When summer semester is over in July, Richmond Community College Professor John Robich will bring his 39-year-career at the college to a close. He has influenced thousands of students over that time and started two programs. You can find his graduates in positions at the department of social services, the health department, assisted living facilities, mental health programs, the public school system, law enforcement, the court system and corrections agencies.
Robich received his undergraduate degree in sociology, criminology, and political science and his master’s degree in sociology and criminology from Ohio State University. He was a commissioned officer in the Army and served an extended tour in Viet Nam, where he was a provost marshal and law enforcement boat company commander. That background led him to teaching, and he set up the Criminal Justice program at UNC Pembroke. He was teaching at what was Richmond Technical Institute as an adjunct faculty from UNCP and was hired full time in 1973 to establish the Criminal Justice Technology curriculum. He also taught many social science courses.
“RTI President Joe Nanney was a former FBI agent, and we clicked. I was the first lead instructor of the Criminal Justice Technology program, which grew to almost 200 students. When Mr. Nanney went to Haywood Community College to eventually retire there, he brought me on to start their Criminal Justice program. I left RCC in March 1979, got that CJC program going, and returned after one quarter to again lead the RCC Criminal Justice program,” said Robich.
He taught a lot of classes for in-service police officers, deputies, and corrections officers. Eventually younger students, especially women, wanted careers in the criminal justice system and enrolled in the program. He is proud to have started the fourth Criminal Justice program in the N.C. Community College System.
He said it was a challenge to adapt the program to day and evening hours to accommodate the needs of law officers whose work schedules were very concentrated. The program instilled the desire for an education in many officers and continued to grow. In 1991, he brought in Steve Smith as an instructor to continue growing the program.
“I eventually evolved into a sociology professor. RCC Vice President David Adeimy encouraged me to develop the Human Services Technology curriculum. I worked on it a few years, and President Joe Grimsley gave me a green light to get it approved in Raleigh. We started Human Services in 1986 and it has grown to be one of the largest at the college. It was the fourth of its kind in the state,” he said.
Robich takes pride in noting many of his Criminal Justice and Human Services graduates continued their education at the baccalaureate level, advancing to higher levels of specialization and leadership in their own careers.
With a European Holocaust family background, Robich was inspired to make sure his students knew about things going on in the world. He emphasized the printed and electronic news media to students and said his favorite course was Global Sociology.
“I love seeing students grow into scholars and become successful in their pursuit of higher education and ultimately their careers. I stress the importance of good grades in the classroom and give them the tools they need to gain knowledge. Several universities, notably UNCP, Gardner-Webb and Fayetteville State, have had four-year degree programs in sociology, criminal justice, and human services offered on our RCC campus ─ very convenient to our graduates. I also have seen growing numbers of my former Human Services students getting master’s degrees in such fields as counseling and social work. I am very proud of my students’ career successes in so many different fields, which may be the most fulfilling part of my teaching,” said Robich.
Cultivating family values has been another goal of his. An active parent, he has coached recreational sports for many years, and plans to spend more time with his grown children when he retires.
“My challenge will be to travel where they are, then keep up with what they’re into: Jon Michael golfing in Pinehurst; Tali mountaineering in Arizona; Theo kayaking in Wrightsville Beach; and Brittney beachcombing in Wilmington. Caron keeps me going at home while she continues her teaching. We have always been very physically active and that won’t change,” said Robich.
He tried to make the sports he coached fun and accepted each child and his or her abilities.
“I wanted kids to develop skills and encouraged them to practice those skills. It’s also important for them to learn being part of a team. Actually my coaching is very much like my teaching. I make learning a subject or a sport fun, interesting, communal and useful to college students as well as little leaguers,” said Robich.
Although Robich said he was one of the last people to get a computer in his office, he is proud to have built his skills and is glad other faculty are expanding his programs by offering classes online. While it is not for him, he knows it is essential to the success of the program and its students. Online learning is a major part of education’s future.
Professor Cordelia Steele said Robich is dedicated to making sure students are prepared to move into the 21st century world of work.
“John has always been a pivotal and positive person in making sure the Human Services program is successful. He is sensitive and worries about his students. He is concerned about their learning and about their overall welfare. We will miss him,” she said.
Robich said he will miss the students. He feels his greatest talent is caring for people, and he thinks he has fulfilled his mission by teaching and caring to the best of his abilities.
“I have been blessed with this college. It has given me roots and served me and my family well,” he said. “I am very proud of RCC and to have been a part of its growth and change.”
RCC President Dale McInnis said Robich has a permanent legacy at RCC and will be deeply missed.
“John always set a great example of building relationships with students, and through these relationships, students have thrived, met their goals, and continue to rely on his insight and wisdom throughout their careers,” he said.