need a Christmas card. 

“I do a Christmas card every year,” Woodson said. “Right now I have to get one done and I haven’t thought of anything. I was thinking about, and my wife suggested it, Santa in a kilt with a golf bag and ‘I’m going to St. Andrews.’”

It’s a card geared toward the sports fans of the world, a group Woodson is most definitely a part of. But there are plenty of other subjects he’s painted for the annual card. When his mother-in-law was sick, he painted Santa with his sleigh and reindeer flying over her house with her outside waving. 

He’s also painted his two grandsons sledding, a guy ice skating on a pond and the elephants of the Seneca Park Zoo, which is minutes from the Woodson’s home. 

Before he can enjoy his “bye life,” a play on his dislike of the misuse of “bye week” in sports, he has a few more classes and papers to grade. 

“I’m not going to miss getting up at 5:45 a.m.,” Woodson said. “I’m not going to miss grading papers for four or five hours a couple of times a week. I’m going to miss the students, the department [and] teaching. And I notice things in journalism now that I never really thought about because I’m always looking.”

Rickster, if there are more than three sentences in these paragraphs or more than 35 words in the sentence, I apologize. I guess teachers simply never stop teaching.