Laurel Ridge’s 2023 Distinguished Faculty Award recipient Professor Larry Friedenberg may have come to the college as part of a career change, but in that time he has become “one of the most importance pieces of our campus community,” according to his nomination letter.
Professor Friedenberg originally went to school with the intention of becoming a forest ranger, earning a bachelor’s degree in forest resource management from West Virginia University. With forestry jobs in short supply in the early 1980s, he went to work at a nursery on the Eastern Shore of Virginia. He later was a partner in a landscaping and construction company.
In 1990, Professor Friedenberg began working at New Dominion School, a residential wilderness program for adolescents, which motivated him to get into teaching. After getting his master’s degree in education, he began teaching special education at Handley High School. This led to his role as a certified vocational rehabilitation counselor with the Virginia Department of Rehabilitation Services.
Professor Friedenberg was hired by Laurel Ridge in 2007 to be the disability services counselor and advisor. He also taught SDV 100 and Sociology 200 classes, and interviewed for a full-time faculty member position in 2014. He started that role in January 2015, and by that fall, he had established the human services specialization.
The nomination for Professor Friedenberg notes that starting the Human Services program was a “major effort,” with his routinely developing new courses and working with area organizations to create internship opportunities for his students. It also highlights his strong rapport and connection with students.
“His style of instruction is a model for us all to follow,” the nomination says. “Students feel comfortable sharing their perspectives while engaging with the material and their peers. Professor Friedenberg is a good mentor for students and has shown the importance of student success through innovative counseling. He is a person who many students look to for guidance.”
Professor Friedenberg, who is the sociology program lead, is highly involved in Laurel Ridge and the Virginia Community College System (VCCS), serving on the Diversity and Inclusion Council and VCCS Opportunity 2027, and bringing voter registration drives, domestic violence awareness, suicide prevention and other learning and engagement opportunities to campus.
“Larry has an extremely positive attitude, is always working to improve faculty morale, and is willing to help anyone and everyone,” the nomination reads. “Larry epitomizes what a Laurel Ridge faculty member should be – caring, patient, kind, and inclusive. He is a well-respected member of faculty, advocate for students and faculty alike, and one of the most important pieces of our campus community and why Laurel Ridge is so great.”
For his part, Professor Friedeberg said the award took him by surprise.
“I think the work I do is really a product of the great students and all my coworkers,” he humbly said. “I most enjoy engaging with the students. The human services students get into the helping professions – social work, counseling, case management. It’s nice to see them come back to the community and contribute in that way.”
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.