In Appreciation of a Couple of True Ambrosians: Rachel and Art Serianz


True Ambrosians: Art and Rachel Serianz's Retirement

For Art Serianz, PhD, professor of chemistry, and Rachel Serianz, PhD, professor of education, retirement will simply be another step in a series of life metamorphoses.

They plan to travel, spend time with family, plant a big garden, join a gym, become more involved in parish ministry and volunteer in many forms. Rachel is going to learn another language, but still is trying to decide which one.

And for Art?

"Maybe just kicking back a little bit-there is nothing wrong with relaxing," he said.

In terms of their lives as Ambrosians-43 years for Art and 30 for Rachel-both will stay involved. Rachel will continue to be an adviser of the Kappa Delta Pi education honor society, a role she has filled for 22 years. She also will assist with engineering camps and, possibly, observing student teachers. Art will serve as an adjunct and continue his work on the Higher Learning Commission Committee, where he has served for more than 30 years.

The Source of Their Passion 

Art has sustained his passion as an educator by being genuinely engaged and curious about his students.

"Students are always different, and it's always so amazing and wonderful to learn what they're about, to teach them as new developments occur in science," he said. "And the material, the topic that I teach, continues to fascinate me."

"Similar to Art, I have a deep passion for the content that I teach," added Rachel.

Both identify another source of their teaching pleasure- watching students evolve.

"My pleasure has come from being part of developing excellent teachers," said Rachel. "From their entry into the program to my methods courses to observing some of them as student teachers-the entire metamorphosis."

"As students take courses and broaden their experiences, they become more aware of themselves and what they really might want to do in their lives," said Art.

"We watch them develop. The butterfly emerges at the end."

Leaving Their Mark

For Art, one significant change in the Chemistry Department has been the emphasis on health sciences education.

"I was on some of the committees to help develop those programs and they have certainly strengthened enrollment in the basic sciences."

Rachel's legacy includes bringing about "a more pervasive acceptance and honoring of science" in the School of Education.

Rachel and Art played major roles in creating and sustaining SAU's well-respected outreach summer camps in engineering and chemistry.

Both have been involved in grant-writing, with Art responsible for approximately $8 million in grants received by SAU over the years.

Both also identify an increased atmosphere of service as part of their legacy.

"We've made that a priority as far back as we've been here," said Rachel.

For Students, A Lasting Impression

"Art was tough, fair, and supportive-a major positive influence in my life," said Rob Philibert '83, MD, PhD, a University of Iowa professor of psychiatry and CEO and principal founder of Behavioral Diagnostics. "I would not be here without him."

"Rachel is the best mentor I ever could have asked for," said Felicia (Toher) Pfluger '95, artistic director and founder of LATTE Theater in LaGrange, Illinois. "She has been a constant source of vibrancy, goodness and strength in my life ... (even) walking me down the wedding aisle."

Goodbye Is Not Goodbye

After turning in grades for the last time, the couple will begin training for their 25th Bix 7-mile road race in July, followed by a 13-day land and sea tour of Alaska. And then it's back to doing what makes them who they are: Ambrosians committed to service by helping others evolve into their best selves.

Staying Connected:

The Art & Rachel Serianz Scholarship

The Art & Rachel Serianz Scholarship has been established in honor of their combined 73 years of service to St. Ambrose and to support students from their respective
areas of teaching.

The scholarship will be funded through an initial gift from Art and Rachel, with an additional solicitation of former students and colleagues to make a gift in their honor.

The Chemistry scholarship will be awarded to a rising sophomore who has shown passion and dedication in the classroom. A rising junior majoring in elementary education will be eligible for the Education scholarship, preferably one with an endorsement in science or STEM. "This is our way to stay connected to the students and the teaching experience," said Art.

Should funds allow, a portion of the earnings will be dedicated to funding The Art and Rachel Serianz Lecture on Faith and Science. "We have always been defined by our faith and by our fields of study," Rachel said.

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