Professors are People Too: Dr. David Impellizzeri

Dr. David Impellizzeri joined Regent University’s College of Arts and Sciences as an assistant professor of Communication and Rhetoric in the fall of 2019. Before coming to Regent, he and his wife lived in Pittsburg, Pennsylvania. Although he and his wife miss living closer to their families, they are very much enjoying the warmer weather here in Virginia Beach, particularly during the winter season!

What is your favorite movie of all time and why?

Dr. Impellizzeri: Probably the Godfather 1 and 2. 

Why? [Not because] those are typical “mob movies.” When someone says, “Oh, so you like the Godfather, therefore, you must like mob movies,” I think, no. I really don’t like mob movies. I don’t really think of the Godfather as a mob movie; that is not what it is really about. I think it is a classic work of 20th-century film art, it’s pretty incredible from the standpoint of its storytelling, and of course, obviously, it was a book before it was made into a film. 

What I think it is about is, if you pay attention to the opening scene in the first film, it is a tradition of a Sicilian wedding for the daughter of Vito Corleone. It’s a Sicilian tradition that the father of the bride hears the requests made to that father and that he should honor them if they are reasonable requests. Well, one of them comes in, and it’s the mortician; basically, he is asking for justice because justice is not coming through for him through the political and legal system. And basically, that is a theme that runs throughout. 

These immigrant people feel as though they cannot trust the current political, legal, and to some extent, economic system. Because of that, they resort to their own resources of doing this. So, on the one hand, it is a story of an attempt to secure justice in a world where one perceives that they don’t have justice. And it’s also a story of trying to secure your life and your family’s life in a way that you actually lose that life. So then you have got the amazing scene in Godfather 2 where, literally, Michael Corleone is allegedly doing all the nefarious things he is doing for the sake of his family. And the scene where he comes to his mother in secret one evening and they speak in Italian, and he basically says, “Mom, can you ever lose your family?” and she says, “No, Michael, you can never lose your family,” and he is losing his family. 

What is your favorite part about being a dad to your young son?

Dr. Impellizzeri: Yeah, goodness. How do I pick a favorite part about being a dad? I don’t know if I can answer that directly and pick a favorite part.

Jonathan: Well, what is one thing that you really love about it?

Dr. Impellizzeri: Just the richness that he has added to the life that my wife and I share together. Man, just so much joy. He is just a bundle of energy; he LOVES to joke around and play. There are so many little games and jokes, and he will initiate so many of them. He is just such a blessing in so many ways. He is so intense! We love his intensity, from his joking to the way he plays, even by himself, so intensely! 

You know, one thing as I am talking is making me think of is that you wind up seeing yourself reflected back in them, things that you are not fully aware of. One of the things that I do and my family does this a lot too, when we relax, we sigh a lot. And our little guy, he sighs! He sounds like an old man! And that has been really fun, seeing those things reflected in them. 

Did you always want to be a professor?

Dr. Impellizzeri: No, I did not always want to be a professor. 

I think there was never one thing from an early age that I always wanted to be. You know, a sense of calling was something that was a developmental process. I never felt that God revealed His full will for my calling, at least in terms of my professional life, because I don’t think that a calling is reducible to your professional life. 

But, at least in terms of my professional life, I never had a sense of ‘God has laid this out for me.’ In fact, I think it is His ordinary process for most of us that He doesn’t fully lay that out for us. I wonder if some of the reason why is that if it was fully laid out for most of us, we would stop clinging to Him. Discovering the professional work that He has called us to do is a matter of that we are constantly in prayerful conversation with Him. I actually wrestled with a call to vocational ministry when I was an undergrad. 

In college, I became increasingly interested in theology, leadership, and public speaking. As I looked at those three things, I started to wonder, if I were Jonah, was I running away from a call to vocational ministry? Through this work, I felt that the Lord was calling me to a different environment, and it was to higher education. I worked in college student development in a semi-professional capacity for over eleven years. While I was doing that, I started to get experience teaching, and that was when I really started to consider whether the next chapter in my professional calling was an academic one, and that is really where it began. 

Jonathan: How has it been so far?

Dr. Impellizzeri: It’s great. I love what I do. 

If you could have one superpower, what would it be?

Dr. Impellizzeri: Oh, man. This came up in conversation the other day! I think my answer at the time was teleporting. Do you want to know why I say that? Jean-Paul Sarte, in one of his plays, somewhat famously says, “Hell is other people.” The only thing that I would add to that is “Hell is other people in traffic or in line at the grocery store.” If I could eliminate the being in traffic and teleport, that would be wonderful. 

What is the value of a Christian-integrated education?

