Brockport Foundation Launches Fundraising Challenge to Honor the late Dr. Richard V. Mancuso
Dr. Richard V. “Dick” Mancuso was an incredibly beloved member of the Brockport community.
An associate professor of physics and longtime chair of the department, Mancuso was well-known for making physics fun, his love of teaching, having a competitive spirit and his loyalty to everyone he loved—his family, friends and The College at Brockport. In December 2009, Mancuso succumbed to cancer, a battle which he fought with courage. He was survived by his wife, Donna, and their children and grandchildren. His passing created a void throughout the community.
A champion of the College and his students, in 1982 Mancuso established a scholarship for undergraduates studying physics. In 2004, he changed it from a scholarship to a summer research award to fit the changing needs of students.
Today, the College is partnering with Mancuso’s wife, Donna, to raise $100,000 to endow the Richard V. Mancuso Summer Research Award in Physics. Endowing this program would allow the College to annually provide a student with a generous stipend so the student can devote the summer break to conducting research in physics rather than having to take on a summer job.
Brockport Foundation Board Member Christopher Leichtweis ’83—who was very close to Mancuso during his undergraduate years studying engineering physics here and who continued to be friends with his favorite professor up until Mancuso’s passing—also is playing a critical role in this fundraising effort. He and his wife, Myra, have announced they will personally match up to $20,000 in gifts to the fund.
Leichtweis—who has been a key contributor to major federal nuclear legacy programs—has donated, along with his wife, to the summer research program since 2005, providing the private support needed to ensure that students have access to research opportunities. In 2007, the couple made a donation to have the fund renamed in honor of Mancuso.
“Dr. Mac was very special as a professor and as a friend. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized the value of my Brockport education. Giving back is very important to me,” said Leichtweis, CEO of Safety and Ecology Corporation, headquartered in Knoxville, TN., and president of Homeland Security Capital Corporation, SEC’s parent company.
Mancuso began his career at Brockport in 1969 after receiving his PhD in nuclear physics from the University of Buffalo and his bachelor’s degree from St. Bonaventure University. He also spent time serving his country in a research facility during the Vietnam War. He taught at the College from 1969-2006 and returned as an emeritus professor to teach in the fall 2006 and 2008 semesters as he was battling his cancer.
He engaged his students, community members and high school students into learning more about physics. He could be found around Brockport discussing books on topic such as Marie Curie or demonstrating the use of a Geiger counter and cloud chamber to show the movement of charged particles. He could use almost any item to demonstrate physics at work, including children’s toys or balloons, which he would rub together to energize and become drawn to other surfaces. Mancuso’s love of teaching caught the attention of the State University of New York and earned him a Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Teaching in 1980.
Each year, he would take his introductory physics class on shopping sprees to stores like Toys “R” Us, where he would purchase, with his own money, plastic airplanes, solar-powered gadgets, slinky dogs, bouncing balls and other moving objects. The toys would be added to Mancuso’s collection so he could use them to teach gravity, momentum and motion.
Even with his hobbies, there were physics involved: mastering a golf swing that could literally pulverize a golf ball and ballroom dancing, which he once presented on after examining this style of dance from the physical perspective. Friends recall Mancuso’s competitive nature on the basketball court at Tuttle during NBA (Noontime Basketball Association) games, but that underneath his take-no-prisoners playing style he was a compassionate and sensitive friend who would show up at your door unexpectedly bearing gifts after a game in which competitive spirits had clashed. He even served as the self-appointed commissioner of the association.
Mancuso also served in a critical role as radiation safety officer and as the Smith Hall building coordinator. He marketed the physics department and the College in the greater Rochester area and throughout the state. Many recall him driving his billboard-for-Brockport van, which was loaded with equipment needed for physics experiments as he traveled to schools across the state to do physics shows at assemblies. He created an interest in science that likely resulted in many students opting to pursue careers in the field.
Years before his death, Mancuso began a commencement tradition of proceeding alongside students from the physics department, especially taking pride at escorting students who had overcome obstacles to succeed at Brockport. Among those students included one graduate who overcame debilitating symptoms of Lupus disease to successfully complete a bachelor’s degree in physics and his daughter, Jennifer Mancuso, who took a 15-year hiatus from collegiate studies before returning to school to complete her degree in 2005. In 1993, he surprised his son, David, by being onstage to hood him when he received his master’s degree in counselor education from the College. Upon one of the ceremonies, Mancuso stated, “It is something very special to be right with the students at graduation and experience the excitement they are feeling.”
To this day, Mancuso’s legacy continues at the College through the summer research program. The College still has a long way to go to reach its goal in his memory. Your support, at any level, is greatly appreciated.To make a gift online, you may go to http://www.brockport.edu/bounce/give. Please put a notation in the 'Comment' box that this is for the Richard V. Mancuso Summer Research Award in Physics.