Frank Cortazzo was late for school. It was close to 6 p.m., and he dashed toward Canevin Hall to attend his first class in decades. He was almost there and feeling anxious when the Chapel of the Holy Spirit bells started ringing, easing his nerves.
Those bells are a familiar sound for Cortazzo – he’s heard them during every shift
of his nearly four-decade career with Duquesne University Public Safety. He’s now
a sergeant and runs the daylight shift.
Before his arrival on the Bluff, Cortazzo received his undergraduate degree in education in 1980 and taught part-time. He also worked a second job as a police officer in Wilmerding, Pa., to support his growing family.
Cortazzo decided to return to school in January 2023 to pursue an Education Administration Certificate in the School of Education. With a keen sense of what he wants to achieve and the impact he can make, he plans to use his certificate to become an advocate for education and to enhance his role as a longstanding school board member.
“I’m looking to go back to my first love, which was education. When I started class, I thought it might interfere with my work and school board responsibilities,” he said. “I found that it’s enhanced everything.”
Cortazzo embraces the lifelong learning opportunities at Duquesne and enjoys studying alongside his classmates, many of whom are early in their careers or recent college graduates. Together, they’re making enduring connections and challenging each other – and themselves.
“I’m bringing something to the table and they’re bringing something to me.”
He recognizes that today’s education system is different from what he experienced as a teacher in the 1980s, and he embraces these changes.
“We teach differently now. We do things differently in schools,” Cortazzo said. “There are generations between me and many of my classmates. They help me learn so much about how I deal with people and what questions to ask.”
Cortazzo, who Duquesne students warmly refer to as “Sarge,” also enjoys sharing his educational journey with the campus community. “It’s a buzz around campus,” he smiled. “Sarge’s in grad school.”
He also has the support of his family, including two grandchildren who are college students. “I’m going to school at the same time as my grandchildren,” Cortazzo said. “And it’s just exciting. I’m not too old to learn. I’m not too old to pick things up.”
In the classroom and on campus, Cortazzo leads by example. When he’s not writing papers or sharing insights with classmates, he’s on the Bluff promoting a safe campus environment and forming lasting relationships with students. This often comes through volunteer work – he enjoys serving late-night breakfast during study days and handing out Halloween candy.
“I enjoy hearing current students tell prospective students and their parents that they feel safe at Duquesne. It’s a proud moment when you hear that from the people you protect.”
Cortazzo also prides himself on fostering an environment where students feel safe enjoying campus and all aspects of the city.
But when the Chapel bells strike 6 p.m., he’s back in the classroom participating in important conversations that he’ll use to improve the future of education – it’s what he values most.
“Don’t worry so much about grades. Just get to class. And try to beat the bells sometimes,” he laughed.