On December 24, 2023 at the age of 82, Nicholas Dickon Reppucci of Charlottesville, died unexpectedly after a short illness. He was surrounded by family. Dick was born in Boston in 1941, the son of an unlikely marriage between Nicholas Reppucci, the child of Italian immigrants, and Bertha Williams, the daughter of a writer of children’s books and a distinguished painter and illustrator. Dick’s father took his first real job as a teamster when Dick was born. Dick’s parents divorced when he was 11, and his mother moved him and his young sister Karen to Hollywood, Florida. A devoted son and brother, Dick sacrificed typical childhood pursuits to help care for his family. He attended South Broward High, where he joined the tennis team, despite having never touched a racket before.
Dick began college at the University of Florida but transferred after a year to the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. There he made many friends, was editor of the Yackety Yack yearbook, and earned a BA with honors in psychology. He was then accepted to the graduate program in clinical psychology at Harvard, where he met the love of his life, Christine Onufrock. By far his greatest success at Harvard was convincing her to marry him. His first academic job was as an assistant professor at Yale, where he came to define himself as a community psychologist and developed the conviction that research was most valuable when it could impact the real world. After 8 years at Yale, Dick accepted a position as full professor and director of Clinical Psychology at the University of Virginia.
At UVA, Dick’s research focused on children, mental health, and the law as it relates to public policy. Reflecting deep collaborations with his students, he studied many aspects of youth crime—its prevalence, the treatment of violent juvenile offenders, and their rehabilitation. He was on the lookout for and confronted controversial assumptions and myths in his field. His work resulted in a greater understanding of these areas and in significant positive change across the intersection of law and psychology. Dick’s colleagues have described him as a visionary scientist and a social activist whose work impacted the treatment of juvenile offenders and led to improved outcomes. In 2018, the American Psychological Association honored him with its Award for Distinguished Contributions to Research in Public Policy.
Equally important to Dick was his passion for teaching undergraduates and mentoring his graduate students. Over his 41 years of teaching, he sent forth 50 graduate students, remarkable young people who have gone on to their own distinguished careers of research, teaching, and creating social change. So many students have paid tribute, saying very specifically that “he changed my life.” And his students joked that each thought that he or she was his favorite.
After retiring in 2017, Dick pursued other passions and interests, including engaging with his grandchildren, traveling with Christine, writing poetry (though only in Maine; the sea was his muse), reading spy novels, hanging out with his dogs, making new friends, and connecting with and touching almost everyone he met. He will be sorely missed, but never ever forgotten. He was not only a much beloved husband, father, and grandfather, but a monumental man, with a beautiful, modest, understated way about him. He exuded kindness, compassion, and understanding. He was affable, gentle, steady, reliable, trustworthy, and sincere. He opened his arms and heart freely to anyone who came within his orbit, including his children’s friends. Dick always looked out for the best interests of others: his family, his many students, and countless others he never met but who have been the beneficiaries of his work and attention. He cared very deeply about human rights and social justice. And he cherished animals, especially the mutts.
Dick genuinely loved his life, family, friends, students, and pets (his and everyone else’s). He still lives on in those fortunate enough to have known him. He is survived by his loving wife of 56 years, Christine Reppucci of Charlottesville; by his three children and their partners, Nicholas Reppucci and Margarita Caldentey of Charlottesville, Jonathan and Katie Reppucci of Denver, and Anna Chapman of Charlotte; his seven grandchildren, Marlow, Joshua, Anabella, Gabriella, Owen, Avril and Julia; and his dearest sister and brother-in-law Karen and Ed Perka of Arundel, Maine.
A memorial service and celebration of Dick’s life will take place in the spring. In lieu of flowers, please make donations to the CASPCA, The Deer Isle Heritage Trust (in Maine), or a social justice group of your choice. Alternately, just adopt a dog and love it devotedly.
Condolences may be shared with the family on the Tribute Wall.