It took a tragic event to even get former Susquehanna men's cross country and track & field runner Salvatore "Sal" D'Angelo to attend Susquehanna but now, two years after graduation, the former standout runner is back at his alma mater in a totally different role.
D'Angelo has returned to his alma mater as a visiting lecturer of sociology beginning this academic year. A four-year member of the cross country team, three-year member of the track & field team and a founding member of SU's boxing club, D'Angelo graduated from Susquehanna University in May of 2014 with a degree in history and the following fall graduated with a second degree in sociology. He left with top-10 program times in a variety of events and two Landmark Conference Cross Country titles.
In the spring of 2016, D'Angelo graduated from the University of Pennsylvania with a Master's of Science Criminology degree and was immediately contacted by one of his former professors about a teaching position in the Anthropology/Sociology Department at Susquehanna. D'Angelo applied, not thinking he would land the job. To his surprise, was hired after an on-campus interview and is now a visiting professor on a year-to-year basis.
When asked if he ever thought about being a professor, the response was a resounding no. He has been uncomfortable in classrooms since high school due to a tragic event that took place his freshman year. While it is not an event anyone would wish to experience, it is what led him to Susquehanna as an undergraduate in the first place.
In 2006, D'Angelo was leaving his high school freshman history class on his way to biology which was down the most populated hallway, said hi to his sister as he always did, and continued on. At this point, he heard what he thought were firecrackers going off in the hallway ahead followed by screaming and mass panic. What he thought were mere toys were actually the rounds of an AK-47 an older student had brought to school, in a gym bag, to commit suicide.
The shots young D'Angelo heard proved to be warning shots so that students would clear the hallways, as the shooter did not want to hurt anyone else. Right before his eyes, the situation turned to panic. Getting swept outside would normally be a good thing but as D'Angelo could not find his sister, he decided to re-enter the building, a decision that put him on the path he currently walks.
As Sal made his way back into the building, he was pulled into a classroom by former Susquehanna University football player Chris Shelly '92 – the class D'Angelo just left – and that is where he stayed until the students were evacuated. Shelly, currently a history teacher and football coach at the high school, calmed his students and the big ex-football player – turned teacher made D'Angelo feel safe.
D'Angelo had now found a new passion for history. He wanted to know how our society could allow this seemingly successful young man, volunteer firefighter and all-around good guy to take his own life.
D'Angelo believes "history is the path to the present and the future" this is where he began. He figured studying history would allow him to understand why our society allowed this tragic event to happen.
As he got to know Shelly, Sal learned about Susquehanna and was drawn to campus because he felt comfortable – something that was hard for him. Sal sat in on a history class and was hooked. His first college class was Sociology 101 and he took a sociology class every semester after that to pursue a double major as he aimed to further his knowledge of how society works.
His professors, beginning with his time as a student, have had a profound impact on Sal and his life. The fact that they now call Sal a colleague is further proof that what you do in college will last with you for a lifetime.
"The time you spend in college as a student-athlete is a privilege that will come to an end," D'Angelo said. "You need to find your passion outside of athletics and think of your future. Do not let being an athlete define who you are and use your resources."
Now that he is teaching at his alma mater, D'Angelo feels that life has come full circle and even though this was never the path he intended to take, he is grateful for the opportunity to give back to the students like his professors did for him. The best part of the day is in the classroom as he sees himself in his students as they become aware of what the world around them holds.