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The legacy of LaZalia Richardson at Germanna Community College, By NANCY W. NOEL
Germanna Community College students graduate in 2009.
FILE/PETER CIHELKA/THE FREE LANCE-STAR
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THE AUGUST 2011 earthquake shut down Germanna Community College's largest building until January 2012. But another event that took place last year shook the college to its core with deeper and longer-lasting consequences. Temporary loss of bricks and mortar couldn't begin to compare to the loss of professor LaZalia Richardson, who retired to focus her energy on recovering from a March 2011 stroke. Her contributions to the community and Germanna's students, faculty, and staff are too numerous to list.
The Fredericksburg native and James Monroe High School graduate's character, dignity, integrity, intellect, and her passion for teaching make her irreplaceable.
Dr. Richardson changed students' lives because she genuinely loved them. She held students to a very high standard, yet never failed to provide what they needed to meet it. There was always a cluster of students waiting outside her office door for academic help, advice, coaching, and mentoring. She did not merely teach. She shaped lives.
She received a standing ovation when she returned recently to address a crowd of about 400 Germanna faculty members, staffers, and administrators. Her voice was strong and her words were clear. She told a story about Germanna's power to change lives, saying a former student "said that having met me was like having brain surgery--that it had 'opened up his head and turned his brain all upside down' so he could see things with a different vision. And that is why we do what we do here. We must be here for the students, for the students, for the students," she said.
Brenda Robinson, now a faculty member at Germanna, was once one of Dr. Richardson's students. She said Dr. Richardson helped her through times of self-doubt and made her believe in herself.
"I would go to see her and say, 'I can't do this.' And she would hug me. I can't say how many times she hugged me. I transferred to [University of] Mary Washington and she continued to help me there. She helped me get into graduate school.
"Three people changed my life," Robinson said--"my mother, Dr. Richardson, and my husband.