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Dr. Theodore Darden Talks About His Life and Career in Higher Education, Public Service and Policing at Cape May Campus

02/27/2024 | Media Contact: David Zuba, Public Relations Manager and Copywriter | (609) 343-4933
Krista Fitzsimons, Dr. Theodore Darden, Dr. Barbara Gaba and Trustee Rev. Dr. Thomas Dawson

CAPE MAY COURT HOUSE — Professor Dr. Theodore Darden never wanted to become a policeman. Accounting was his chosen path at Blackhawk Technical College in Janesville, Wisconsin until one day everything changed. What followed was an illustrious 17-year career in law enforcement before embarking upon a career in higher education.

In conjunction with the Coalition for a Safe Community and the Cape May County Prosecutor’s Office, Atlantic Cape Community College continued its month-long celebration of Black History Month by presenting Multiculturalism and Police: Understanding the Fragile Relationship with Communities of Color with Dr. Darden at Atlantic Cape’s Cape May County campus on February 22.

Atlantic Cape Board of Trustees member Rev. Dr. Thomas Dawson introduced Dr. Darden, who did a Zoom presentation for the college during the pandemic. The overwhelming positive feedback from that event led Dr. Dawson and the college to ask Dr. Darden to return for an in-person presentation.

Professor Dr. Theodore Darden speaking during his presentation at Atlantic Cape's Cape May campusBefore a large audience in the campus’ lecture hall, Dr. Darden, who is currently a professor of Justice Studies at the College of DuPage in Glen Ellyn, Illinois, discussed growing up on the southside of Chicago as the 14th of 16 children. He was the only one in his immediate family to complete high school conventionally and the only one to earn a college degree, or several in Dr. Darden’s case.

He holds an Associate’s Degree in Police Science from Blackhawk Technical College, a Bachelor’s Degree in Public Administration from Upper Iowa University, a Master’s Degree in Criminal Justice from the University of Wisconsin-Platteville, a Master’s Degree in Higher Education from Kaplan University (Purdue University Global) and a Ph.D. in Leadership Studies with a Criminal Justice emphasis from the University of the Cumberlands.

Originally from Chicago, Dr. Darden was raised in an environment thinking that he was too poor to attend college and thus was resigned to that fate with the knowledge that nobody in his family had graduated high school up to that point.

“To escape the rough streets and neighborhoods of the City of Chicago, I enlisted in the military straight out of high school,” said Dr. Darden, who after completing his military service, enrolled in community college.

After completing his first semester of community college as an Accounting major he suddenly, and inexplicably, altered course and became a Police Science major. His life and career path shifted in ways he never imagined.

Throughout his 17-year law enforcement career, Dr. Darden never looked upon himself as a police officer, but as a public servant. Helping others was his calling in life. Several incidents early on changed his life and served as proof that he was more inclined to offer a helping hand and a large dose of empathy towards those in need.

“It became my life’s work. It became my blueprint. I said that I would do something and I did it. It’s profound and it has impacted a lot of people,” Dr. Darden admitted.

A book written in 1990 by the late author Herman Goldstein, who was a highly-respected scholar in the field of policing, titled “Problem-Oriented Policing” presented a critical review of law enforcement strategies that were prevalent at that time. He called for devising new solutions to solve age-old dilemmas by understanding the issues at hand and creating new techniques to solve them. Dr. Darden was immensely impacted by it.

“I thought that was magic happening and I started putting that to use. It (that book) made a huge impact on me,” Dr. Darden said. “I was problem solving, working with other people, social workers/services, the prosecutor’s office, mental health facilities, rather than just moving people, I was helping people.”

A telephone call from Goldstein, himself, led to a new career opportunity for Dr. Darden in the Attorney General’s office for the State of Wisconsin.

Since 2006, Dr. Darden has made higher education his life’s calling as the professor for Justice Studies at the College of DuPage.

Before his own students at DuPage, Dr. Darden asks them to find their purpose in life, to find their blueprint and to find what they are truly passionate about.

“Education is a powerful tool. There is a profound difference between knowledge and understanding. We all know some things, but do you truly understand them? When you truly understand something, you become the manipulator instead of the manipulated,” Dr. Darden said. “You begin to shape your tomorrows rather than being shaped by them. Education is not liberalism, it is about liberation. It’s about freedom, power and morality.”

And with that hard-earned knowledge and understanding comes the responsibility to change the lives of others for the better.

“Like my mother used to say, ‘Once you know better, you should do better,’” Dr. Darden concluded.


About Atlantic Cape Community College

Atlantic Cape Community College is a Middle States accredited, 2022 Achieving the Dream Leader College and Hispanic Serving Institution proudly serving the residents of Atlantic and Cape May counties. As a comprehensive, two-year community college, Atlantic Cape offers 47 undergraduate degree programs, and 33 certificate and workforce development professional series programs at its Mays Landing, Atlantic City and Cape May campuses. Atlantic Cape is home to the renowned Academy of Culinary Arts, rated the top culinary school in New Jersey, and for more than 50 years, our highly-acclaimed Nursing program. Atlantic Cape also partners with several four-year universities to offer students the opportunity to earn a bachelor’s degree without having to leave home.