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Ritchey '65 M'72 and Bobbi '66 Ricci

Ritchey '65 M'72 and Bobbi '66 Ricci

Opening the Doors to Opportunity:
By: Susan Field

Ritchey Ricci '65 M'72 credits East Stroudsburg University with giving him a strong foundation to pursue diverse professional and community leadership roles, in addition to many international travel opportunities throughout his life.

Ricci and his wife, Roberta "Bobbi" '66, a physical education major, who reside in Forks Township in Northampton County, believe in providing the next generation of students with education - without all the financial burdens - so they too can be successful.

Ritchey, a biological science major, will never forget a conversation he had years ago with a Swiss administrator at his son's Rotary study abroad program.

"He [the administrator] said the Swiss believe that 'the better we educate and support our youth, the better our future can be," Ritchey said.

This notion of providing the youth with enrichment and opportunities was one of the inspirations behind the Riccis establishing two annual scholarships, which impacted six students between 2015-2017. Three awards were provided of the Ritchey Ricci '65, M '72 Biological Science Educator's Annual Scholarship, which was established for ESU students majoring in Professional and Secondary Education pursuing Biological Sciences teaching certification. Additionally, three awards were given of the

Ritchey J. Ricci '65, M '72 and Roberta "Bobbi" Ricci '66 Nursing Annual Scholarship, to aid students majoring in Nursing.

The Nursing scholarships were established after Ritchey had a health experience in which he credits nurses for saving his life.

"I was so impressed with how wonderful nurses are and how much they did to help me," he said.

In the last two years, the Riccis have used both IRA distribution and stock transfers as planned-giving vehicles to enhance all their annual scholarships to endowed scholarships. The Riccis are also members of The 1893 Society, which recognizes alumni who have remembered ESU in their estate plans.

Both Ritchey and Bobbi, from Easton and Newtown Square, respectively, look back fondly on their time at ESU. Ritchey was inspired by his high school biology teacher to pursue teaching, which ESU is known for. Similarly, Bobbi was drawn to ESU for its reputation for its physical education program.

Ritchey credits his professor, Dr. Moore (who the Moore Biology Hall is named for) for sparking his interest in human anatomy, and Biology Professor Frank Buser, for giving him a strong foundation in biology.

"He [Buser] was the toughest biology teacher at the university," Ritchey said. "I loved his courses and I took them all throughout undergrad and graduate school. I learned a lot from him because he challenged me."

In their years at ESU, Ritchey and Bobbi were involved in a variety of activities. Ritchey was on the Entertainment Counsel, and in Sigma Pi Fraternity. Bobbi played lacrosse and softball. The couple met while working at Buck's, a coffee shop across from campus on Normal Street, and were active in the Neumann Club.

Ritchey remembers the generosity of his boss, Martin Buck, "Buck," the owner of the coffee shop. When he told Buck that he wanted to get engaged to Bobbi, but didn't have enough money to buy a ring, Buck made him an offer he couldn't refuse.

"He said to me, 'how about the money you earn working here, I'll put toward a diamond ring?' He bought the ring for me, and I paid him off at 80 cents to the dollar!" Ritchey said. "Buck was a fantastic guy. He loved his students! If you didn't have any money to eat lunch, he would say that you could pay him later."

The Riccis were married in July 1966, and from there, enjoyed successful professional careers in education for more than 35 years. Bobbi taught elementary physical education in Phillipsburg, N.J., and Ritchey taught science and was an administrator in the Easton Area School District.

After earning his master's at ESU, Ritchey took a leave of absence from teaching in 1973 to pursue a funeral services degree from the American Academy McAllister Institute of Funeral Service in New York City, so he could assist with his family's business, Ricci Memorial Chapels in Easton.

After returning to teaching in Easton, Ritchey earned his Principal Certification from Lehigh University, and eventually served as assistant principal at both the middle school and high school in EASD.

The Ricci's interest in travel and learning about the educational systems and cultures of other countries led them to participate in a foreign exchange program that allowed them to live with families abroad and learn about the educational systems in those countries. Between 1989 and 1994, they lived in Australia, New Zealand, and Sweden.

The Riccis have been to all 50 states and 13 countries, including Iceland, England, France, Germany, and the Galápagos Islands, a province of Ecuador. Their love of travel inspired both their children, Kristen and Jason, to study abroad in college, and learn foreign languages. The Riccis continue to travel every year on their annual family trip with their children and two teenage grandchildren.

Following in his parents' example of being highly involved in the local community, Ritchey has held many community and organizational leadership positions over the years. He served as president of the Easton Area Education Association, Easton Area Principals Association, president of the Lehigh Valley Chapter of Phi Delta Kappa (education fraternity), Forks Township Board of Supervisors, of which he was chairman for 16 of 17 years, and deputy coroner for Northampton County. Ritchey also served on the Pennsylvania State Education Association (PSEA) Board of the Legislative Committee at the National Education Association Resolutions Committee in Washington, D.C., the Northampton County Children and Youth Board, and on the Northampton County Health Advisory Board. He is on the Board of Directors for the First Commonwealth Federal Credit Union in Lehigh Valley, and the Easton Rotary, of which he is a former president. The Rotary established the annual Ritchey J. Ricci Teacher of the Year Award in his honor.

Over the years, the Riccis have stayed connected to ESU, attending President's Tent events before football games, Homecoming, Sigma Pi Fraternity events, and Ritchey spent nine years on the ESU Alumni Board, finishing his term in 2019.

While on the Alumni Board, Ritchey and the board established a scholarship and started a food bank to help students on campus. It was then that Ritchey realized how much need there was at ESU and he and Bobbi decided to do what they could to help.

Giving back to the university and the future generation of educators and nurses has been a gratifying experience for the Riccis.

"Bobbi and I got to meet one of the students who received our nursing scholarship," Ritchey said. "He kept impressing upon us how much that scholarship meant to him and how it helped him to continue his education. With some of the financial burden alleviated, he had done so well, he had a job before he graduated!"

"We hope to keep giving back and to be able to meet more of our recipients. We want to learn more about them, their needs, and their plans for the future, so we can see how we're able to help."