1999-11-13 / Columnists

Chatting With Chapey

By Dr. Geraldine M. Chapey

This week I was the moderator of a presentation on "Coping with Mathematics Anxiety: Guidelines for College Students and Faculty" at a
higher education conference in Rochester entitled "Reaching for a Brighter Tomorrow." Math anxiety is a crucial issue in helping our students to reach higher standards.

The Conference attracted faculty and counselors from across the
state. The meeting was unique because it concurrently also sponsored a
full day of Student Leadership Development Workshops for students. The
student workshop leader was Douglas Mercado, from the New York State Education Department, where he has served as a bureau chief for the last 10 years. The bureau prepares the mandated Regents review of plans and reports for specific programs operated by the State University of New York and the City University of New York. The student's day included an alumni panel, a presentation on the tools for successful strategies that lead to academic empowerment, and a review of individual case studies of students
who have been successful.

Keynote speaker at the faculty part of the conference was Richard Ruffalo who at age 32 lost his sight but never lost his "vision". According to the program, Ruffalo has been the recipient of many honors for his athletic achievements. He has been awarded four different world titles in shot put, discus, javelin and powerlifting. He has earned 14 international gold medals, won 24 national titles, set nine worlds and 15 international records and has earned 11 USA Track and Field Master's State Titles where he competed against sighted individuals. In 1988, the United States Olympic Committee decided to honor Ruffalo as the Disabled Athlete of the Year for athletic, civic and professional achievements. On three separate occasions, he has won the Governor's Cup Award. He also won the
Academy Award for athletics by being the winner of the Victor Award as the country's most inspirational athlete. In addition, the Italian American Sports Hall of Fame inducted him in 1994. In 1997, he received an honorary doctorate for his life's work. At Walt Disney's Co./McDonald American Teacher Awards, Ruffalo was honored as both the Outstanding Coach of the Year and as the Outstanding Teacher of the Year. The award was given to him on a nationally televised program by Vice President Al Gore.

When Richard Ruffalo is at home you can find him in his classroom
teaching biology or coaching discus, shot put, javelin or powerlifting. In
addition to his other awards, Ruffalo was chosen as one of five educators
from the US to be entered into the National Teachers Hall of Fame.

Richard Ruffalo is a very inspirational speaker, motivator, author
and educator. He values persistence and hard work. He understands that
people have obstacles. He views each obstacle as a challenge which can be
overcome. He notes that it is not what happens to us in life but how we
handle it. Through his presentation he helps one to gain insight and
perspective on life and encourages one to help their students.

Richard Ruffalo is a shining example of the fact that education and
perseverance are the ingredients for a brighter future

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