Dr. Impellizzeri: [Pauses] Oh, man. I am assuming you want a short answer to this [laughs]. I think Colossians chapters 1 and 2 are really important in framing a Christian education in general and framing a Christian university education in particular. 

One of the things we see in Colossians is that all things were created by, through, and for Christ. Christ is integral to the creation and the purpose of all of creation. What Christ is doing in the incarnation and in His redemptive activity, He is uniting all things to Himself, and in Him, all things are united. 

So, for a Christian education, in studying every area of human study, we have nothing to fear because if it is studied rightly, it all points to Christ. We study the works of Christ and how all academic disciplines find their fulfillment in and cohere in Christ because it finds its unity in Christ. The works of Christ, while we might think, only apply to creational things such as the physical world in an immediate sense. But, the works of Christ do not only apply to the creation in an immediate sense because God created the world with potentialities, and what human culture is, is the cultivation of the potentialities that exist in the created order. And so, when you consider that creation is both the immediate and what we have done with the potential, that encompasses everything that we investigate here at the university. A Christian university is about understanding, in the fullest sense, the works of Christ and how all of them are to be understood oriented to Him. 

In a movie about your life, who would you want to play you?

Jonathan: I say Robert De Niro!

Dr. Impellizzeri: [Laughs] That is a good one! I think I would be happy with that. I like to imagine myself going into his tough-guy mode every once in a while. You know, I do like Robert De Niro quite a bit, and he certainly taps into my Italian-American cultural background. The way he emotes and expresses himself sometimes, I feel that! You know, in terms of other just great actors, I think Anthony Hopkins is fantastic. If he played me, but without the strong British element, I think he could do a good job. I would be honored. 

Jonathan: Would you want to be the one who decides the casting?

Dr. Impellizzeri: You know, I don’t know! It might be best if, first of all, this is strange to think about, but I imagine someone would first investigate my life, and I think it would be appropriate that I gave up that control and allowed someone else to do it. 

What is the most rewarding aspect of being a professor?

Dr. Impellizzeri: You know, I think it’s the ideas, yes, but even more than the ideas, it is the work and being able to share the work with others. 

So the ideas are part of the work, but there is more to the work than just the ideas. It is the disciplines; it is who you become through the engagement of the ideas; it’s the excitement around it, the process of discovery! You really do sharpen and hone your skills and develop new skills and abilities. So, I would say it is the enjoyment in and the sharing of the work with others, with students and colleagues. To be able to share that work and to see others become excited about that work. Not simply because of a personality attraction, I ultimately want it to be because the work matters and that the relationships are enjoyed because there is a shared delight in the work.

What is the most daredevil thing you have ever done?

Dr. Impellizzeri: Oh my. First of all, I am not a super daredevil. But, there is one thing that I do enjoy doing that I probably won’t be doing much of anymore – cliff jumping. 

When I was in college, I went to Lee University, and there were some great spots for doing some cliff jumping out there. I have jumped off a number of cliffs into water. The most daring one that I did, that still kind of makes me a little nervous now, was when I had a chance to go to Hawaii. We went on this hike through one of the jungles there with a couple of friends. Our friend was showing us around and took us to a cliff where you can go jumping off of into a waterfall. We went up there, and the cliff was probably 30 to 35 feet high, which is high! 

What made it especially scary was the pool that you jumped into was the smallest pool I have ever jumped into. The problem with it being a jungle, when I got to the place to jump off of, it was sloped, wet, and muddy. A friend of mine was up there with me, and he would go skydiving, which I would never do, and he said, “I’m not doing it,” which made me nervous! I asked him to grab a tree, and I would hold his wrist, and also grabbed a vine, and I called out below and counted it out and jumped! And, I am still here today! But, I would not do that one again. 

What is your #1 piece of advice for Regent students?

Dr. Impellizzeri:  [Pauses] Do you know how many things are swimming through my head right now? My goodness. I would just say, with respect to their educational endeavors right now, if they could continue to see that the point and purpose of it all is to discern the glory of God, in the things that He has made, and what we have done with those things. 

That is a vision big enough to encompass the meaning of what we are trying to pursue here. That is an expansive, not a narrowly theological, vision for the meaning of a Christian higher education. It is not about the grades. It is even not ultimately about the job you get because this world is not the Christian’s ultimate home. As important as jobs are, as important as money is, as important it is to have food on the table, clothes on our back, and a roof over our head, and the goodness of all of those things. And yet, nevertheless, there is a vision that is bigger still. I think a Christian Liberal Arts education points to the fact that we are pilgrims traveling through this world and that all the good things in this world are pointers to God. 

We are so glad to have Dr. Impellizzeri as a part of our Regent family and are blessed daily by his passion and love for education and his students!


Jonathan Overton

Jonathan Overton is a writer for The Daily Runner.