The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines the word “teacher” as “one whose occupation is to instruct.” Theodore Yacucci is much more than a teacher in the Mass Comm department. He is a father, a mentor, a hard worker, and a native Delawarean. Theodore Yacucci sat down with us and gave us an inside scoop into his life.
Q: Where were you born, and what was your upbringing like?
A: I was born in Delaware. I’m a native Delawarean. I was born in Newark, right by where Christiana Hospital is now, of a middle-class upbringing with two brothers. I have a twin brother, so that was interesting—pretty much a standard middle-class kind of youth.
Q: Who has been the greatest influence in your life that has impacted the man you are today?
A: I guess I’d have to say my parents because they were relatively strict and kept us on the straight and narrow. They gave us the foundation that I think you need when you get to college and get into all the craziness that you know you can still make some good decisions, hopefully.
Q: What about your family?
A: My background is Italian, so my parents came from big families. We just had three children, my two brothers and myself, but I have a ton of cousins and relatives, aunts and uncles—kind of like a big Italian family. We were never short for holidays and seeing people. Family was really important going through life.
Q: Can you tell us your education history and what your goals were when you were a student in High School?
A: In high school, I didn’t know what I wanted to do. I remember sitting in high school class thinking what the heck am I going to do? I didn’t know what I wanted to major in college then. I liked biology, so I was thinking about majoring in biology and trying to get into med school or something like that. When I got to the University of Delaware upstate where I went, I was exposed to Mass Communications for the first time and fell in love with TV production; the idea of Journalism and TV production moved to the forefront, and that’s when I decided I wanted a career in Mass Communications.
Q: Can you tell us of your job experience prior to what you’re doing now?
A: When I got out of college, I couldn’t find a full-time job in television news which is what I wanted to do, so I worked part-time and then took a year off. I went back to grad school at Syracuse University and got my Master’s there. You had to know a lot of engineering stuff at that time too. It was a master of Science degree that I got. Even before I left Syracuse, I was hired in Binghamton, New York, to work as a director, and I worked as a director at one TV station. Then I moved to another station in the same market, an NBC affiliate, became a TV reporter, sports reporter, and anchor, and worked my way up to being a news director at that station. I didn’t want to work in the news my whole life, so I went to work for a production company to see what that was like as a production manager. I decided I wanted to start my own production company. I returned to Delaware in the Trolley Square area in Wilmington and started a video production company specializing in corporate communications. And I did that for the next 15 or 17 years doing work for all the major corporations in the state. Dupont was my biggest client, but I did work in corporate communications. We also did some TV commercials. I sold that business, and I went to work for Amtrak for three years as a senior media producer. I got to work on the west coast on a lot of high-end image campaigns for Amtrak, which is nice, but I wanted to get back into education. I worked for Delaware Tech Community College for ten years, and I managed a partnership between the university and Comcast. We were doing some live TV shows at that time from the campus in Dover. And then, I started working here while I was still there in 2008. I taught my first class here at Delaware State University as an adjunct and taught for an adjunct for several years before I was hired full-time to work in the Mass Comm Department.
Q: What was the most memorable point at that job?
A: Every job has its positives and negatives. I loved being in business for myself and loved the actual creative work. I didn’t love the business end of it. I didn’t enjoy running a business per se. I enjoyed the creative work more than anything else and was fortunate enough to win a few Telly Awards. That was always nice that people recognized your work’s quality. The best thing is working with students and watching them be ready to move up into their careers because it’s gratifying when you can watch the one that you had just a little bit of influence with, you see, the success they’ve had, and that’s cool.
Q: Is this where you thought you’d be five or so years ago?
A: I guess now, yeah. For the first years out of school, again going from one thing to another in jobs, you never really know where you’re going to be in Mass Comm. You think you have an idea of what you want, but if you’re smart, you keep yourself wide open and that way when you get opportunities, the key is to be available to take advantage of the opportunities that sometimes you can get, but if you’re not ready to jump in and say yeah, I can do that, and give me a chance, then you lose it. As you get older, you get more set in your ways, and you know what you’re going to do, but when you’re young, you should want to go all over the place and do a lot of deep stuff.
