With over 35 years of experience in the exercise science field, Prof. Peter Ronai has significantly impacted Sacred Heart University’s community during his time teaching both undergraduate and graduate classes. Most prominently, he stands out due to his persistent dedication to his students.
“My students and other colleagues and faculty, they’re what keep me going,” said Ronai.
Ronai initially received his Bachelor’s degree in Health Science and Public Health from Southern Connecticut State University (SCSU) in 1983. In 1988, he also earned his master’s degree in Exercise Science and Human Performance from SCSU.
He has had an extensive career both on and off campus. Prior to his job at SHU, Ronai’s longest-held role was at the Bridgeport Hospital Ahlbin Rehab Center, as an exercise physiologist and site supervisor/manager.
“I got this phone call from a colleague of mine asking if I would consider coming over to teach,” Ronai said. “That was a very scary process because it meant change – a big change career-wise.”
It was not initially Ronai’s intention to become a professor, and this required him to leave behind the comfort of his career at Bridgeport Hospital. Over the past 18 years, however, Ronai has grown fond of his experience at the university.
“I look at teaching and I look at working at Sacred Heart as a labor of love for me,” he said. “But I feel like I’m still a work in progress at what I do.”
Since entering the world of teaching, Ronai has also returned as an adjunct professor to SCSU. He continues to build his personal knowledge by researching, writing, and presenting about exercise science.
“I only do things that I know I can then bring into the classroom and parlay that information for students’ betterness,” Ronai said. “I’m always looking for how I can write or present something that will make people all over say, ‘Hey, I can use that!’”
In past years, Ronai has been recognized as the faculty member of the year through Sacred Heart’s Residential Life awards. He has also been recognized as advisor of the year for the College of Health Professions.
“Those are nice things to have, but more importantly to me, it just means that I’m making connections; that my students and I are connecting and good things are happening,” said Ronai.
Ronai was also asked to be the faculty advisor for the exercise science club. His involvement in the SHU community consistently goes above and beyond the expectations of an average professor.
On top of his successes within the university, Ronai has also been recognized highly in other regards of the exercise science field. One of his highest achievements is his recognition as a Fellow of the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM).
“That is very big professionally. That is one of the greatest honors or distinctions you can get in the exercise science and sports medicine profession,” Ronai said. “It is a very selective process and getting that professionally was very important because it confirms that I’m doing what I’m supposed to do, with effectiveness.”
While Ronai’s individual career has had a multitude of successes, he finds many of the highlights to involve the achievements of his students.
“One of the greatest moments for me – and one that I get really emotional about – is when I go to graduation every year and I watch all of my students go through the line receiving their diploma. That, to me, is sort of the pinnacle of why I’m here,” he said.
Ronai makes it a goal to remember the names and faces of the students he works with. He aims to empower students by showing them that they are important.
“SHU students are great people. I think that’s what’s keeping me here,” Ronai said. “At this stage of my professional life, I can’t think of anything else I’d rather do, or anything that gives me a greater feeling of fulfillment.”