Reporter: Dhomonique Ricks l Videographer: Ira Quillen
Lynchburg, VA - Jim Ackley is the staple of Lynchburg's E.C. Glass Drama Department and Tuesday's announcement that he's retiring left many saddened. He's retiring as director after 36 years in the business, 32 of which were in Lynchburg at Glass.
It is the end of an era for the lifer at E.C. Glass High School.
"Thirty-two years is an awful lot of time for any one guy to have so much fun," Ackley said.
He says the decades of acting have brought much joy.
"I'm teaching kids who I've taught their parents and sometimes on occasion, the grandparents," Ackley said.
A real fact that's hard for some of his students to swallow.
"A lot of them keep saying, 'why can't you wait until I graduate?' and I try to say, if that were the case, I'd be here forever," Ackley said.
"It's definitely a sad loss," said Lauren Kenney, a junior.
"Mr. Ackley has built this program to be what it is right now," said Chris Rockwell, a senior.
"I started working with him when I did my first show freshman year and we just got really close." said JD Bowden, a sophomore.
Hard news for many alumni too, who have moved to bigger markets, like New York's Paul Fitzgerald, who has been seen on shows like Law and Order and Will and Grace.
"He had such an enormous impact on so many of our lives and stuff so the idea of him leaving, you know like any transition or change is unsettling because of what he's built," Fitzgerald said.
Those who know Ackley call him a role model.
"He's inspired so many people, that's such a cliché thing to say, but that's what everybody says about him," Kenney said.
But Ackley says he is not going too far.
"I'm going to get Facebook as soon as I retire, so evidently you can communicate with me on Facebook," Ackley said.
Ackley is the longest-serving drama teacher in the history of the school beginning his tenure in 1980. During that time, he directed more than 150 productions. Plays under his direction won two American High school Theatre Festival national championships as well as five Virginia Theatre Association State championships.