Q: What informed your decision on doing what you’re doing now?
A: I just loved it. I loved TV production. I loved going out, and I liked directing more than anything else. I like working with actors, which I haven’t had a chance to do as much as I like to cause a lot of my work was more corporate, and sometimes I did role-playing and things like that, but I relish it every time I get a chance to work with actors.
Q: Are you interested in politics?
A: As frustrating as politics is, what scares me the most and frustrates me the most is that most people who don’t vote are the people who could benefit from voting the most. When I ran, even for State Representative, I looked at the list of different communities who would vote and would not regularly vote. It’s always the poorest people that don’t vote. Because they’re working four jobs, they’re doing so much stuff that they need the opportunity to stay informed. It’s easy to get that attitude of “it doesn’t matter who I vote for. Nothing ever changes,” and I certainly understand that, but the truth is that it does matter. If I could change one thing, it would be to have. The people that are at the bottom end of the socioeconomic scale are the biggest group of voters that would change America.
Q: Is it true that you ran for the Delaware House of Representatives in 2012 and 2014? Tell us about that.
A: I did. That was a good experience even though it was frustrating cause I didn’t win, but I’ve always been interested in politics. I was the Democratic candidate. I was living in south Dover, and it was an excellent experience.
Q: What are your plans for the future?
A: You know, it’s a great question. You get to my age, so you are thinking about what I will do when I retire, and I keep coming up with a lot of things that I think I’d like to do, but right now, I’m still enjoying teaching. I am grateful that I’m still enjoying it. I have some ideas but nothing firm for when I retire.
Q: What kind of advice would you offer a student who is undecided on his or her career path?
A: Learn how to write number one. Writing is the best skill set you can have if you have good communication skills. You are valuable right now. The world revolves around content creation, so people who can create content will be in great demand. That’s not going to end anytime soon. That’s with social media sites, all websites, and all traditional media. If you have certain skills, you will be able to find a job, and you will be pretty successful.
Q: Have you ever traveled outside of the United States? Where and how does life outside compare to that in the US?
A: I have yet to do a lot of traveling. That’s the one thing I hope to do when I retire. I have never been to Europe. I have been to Canada, Mexico, and South America, but I’ve never been to Europe and Africa. Canada, of course, not so much. It’s very, very similar. I’ve been to Canada’s Vancouver area and Montreal on the Eastern side. I found them both the same. Vancouver is a very kind of international city. There are a lot of Asians. It’s a cool city because it’s a modern city. During my time in Mexico, I find the people extremely cool. I love the Mexican people. They are very generous. Most Mexicans I’ve ever interacted with have a strong family, kind of a family bent, and I respond to that. The one negative thing is that many very poor people are in Mexico. You realize that the economy needs to improve down there.
Q: Do you speak any other languages?
A: I speak a little bit of Spanish. I should speak more.
Q: What does the future hold for America?
A: That’s a great question, you know, for a lot of us that have been interested in politics, it’s a scary time because, again, I have to preface that I am very biased because I am a Democrat. I grew up in a union household, so my bias comes from that side, but it was difficult for me to believe that we elected someone like Donald Trump to be president. I think what I’m seeing out of the Republican Party, not Republicans in general. Still, elected Republican officials, I think, have demonstrated a complete lack of morality over the past number of years. And it’s a little bit frightening. A lot of people could benefit from fair social programs and from just more of a government that works for them. They will not be represented enough, and that’s a problem.
Q: What is your take on the state of politics and the future of the American democracy?
