After 40 years of teaching, Professor Richard Arrigotti is a mathematical icon at Western Nevada College.
Arrigotti became a full-time mathematics instructor at WNC in 1976. It’s hard to name many WNC professors or employees who have devoted more of himself to the college than Arrigotti. Forty years later, his students say Arrigotti exceeds the definition of a devoted instructor. Their continual positive feedback after each semester indicates why he’s so successful in their eyes.
“I do not enjoy math normally but was very happy with this course,” one student wrote. “Our class felt very comfortable, and it was easy to ask for help. Professor Arrigotti was very patient and went out of his way to help us succeed. There was a lot of homework, but I learned from all of it and now feel very confident in the material. I have recommended professor Arrigotti to many fellow students; he was just wonderful.”
Teaching has enriched Arrigotti’s life, too. He begins each day with an invigorating 1.5-mile nature walk to the college, then devotes the rest of the day to his students.
“I have found teaching to be a very rewarding profession,” he said. “It provides the opportunity to help people who are trying to better themselves. It provides the opportunity to keep the mind sharp and engaged in activity.
“Whether I am teaching basic math, shop math, algebra, precalculus, calculus or differential equations, what makes my work enjoyable is working with students, seeing them learning, improving and appreciating the beauty of mathematics.”
WNC Liberal Arts Director Scott Morrison said spending a lecture with Arrigotti exposes his devotion to teaching and his desire to help his students.
“It is an absolute pleasure to listen to a lecture from Professor Rich Arrigotti,” Morrison said. “Whether it’s precalculus or differential equations, Rich approaches teaching with undeniable passion. He holds his standards for student achievement very high, and quietly and consistently empowers his students to grow as learners.”
Arrigotti began teaching an arithmetic class at WNC in 1973 on a part-time basis.
“It was a night class held at Carson Middle School. The college, at the time, did not yet have a building of its own,” Arrigotti said.
Because he was younger than most of the students attending the class, Arrigotti made sure he earned the students’ respect by the way he dressed.
“I always wore a sports coat and tie to class, as most of the students at that time were older than me, who was rather young looking, and I did not want them to get confused as to who was the teacher,” Arrigotti said.
He remembered Jack C. Davis, WNC’s founding president, who he said took the time to see how he was adjusting to his new role with WNC.
“He had a simple and direct way of finding out from the students if I was any good; he interrupted my lecture, went in front of the students and asked them if I knew what I was doing,” Arrigotti recalled. “Fortunately for me, they responded positively and I have been working at the college ever since, becoming full time in 1976.”
Arrigotti’s passion for teaching isn’t lost on his students. Morrison remembers a WNC student telling him why Arrigotti was her favorite teacher.
“Every day, Professor Arrigotti walks into the room with a big smile on his face,” Morrison said the student told him. “He loves teaching, and he’s the best teacher I’ve ever had.”
Morrison said Arrigotti reaches his students with a “calm, measured, humble approach. He teaches for his students; he communicates with them as individuals, with compassion and respect for their struggles and for their unique potential.”
This spring, the Associated Students of Western Nevada presented Arrigotti with an award for his 40 years of outstanding leadership and service to the college. Arrigotti was touched by it.
“My recent honor from ASWN for 40 years of service meant a lot to me,” Arrigotti said. “As a young teacher, I was cocky and thought I was God’s gift to the world. After 40 years of being taught by my students, I find the world is rather God’s gift to me. It is nice to know that what I do at work is useful and valued.”
Arrigotti earned his bachelor’s in mathematics from St. Mary’s College and his master’s in mathematics from the University of California, Davis.
In the recently concluded spring semester, Arrigotti provided students with upper-level mathematics instruction in precalculus/trigonometry, calculus 1 and III, and differential equations.
Students can take comfort in knowing Arrigotti doesn’t plan to retire anytime soon.
“I am not sure when I will stop teaching, but for now, as long as I am healthy, I will continue to serve as a teacher, for I truly do enjoy it,” he said.