At last fall’s faculty meeting to kick off the new academic year, Stacie Raucci decided to inject some levity into what is typically a routine gathering.
Channeling her best Homer persona, Raucci, the Frank Bailey Professor of Classics and chair of the department, adapted the famous first lines of his epic poem, “The Odyssey,” in introducing the newest member of the department.
"Sing to me, Oh Muse, of the man of many interests, who journeyed from Philadelphia, after he had taught at Penn and Temple…,” Raucci began in her welcome for Gregory Callaghan, assistant professor of classics. She then delivered his CV in full Homeric mode.
Those in Olin 115 that afternoon loved it.
Raucci didn’t know it at the time, but her creative approach served as an unofficial audition for the role of College Marshal.
Among those in the audience that day was Michele Angrist, the Stephen J. and Diane K. Ciesinski Dean of Faculty and Vice President for Academic Affairs. Angrist would soon learn she would need to find a replacement for Kathleen LoGiudice, biology professor and College Marshal who was retiring at year’s end.
“Stacie delivered that introduction with poise and aplomb,” Angrist said. “That performance immediately brought her to mind as a fantastic candidate for College Marshal.”
Unlike LoGiudice, who had some experience performing off-Broadway, or her predecessor, longtime College Marshal William Finlay, chair of the Theater and Dance Department, Raucci had limited public speaking beyond the classroom.
Yet faster than Homer could write, “I’m eager to do it, whatever I can do . . . whatever can be done,” Raucci agreed to serve as the College Marshal.
“Union is home for me,” said Raucci, who joined the College in 2004. “I enjoy Union’s traditions; they are a part of what creates the feeling of community on campus. I liked the idea of being a part of that in a different way.”
Though it had different names and responsibilities over the centuries, the role of College Marshal at Union dates back to at least 1845. The marshal plays a central part in prominent campus events, including Convocation, Founders Day and Commencement. It is a volunteer position with no compensation.
“I see the role as three-fold,” Angrist said. “A key partner with offices across the College in planning and executing major ceremonial events across the academic year; as a connector between the faculty and these ceremonies; and as a key public face of the College when important eyes are watching -- parents, students, alums, the media and others.”
The night before she was to make her debut at Convocation, Raucci methodically reviewed the program to prepare for the rhythm and flow of the ceremony. She also listened to some of LoGuidice’s performances at past events. Most importantly, she practiced the names of those she would have to introduce.
Nearly an hour before Raucci was to lead the procession into Memorial Chapel to kick off Union’s 229th academic year, she mingled with colleagues as they all prepared to robe in the lobby of Yulman Theater.
“I’m a little nervous,” she admitted. “It’s the largest crowd that I have ever addressed.”
She joked of one worry.
“I’m afraid of tripping on stage,” she said.
At 4 p.m. on a sweltering Tuesday afternoon, hundreds of students, faculty and staff file into the Chapel. Raucci opens with some brief remarks and makes note of the unseasonably warm weather. Barely an hour later, she closes the ceremony by asking the audience to stand and sing “Ode to Old Union.” She makes good on her promise to step away from the podium during the song.
“I am a horrible singer,” she said. “People would run screaming from Memorial Chapel.”
Afterward, she is asked for a critique of her debut.
“I am happy with how it went and how I did,” she said. “But all the credit for any success goes to Darcy (Czajka ‘00, from the President’s Office), Carol (Mangano, from Academic Affairs) and their whole team, who are amazing.”
Raucci has a few months before her next event, Founders Day, in February. As she gets more comfortable in her new role, she may even tap into some of the creativity she shared at that faculty meeting which landed her the job.
“I’m really excited,” she said. “I’m going to have to bring some Roman rhetoric to the table.”