A: I have strong religious faith, so I hope America will come out of its funk and realize. One thing that I see is maybe a positive of having a Donald Trump and some of the stuff that we’ve been going through as a country is that maybe people will finally wake up and realize a more moral way to have a government and to know what government is really for and what it really does and really what it should do I should say. I’m afraid for Democracy in America because we’re under a big challenge. We have an opportunity to come out of it even stronger if things work out right.
Q: What are your views on Roe V Wade?
A: Well, that’s a tough one for me. I have to say it is very, very tough because I grew up Catholic. When I went to Catholic High School, I always felt that abortion was something I had a problem with, you know, because I believe that life begins at conception, and having those feelings makes it tough for me. I don’t believe that Republicans, for the most part, believe what they’re saying. I think that it’s just a political stand for most Republicans. Would I ever consider forcing someone to have a pregnancy? No, I mean, that’s not up to me. Never be up to me. That should be up to the woman and the woman entirely, especially in the case of incest and rape and all kind of stuff. That’s certainly the case; nobody should make those decisions except the woman. Do I hope there would be a lot less abortion in the world than there is now? Yeah, I mean, if I’m honest, I have to say that I think it’s a real shame because, you know, I think that’s a lot of lives that we don’t have the right to be taking just As a measure of like birth control.
Q: How are you responding to the outbreak of Covid-19?
A: What a hassle, isn’t it? It’s incredible how we all went through two to three years. Hopefully, it’s on the outer edges now. One thing I have realized from having a lot of Zoom classes is that there are some benefits to online interactions. Some classes work reasonably well that way. I have become more fan of hybrid classes than I ever thought I would. When it started, I hated online stuff cause I was used to being in a class. Then I got to the fact where I was like, wow, this could be effective in some instances, so on the education side, the fact that We were able to explore hybrid classes, I think it’s a good thing.
Q: What are your hobbies or extracurricular activities?
A: I used to like to play a lot of sports. I played sports and coached sports my whole life. I coached my son’s baseball and basketball teams until he was 18. I played many sports, I used to play a lot of softball in recent years but had to have a knee replacement, so I have to be a little careful now. I’m more of a spectator than a participant, but I play golf. I’m terrible at it and still try to get out on the tennis courts when possible. The other thing I like to do is work on documentaries. I have worked on a few fairly successful documentaries, and it’s a real passion.
Q: What is a book that you believe everyone should read?
A: I did a documentary on a woman from Ireland named Lorna Byrne. She is famous in Ireland and Europe but not so much in the United States. Still, she has claimed that she interacts with angels and can see angels. Her last three books have debuted at number one on the London Times Best Sellers, so that’s how popular she is. I think that whether you believe her or not, what she wrote in her first book and it’s called “Angels in My Hair” and I think that it’s a primer on what a good life should be, and I think that book would benefit anybody so “Angels in My Hair” by Lorna Byrne would be my answer.
Q: How would you describe your philosophy of life? That is, how do you see this life and what principles get you grounded and moving forward?
A: Be a good person. That’s it. I think we’re probably here to learn lessons, and I think the more lessons you learn, the better person you become, and I think when you go, if people can say about you, “that was a good woman” or “that was a good guy” I think that’s probably the best compliment you can have. You don’t need to be a mega millionaire. You have to be good and cool to the people you interact with.
In my case, you know, growing up catholic, I think that had a significant influence on me. I think of some things on a religious basis. As I’ve grown older, it’s just the interpersonal relationships that you have that I value. When you meet somebody you think is a nice, calm person, that’s a great thing for me. I don’t feel the need anymore, like when I was younger, to do things in front of groups. The minor stuff that I appreciate.
Q: How would you describe yourself to the world? Complete the sentence: I am…
A: I’m still learning. That’s what I would say. Whenever I think I have all the answers, I realize I don’t have any answers, and you move on and have more experiences.
Theodore Yacucci has been a part of DSU since 2008, and we are very fortunate to have such a wise man as part of the DSU family. He is a versatile and unique individual who has helped mold the students’ minds at Delaware state university.