Don Richardson ’51 cultivated a lifelong passion for teaching into a lasting legacy in academia and in his community. After graduating magna cum laude with a degree in history, he embarked on a path that resulted in a 44-year career in education – including teaching social studies for seven years, serving 27 years in school administration, teaching at four colleges or universities (HWS among them) and publication of 20 articles in professional journals.
Now retired, Richardson’s enthusiasm for history and teaching remains a focal point of his life. He served as president of the Sterling Historical Society, in Sterling, N.Y., for 13 years and is currently a trustee.
“One of the rewards of working with the historical society is meeting so many interesting people who have such wonderful stories to tell,” said Richardson, while serving as its president.
Richardson’s creative and enthusiastic methods of informing the Sterling locals of the community’s rich history and sharing its stories have propelled the society membership numbers from 45 prior to his involvement to 353, currently. The spike in membership is due in part to his popular weekly column, “Tales of Sterling” which he began publishing 11 years ago. Along with 22 co-authors, he later published a book “The Best of the Tales of Sterling,” highlighting these nostalgic writings.
While president, Richardson led two popular initiatives: a boat tour of the community and a senior bus tour, both of which he explains gave visitors and locals an opportunity to gain a better understanding of the local landscape and how it factors in to the history of the community.
“Throughout my time with the Sterling Historical Society, one of the things I found most interesting was seeing the local history tied into to the national history,” he explains. “History really helps us know who we are and what has shaped us.”
While a student at Hobart, Richardson was awarded the Stokes History Award and was a member of the Beta Sigma Tau fraternity and the football team. He was intrigued by the broad backgrounds of the student body, noting that the Colleges’ focus on race relations, Western civilization, and overall study of society helped lay the foundation for his entire career.
“The liberal arts background I received at Hobart and William Smith is something I have carried with me throughout my entire life,” says Richardson. “I really enjoyed the coursework, but the activities I was involved in, such as the debate society, were also very helpful and encouraging. They helped me become more of a leader.”
Following his time at the Colleges, Richardson went on to receive a M.A. at Syracuse University and later an Ed.D. from Teachers College, Columbia University. He began his career as a social studies teacher before moving on to become a high school principal.
Throughout his career, Richardson was at the forefront of a number of innovative academic tactics. Following his 27-year career in school administration, Richardson took charge of the Central New York Learning Styles, a program designed to allow teachers to adapt their instruction to the needs of individual students. With an emphasis on accommodating the different ways students learn, Richardson set out to adapt teaching techniques and materials to help students become better learners.
“Each of us has a pattern of how we learn,” Richardson said in a local article published at the time he took charge of the program. “Some learn better from lecture, others from being physically involved. Learning Styles allows the teacher to recognize and teach to the student’s strengths.”