(The following is drawn from remarks by Davie Jane Gilmour, Pennsylvania College of Technology president, during a May 13 all-college meeting to close the 2009-10 academic year.)
It is fitting that we end each academic year by honoring students, faculty and staff who have distinguished themselves through their accomplishments.
During three commencement ceremonies on Friday afternoon, Saturday morning and Saturday afternoon we will honor students and distinguished, full-time faculty. Today, we honor distinguished staff and part-time faculty.
We also recognize employees who have announced their retirement this academic year, and we welcome new members of the Quarter Century Club, as they mark 25 years of service to the college.
Earlier this morning, we celebrated with these individuals and their guests during a breakfast in Le Jeune Chef. Now, I’d like you all to have the opportunity to show your appreciation for these distinguished individuals.
Four of our retirees joined us in the sensational 1970s and, together, have 143 years of service. They are Patrick Murphy, James Johnson, James Pivirotto and this year’s longest-serving retiree Harry Specht, who joined our faculty in 1971.
I’d like to ask all of the retirees who were able to join us today to come to the stage: Lana Baker, Verna Caruso, Phillip Chambers, Max Charles, Linda Crayton, Robert Cummings, Allen Henry, James Johnson, Cathy Michael, Patrick Murphy, James Pivirotto, James Shillenn, Robert Shirey, Karen Sileo, Carol Smith, Harry Specht, Michael Stanzione, Jo Ann Stephens, William Urosevich and Cherie Willits.
Please join me in honoring this year’s retirees.
Now, let us recognize our new inductees into the Quarter Century Club.
Twenty five years ago in 1985 a gallon of gas was $1.09, a postage stamp was 22 cents and Michael Jackson bought every Beatles song for $47 million.
The king of pop also partnered with Lionel Richie to produce “We Are the World” an international music sensation.
It was a year of debuts for the comic strip Calvin and Hobbes, for Windows 1.0 and for the first “dot com” domain name. Just imagine, in 1985, there were more educational “dot edus” than commercial “dot coms!”
The United States became a debtor nation. For the first time since 1914, we owed more money to foreign investors than was owed to us.
Coca-Cola changed its formula and released “New Coke!” In less than three months, original Coke was back on the market.
We should have learned: New is not always better.
We were watching films like “Back to the Future,” “Cocoon,” “The Color Purple” and “Out of Africa.”
Our television favorites were “The Cosby Show;” “Family Ties;” “Murder, She Wrote;” “Miami Vice;” “Dallas;” and “Dynasty.”
We listened to Dire Straits’ “Money for Nothing,” Madonna’s “Crazy for You,” Tears for Fears’ “Everybody Wants to Rule the World” and Bryan Adams’ “Heaven.”
Bryan Adams is still going strong and will perform this summer at the Community Arts Center.
Lee Iacocca’s autobiography was atop the bestseller list. Bo Jackson won the Heisman Trophy, and Andy North won the U.S. Open.
Andy North was with us this week as our guest pro for the Penn College Foundation Golf Classic!
Here on campus in 1985, Williamsport Area Community College was marking its 20th anniversary. But, as some of us will remember, it was not a year of celebration. We were losing our 20 local school district sponsors, and without local sponsorship, our future was in jeopardy.
If we only could have known then what we know now! The next few years would bring great change to our campus, and we would achieve a level of recognition and success we could not have imagined in 1985.
Our new employees in 1985 joined the family at a time of uncertainty. But, like the institution, they persevered, developed and changed, working their way toward a celebration of their quarter-century with us.
Today, we honor:
From Administrative, Professional and Technical Staff Margaret Ayers, Jeannette Carter, Michael Miller and Eric Ranck
From Classified Staff Arlene Deppen, Mary White and Shelley Reynolds
From Service Staff Michael Barrett and William Barrett
From Faculty Craig Cian, Denise Leete, Richard Sarginger and Dennis Skinner
Next, I’d like to introduce our 2010 Distinguished Part-Time Faculty. This year, we are honoring two part-time faculty members: Ann Seeley, School of Hospitality, and Amber Biondi, School of Integrated Studies.
I’ll begin the introductions with Ann Seeley.
She earned a B.S. in community nutrition from Penn State in 1981 and entered her career field as a food service director for Heritage Nursing Home in Athens. She later became a nutritionist working for the federal Women Infants and Children program in a clinic in Troy.
Ann and her husband own and operate Milky Way Dairy Farm in Troy, where they produce fluid milk products, ice cream and cheese. She is proud of their accomplishment in advancing a conventional dairy farm into a sustainable, grass-based, natural dairy.
In 2005, she began teaching entry-level nutrition and sanitation classes offered by the School of Hospitality. These 100-level classes are described by the school dean as “more science-based than many of our courses.”
He said: “Our students don’t come in with a strong science background, so teaching this material can be very challenging. Ann has met this challenge over the last four years.”
One of her nominators said Ann “spends countless extra hours making sure the students “get it.'” Another described Ann as “a part-time instructor, who seems to have the best interest of our students in her heart full time.”
It is my pleasure to introduce to you a 2010 Distinguished Part-Time Faculty Award recipient, Ann Seeley.
Now, let me tell you about our second recipient, Amber Biondi, part-time instructor of mathematics.
She earned her bachelor’s degree in 2005 from Lock Haven University. Her teaching experience includes positions at the Parkville High School in Baltimore and the Johnsonburg Area School District in Pennsylvania.
