Adjunct Professor Charlie Spiro has dedicated nearly half his life to teaching and inspiring students at Laurel Ridge.
Named the 2017 Distinguished Alumni Award winner, Spiro, 74, started teaching at Laurel Ridge 35 years ago.
The Distinguished Alumni Award is given to someone who has demonstrated outstanding career achievement, exceptional community service and a commitment to Laurel Ridge’s ideals of learning, high performance, integrity, positive spirit and diversity.
Spiro retired from full-time teaching in 2008, but has been an adjunct ever since. However, he now plans to retire at the end of the semester.
“I find I spend more time doing prep now than I did when I was full-time,” Spiro says.
The Long Island, N.Y. native had lived quite a full life before deciding to take an introductory level electronics class at the suggestion of Professor Al Dryer.
He had already attained his bachelor of arts degree in economics from C.W. Post College, now Long Island University, although he readily admits he barely scraped by. This was followed by a brief time in the school’s MBA program, before being drafted into the U.S. Army, where he was posted to Germany.
For much of the 1970s, Spiro managed the Radio Shack in Ward Plaza in Winchester. But, there was a big part of his life he wasn’t able to manage – an addiction to alcohol.
“I realized I was going to go to jail if I didn’t do something – that was finally something that was beneath my dignity,” Spiro says.
A month in the alcohol rehabilitation program at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Martinsburg, W.Va. got him sober in 1978.
“Every Thanksgiving I just put everything on my sobriety,” Spiro says. “Without the sobriety, I wouldn’t have anything.”
He went back to working at Radio Shack, and took the entry-level electronics class with Professor Dryer who helped convince him to start taking classes full-time. In 1981, he graduated summa cum laude from Laurel Ridge with his associate of applied science degree in electronics.
Spiro then attended Capital College in Maryland, getting his bachelor’s degree in electronic engineering technology.
In 1982, he started teaching electronics at Laurel Ridge, and has stayed for 35 years. He’s currently teaching web page design and web scripting.
During his career, he managed to earn another associate degree, this one in accounting, from Laurel Ridge.
The part about teaching that he most enjoys is “just sharing knowledge.”
“And, I do like graduation ceremonies because you get to see who you’ve been happy teaching going on to things that are bigger and better,” Spiro adds.
Eleven years ago, he was honored with the Distinguished Faculty Award.
Of all the colleges he’s attended, Laurel Ridge is “most definitely” the highest quality, according to Spiro.
“There are smaller classes, and the faculty cares,” he says. “And the facilities were good.”
Community colleges offer “such a deal” on education, Spiro says.
“I only wish that the community colleges were as available and as quality-driven in the early 1960s as they are today,” he says.
A couple of Laurel Ridge professors really impacted him, Spiro says. He cited Al Dryer and Tom Tredon. Tredon taught his math classes.
“Not only did I get high grades, I understood what he was talking about,” Spiro says of Tredon.
Since 2009, Spiro has been volunteering two days a week at Winchester Medical Center as a patient representative.
“I heard about the retirees who just lay down in front of the TV and die six months later,” Spiro says. “I didn’t want to do that. I enjoy it so much that I’m staying there.”
Spiro says he plans to continue donating to scholarships at Laurel Ridge and coming to events on campus.
“I might even check with the tutoring people to see if they need anybody for webpage design,” he says.
And, Spiro even pictures himself taking classes at Laurel Ridge for his own enrichment.
Laurel Ridge Community College was known as Lord Fairfax Community College until June 2022. For consistency purposes, the college will be referenced as Laurel Ridge going forward.