The man behind the quiet voice

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Mary Warfel, Contributer

When students pass professor Dr. Thomas Rossi in the halls you often hear them say, “hey Rossi,” With a genuine smile on his face Professor Rossi continues to his classroom in the new downtown campus center.

He has been a part of the Utica College’s faculty for nearly four decades, “I am completing my 38th year of full time teaching, I started in the fall of 1979,” Rossi said. And he has created quite a legacy in those 38 years of teaching.

Rossi is a New Jersey native who was educated in public schools in Red Bank, NJ. He went to college in Pennsylvania at King’s College, where he earned his bachelors degree in business administration.

King’s College is located in Wilkes-barre which at the time of his attendance happened to be the only hyphenated town in the country. At King’s he met his college sweetheart, Mary, and later married her.

They had two children Daniel and Kathryn. Rossi’s appreciation of knowledge led him to further is education even more, earning his MBA at Monmouth University in NJ.

In 2004, Rossi showed courage and drive and decided to go and get his doctorate when he was 52 years-old and accomplished it through distance learning at North central University located in Prescott Arizona, “it took a number of years part time because I continued to teach full time,” said Rossi.

His dissertation titled “Employee Perceptions of Organizational Culture and Morale in Enterprises Served by Professional Employer Organizations” which analyzed human resource outsourcing in small to medium-sized enterprises, this took him four and a half years to write and complete.

Rossi is a professor in the management department who teaches courses in human resource management from the introductory level to the higher levels and says that he has over 50 student advisees and over 105 students this semester.

But Rossi didn’t always dream of becoming a practitioner of management or even a professor, his childhood dream was becoming a pro baseball player for the New York Yankees, his favorite team to this day.

He played baseball at every level to semi pro playing as an outfielder and catcher. He even followed his dream as far as trying out for the Pittsburgh Pirates in Swoyersville Pennsylvania, making it two rounds until being cut, “When I tried out for the Pirates they had enough catchers and outfielders so they moved me to second base; I was good but didn’t have the finesse because it wasn’t my natural position, but I definitely had the heart,” said Rossi.

Often people automatically correlate Rossi with baseball and students may think of him as a very serious and by-the-books type of fellow.

Due to the fact that he maintains a professional demeanor in the classroom. In reality, he enjoys being around people and prefers an informal environment.

“I love to be with people but I like being with people in an informal environment instead of professional because it puts a lot of pressure on you and you cant really be yourself,” Rossi said. Rossi is one of the first to help any of his students whether it giving advice about schoolwork or even about your personal problems; he is always there to help.”

Just by looking at Rossi one would not know he had open-heart surgery ten years ago. His dog, Annabelle, a beagle, helped change and save his life during his recovery period, he said. Annabelle forced him to get walking and moving, which was good for him and good for her.

Rossi explained that one of the most important lessons he has learned in life is to listen and be a kind person, and to be a supporting player. I think we all have a part of us that wants to be in the spotlight and be the hero of the story, when in reality being supportive is just as important.

“Sometimes you need to be supporting player —we can’t all be the stars,” Rossi said. Rossi is a very supportive colleague as well as a strong supporter of the college.

“You don’t always have to be flashy to make a difference; dependency and reliability are just as important,” said Rossi.

It is important to value what everyone brings to the table even if it is not the way that you would do it.

Being a positive role model is important to Rossi as well as getting satisfaction and joy by seeing his students succeed, for example seven of his former students currently sit on the board of trustees for Utica College and they all are firmly established in a plethora of successful professional careers.

“The greatest satisfaction is seeing my former students succeed, my students are what I consider my legacy, seeing them in high positions and being successful brings me joy,” said Rossi.

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