Thousands of students know the human body better thanks to Professor Ramon Selove. Many of them have taken what they learned in his anatomy and physiology classes as they embarked on careers in the medical field.
During his 30 years at Laurel Ridge, Professor Selove has taught more than 4,500 students. Besides anatomy and physiology, other courses he has taught include biology, body structure and function, alternative medicine/diet and college success skills.
For a man used to doing things his own way – from trimming his hair and beard once a year on the spring equinox and then letting it grow out, to his eccentric attire, to being the first person to offer multiple-site classes simultaneously, to being the first non-computer faculty member to have a desktop computer – retiring in the midst of a pandemic is not how he would have chosen to bow out.
“It’s been kind of weird, kind of disappointing,” he said. “I thought I would be going out with a bang, but instead, it’s sort of a whimper.”
The continuing need for social distancing meant a planned retirement party was replaced with a Zoom gathering, complete with a video produced by his son Nathan.
In the video, former students, as well as former Laurel Ridge President John J. “Ski” Sygielski, discussed the lasting impact the professor has had on their lives and careers. Family and friends also joined in the well wishes.
Professor Selove recalled several “firsts” he had at Laurel Ridge.
“I’ve been one of the innovators in off-site classes,” he said. “I was the first person at Lord Fairfax to do multiple-site classes back in the old days when we had a system from Shentel. It gave us this synchronous audio and video hook-up between the Middletown Campus and each of the different high schools in Shenandoah County. That was sort of the beginning of this concept of distance education that we’ve been doing.”
That was about 25 years ago. But even before then, Professor Selove was an early adopter of computer technology.
“I was the first faculty member at Lord Fairfax to have my own computer on my desk in my office, aside from the people who actually taught computer science,” he said.
At 25, Professor Selove was one of the youngest – if not the youngest – assistant professor in the community college system. Amazingly, he had started teaching college classes five years previously.
Professor Selove had a unique higher education experience – leaving high school midway through his junior year to begin college as part of a pilot federal program. He attended George Mason University, an experience that was life changing.
“When I went to college, it was like a whole world opening up to me,” he said. “It was challenging. It was great. I loved it.”
Within three years, Professor Selove had earned his bachelor’s degree in biology. Because he loved college so much, the only way to stay in academics was to go to graduate school, so he headed to Ohio State University with the thought of becoming a research assistant.
But, half his tuition would be paid if he taught classes, so he started teaching college students when he was just 20.
“I was truly shocked to find out that I loved teaching,” he said. “It was like coming home.”
At Ohio State, Professor Selove earned a master’s degree in zoology, with a specialization in environmental physiology.
In 1990, he was hired to teach at Laurel Ridge. His wife, Shellie, a psychotherapist specializing in autism and in sex therapy, has taught some psychology classes at the college, as well. The couple have two sons, Nathan and Paul. Nathan is an adjunct professor of public speaking at GMU and Northern Virginia Community College.
Throughout his time at Laurel Ridge, Professor Selove has made his mark in various ways. He has served as chair of the Faculty Council. A couple of years into his tenure, he was awarded the Outstanding Teaching Award.
As the first professor to teach anatomy and physiology full time at Laurel Ridge, he had a big influence on the health professions programs getting off the ground. He said the first health care program was the licensed practical nurse to registered nurse transition.
“We have kept adding things since then,” Professor Selove said. “At this point, the health professions are a major driver of Laurel Ridge’s enrollment.” He jokingly added, “I claim credit for the enormous success of Laurel Ridge.”
But, he’s not just dedicated to the academic side of the college. Professor Selove is proud of starting the BOND (Bureau of Neuro-Diversity) Club, a supportive group for those students who are neuro-diverse – which includes those on the autism spectrum, as well as people with attention-deficit disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder, reactive attachment disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder and other disorders – and their allies.
Professor Selove was diagnosed with autism himself in his mid-40s. Ten years ago, his service dog, Coriander, joined him on campus. He and the BOND Club created a sensory break room recently on the Middletown Campus.
“During a recent club meeting, my students were asking, ‘What are we going to do without you?’” Professor Selove said. “Maybe I will keep leading it. I asked the college if I could continue to be a club sponsor as a retired professor.”
As someone on the autism spectrum, Selove is proud he has kept the same job for 30 years.
“It’s really difficult for a person on the spectrum to navigate social interactions in order to make a job work, and he did that and put a focus on his students, and they always mattered the most to him,” Shellie Selove explained.
Her husband’s impact is felt far and wide. Shellie Selove said anytime she or her husband are at a doctor’s office, anywhere from Northern Virginia, to Luray, to Martinsburg, W.Va., they run into former students.
“People, when they hear our names, even if Ramon is not with me, will say, ‘Oh, my gosh, are you related to Ramon Selove?’” she said. “They will say, ‘He was the best professor. We just loved him.’ He has students who he taught 25 years ago come and have lunch with him. There’s one student we’re very close to. He comes from Hawaii.”
Professor Selove is also very proud of former student Nikki Parrish, who is the associate director of the Johns Hopkins Hospital Medical mycobacteriology program.
“She’s the smartest person I’ve ever had in my classes,” he said.
Dr. Parrish said she wouldn’t be where she is in her career without Professor Selove’s tutelage.
“I have to say that he is and will remain my favorite teacher of my entire career, which is saying something considering the number of years of schooling that I have had,” she said. “Although I left Laurel Ridge many years ago, Ramon continued to be an inspiration for me not only though my graduate studies but also in my career in medicine.
“Each year that passes brings a new group of medical students to Johns Hopkins and each year as a medical educator, I play a role in shaping the next generation of doctors and researchers. And what is still very profound to me, is that even after all these years, I begin teaching each new class very much the way Ramon taught me. In fact, my students have often remarked that I have a way of explaining material that helps them learn and retain the information. My response? ‘Well I learned from the best,’ and proceed to tell them about Ramon.”
Professor Selove isn’t sure what he’ll do in his retirement. He mentioned possibly going through Laurel Ridge’s nursing program or CDL program. But, he knows what will be the hardest part about retiring.
“Man, I miss having students, and I’m sure that will be the thing I miss the most in retirement,” Professor Selove says.
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.