Unassuming and down-to-earth is how one might describe Dr. Robert McNamara, a 1984 graduate of Mattatuck Community College, who was invited to speak with NVCC students on October 28, 2014 about his path to student success. In a written biography that he shared with students at the beginning of the event, he described himself as “an ordinary guy who was provided some extraordinary opportunities.” Dr. McNamara’s story is one of challenges, not unfamiliar to some students in the audience. Growing up in urban New Haven, McNamara came from a broken family and ended up in the foster care system. He became a runaway; joined gangs, experimented with drugs and was headed down a precarious path, until he realized that education was his chance to have a normal life. Realizing this as well, Dr. McNamara’s football coach invited him to live with his family, so that he could focus on school.
Dr. McNamara eventually enrolled in criminal justice classes at Mattatuck Community College and graduated in 1984. He continued his education and earned a bachelor’s degree in justice and law administration at Western Connecticut State University; a master’s degree in sociology/criminal justice from Southern Connecticut State University; and a Ph.D. in sociology from Yale University. He currently serves as the Associate Provost and Dean of The Citadel Graduate College in South Carolina.
Dr. McNamara’s list of accomplishments is long and distinguished. He has written numerous books on topics such as juvenile delinquency, crime, social problems, urban sociology, poverty, prostitution and social gerontology. He has also been a consultant for state, federal and private agencies on topics such as AIDS, drug abuse, urban redevelopment, homelessness, policing, gangs, and health care. Dr. McNamara worked with the Regional Community Policing Institute at Eastern Kentucky University to study school safety in eight high schools across the state. He also worked with the Mexican government and the National Strategy Information Center to develop an anti-corruption curriculum in their public schools. He has served as a consultant for many police departments around the country on a wide range of issues. Dr. McNamara was named an American Council on Education Leadership Fellow for 2014/2015. He continues to generously serve his community through his speeches, workshops and as a volunteer coach for disadvantaged youth.
During his visit with NVCC’s Male Encouragement Network (M.E.N.) and the Student Government Association (SGA), Dr. MacNamara inspired students to persevere, no matter how difficult the circumstances and to stay positive and focus on achieving one’s goals. He also explained the importance of not only being aware of the improvements we need to make in our lives, but also to celebrate and focus on our strengths as well.
NVCC President Daisy Cocco De Filippis, Ph.D. recently nominated Dr. McNamara for the Outstanding Alumni Award presented by the American Association of Community Colleges.