Beloved Geography Professor, Rob Ritchie, retires after 15 years of teaching

Rob Ritchie, a beloved professor of  geography and military history, is set to retire at the end of the spring semester after a long and fruitful career at Liberty University. 

Born the son of a Scottish immigrant, Ritchie grew up with dreams of college. Fast forward to 2022 and Ritchie has not only achieved that dream of college, but he has taught as a professor at Liberty for 15 years. 

“Liberty University took a chance on me,” he said. “I don’t have a Ph.D., but they gave me a chance. I spent 33 years in the military. It took a lot of courage and willingness for me to get where I am now.” 

Ritchie served in all three branches of the military.

Ritchie served in all three branches of the military throughout his journey and joined the Marines in 1974 as his ticket to college. Through the military, he started teaching to anyone who would listen. During his military career, Ritchie developed a passion for history and received his bachelors of history after attending The Citadel. 

“I started by standing on the hood of Jeeps and teaching in the military,” Ritchie said when asked how he first started out in his profession.“The first thing they teach in the military is the past and the  importance of  history.” 

When the offer finally came, Ritchie gratefully accepted the opportunity to teach geography at Liberty. His time serving and his passion for military studies led him to participate in the initiative for a military studies program at Liberty through the history department. Ritchie has been teaching military history and geography since Liberty hired him.

“Dr. Schulz, former chair of the history department, recommended me to take the prerequisites to teach geography,” Ritchie said. “Then, we got the military studies degree, and I got to pioneer that.”

His passion for geography and his love of the subject led Ritchie to teach. 

“I’ve taught geography at Liberty for 15 years. My love of the subject led me to teach. I love the art of it,” Ritchie said.

Ritchie connected with many students and colleagues during his time as a professor. He encapsulated his time here with       one word: gratitude.

“I have such gratitude for a nation and a ministry here at Liberty that gives people like me a chance,” Ritchie said. “I made it a goal to work at Liberty, and it took me 14 years before I reached my goal.”

Even as Ritchie gets ready for retirement and sets out on a new journey, he knows he’ll always remember and cherish his experiences at Liberty. 

The history department threw a surprise party for Ritchie, affectionately termed Operation Cupcake, held during the Phi Alpha Theta Banquet on April 22. (Photo by Brent Tyrrell)

“I’ll miss the team here: the students and colleagues, both the ones I teach residentially and online,” Ritchie said. “I’m going to spend my retirement seeing what God has for me.”  

Ritchie has made lasting connections and has become beloved by colleagues and students. Shadowing Ritchie and assisting him with his tasks, his teacher’s assistants Evelyn Loftin and Hannah Method have appreciated Ritchie’s impact on the history department and on their own lives.

“Professor Ritchie has taught me a lot about how to conduct myself in a professional environment,” Loftin said. “He gives his teacher assistants opportunities to present in class, which really helped me achieve my goals during Research Week. I used to dread geography, but he made it so fascinating.”

Method also learned a lot from Ritchie and valued the time spent working as his other teacher’s assistant. 

“If you want someone to help you build a boat, don’t just demand work. Give people a love of the sea and they will want to work,” Method said, describing what Ritchie used to tell her. “Professor Ritchie gives people a love of the sea.”

The history department threw a surprise party for Ritchie, affectionately termed Operation Cupcake, held during the Phi Alpha Theta Banquet on April 22. Professors from the history department along with students and alumni gave heartfelt speeches about Ritchie and his impact on the history department, but also their lives. 

“Captain Geo, sir, you are no longer a legend in your own mind, but a legend in all of our hearts,” Wright said. “Much more than a legend though, a true Champion for Christ.”

Stephanie Write, former teacher’s assistant for Ritchie

“Professor Rob Ritchie is possibly the most gifted classroom teacher I have ever encountered,” said Dr. Samuel Smith, the Chair of Liberty’s history department.  “Over the years students have consistently informed me that he is interesting, engaging, challenging, funny, and all-around excellent. Alumni regularly visit the History Department, and most of them come to reconnect with Professor Ritchie. I have never seen a teacher more loved by his students. Of the many wonderful characteristics he possesses, the most important is that he is wholly dedicated to the mission of Training Champions for Christ. I know of no one who has done this better than Rob Ritchie. He will be greatly missed.” 

“It’s hard to put into words the impact you’ve had on my life” Stephanie Wright, former teacher’s assistant for Ritchie said at the Phi Alpha Theta Banquet. “Thank you for taking a chance on a nerd who came into your office four years ago and was able to identify a Japanese 37mm tank round.” 

The impact Ritchie had at Liberty University was evident through everyone in the history department as Wright and many others delivered emotional speeches.

“Your award-winning lectures will truly be missed and although many will try to replicate them, they will never be able to duplicate them,” Wright said. 

One statement, that is familiar to us all, was used to describe Ritchie and his time at Liberty University: a Champion for Christ.

“Captain Geo, sir, you are no longer a legend in your own mind, but a legend in all of our hearts,” Wright said. “Much more than a legend though, a true champion for Christ.”

Pace is the assistant feature editor.

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