She joined Penn College in August 2007, serving as a mathematics instructor and test center proctor. Among the courses she teaches is Math 004 (Pre-Algebra) which prepares students who need some math remediation to gain entrance into courses such as Elementary Algebra I or Career Mathematics. A student described her experience in Amber’s Math 004 class as follows: “Imagine wandering in a desert for 40 years and then suddenly having the knowledge and understanding of how to navigate out of the desert.”
The student gives credit for her success in passing the class to Amber’s gentleness and her initiative in identifying students’ individual needs.
Amber’s supervisor confirmed the student’s belief in this statement:
“Amber recognizes that some students have had negative experiences when it comes to math; in fact, many students in the developmental courses she teaches, very notably, have math anxiety. By showing enthusiasm about the subject, and more importantly, by demonstrating a genuine interest in her students’ understanding of the concepts, she has given some students their first positive experience with the study mathematics.”
What a life-changing opportunity she provides for her students!
Please join me in congratulating 2010 Distinguished Part-Time Faculty Award recipient Amber Biondi. Now, we will present our 2010 Distinguished Staff Awards, which recognize excellence among Classified, Service, APT and regular part-time staff.
I’ll begin with our regular part-time award recipient Gary Stoudt. Gary is a professional tutor, working with the TRIO program to assist students in biology, English, speech and reading. He came to Penn College in 2004 after serving as a homebound instructor and substitute teacher in the Warrior Run, Montgomery and Williamsport Area school districts.
One of the students he tutors has described Gary this way: “Sometimes I feel we are two colleagues fiercely digging through our textbooks to find the right answer. “¦ There is never a sense of “I’m the instructor and I’m always right.’ It’s more a feeling of a team working seamlessly to find the answer or piece of the puzzle to make it all work.”
Another student said: “When I started my biology course, many people believed that I had a very small chance to succeed due to my English as a second language. Thanks to Gary’s enthusiastic personality and his creativity, he was able to find a way of explaining the material in a unique and, at the same time, understandable way.”
His supervisor said: “Gary regularly receives high praise from students and faculty alike noting his patience, knowledge, and ability to adapt information to the needs of the student.” And she added that she felt compelled to nominate him, based on the “sheer number of students who’ve noted through evaluations, e”mail, conversation and other correspondence that they would never have made it without him.”
Please join me in honoring Gary Stoudt.
Our next award will be presented to a member of the classified staff Heidi Samsel. Heidi came to Penn College in 2006 as secretary to the director of paramedics and fitness and lifetime sports; in 2007, she worked for several months in the School of Businessand Computer Technologies, and then returned to Health Sciences as secretary to the director of nursing.
Before joining the Penn College staff, she worked in positions at Lycoming College, Susquehanna Health, the Veterans Administration and STEP. She also spent three years in the United States Air Force.
One her nominators stated that: “Heidi is an exemplary staff member who is always willing to tackle projects for the betterment of the department and the student experience. Heidi not only completes tasks with diligence and accuracy but consistently thinks of improved ways to handle processes and work flow. Heidi keeps meticulous records and can produce information on a vast number of issues at the drop of a hat.”
Another nominator said: “Heidi is exceptionally efficient and organized, never procrastinates, and goes out of her way to solve problems.” Another added, succinctly: “Heidi is simply the best.”
Please join me in honoring Heidi Samsel.
Our service staff award recipient is Patrick Breen, who can be found on the first shift caring for his home away from home, the Bush Campus Center. Pat has been a Penn College custodian since 1993. He started out on third shift and then moved to first shift in the Campus Center in 2000.
Before joining Penn College, he was an employee of Weis Markets.
Frequently, Pat is a “go-to” guy for special events including Open House, Welcome Weekend and summer activities.
His nominators say: “I have seen Pat work with parents, students and colleagues; treating each with respect and concern. He has a wonderful way of interacting with the ‘little ones’ (Children’s Learning Center).”
“He views his role as supporting the work of others. If that means that he has to clean up the boxes that someone else should have put away, he does it without complaint.”
“Pat is committed 100 percentto his job. It doesn’t matter what the task may be, big or small, Pat completes it with a smile. It is extremely comforting to know that Pat is only a radio call away.”
“Pat is one of those staff people that just brightens your day. When I think about how Penn College was recognized as one of the “Best Institutions to Work For,’ I think about the people here like Pat. His interpersonal skills are off the charts!”
Please join me in honoring Patrick Breen.
And now our final Distinguished Staff Award for 2010 goes to Joan McFadden, our coordinator of educational services, representing administrative, professional and technical staff.
Joan came to work at the college in 1972. Yes, that was 38 years ago, but Joan was only2 when she started! (Not really, but almost.)
She began as an accounts payable clerk and later served in a variety of secretarial positions in offices such as education research, planning and evaluation. (Yes, she has survived Middle States accreditation visits.)
She also was secretary to the director of industrial technology and to the physician assistant program before accepting her position as coordinator of educational services in 1998.
According to one of her nominators, Joan also is “the memory of the curriculum committee, ever able to put her hands on past reports and actions “¦ to explain the background of curriculum actions “¦ and to help those presenting to the committee to get their paperwork in order.”
And Joan knows about paperwork; from curriculum to budget requests, to ordering equipment, furniture and supplies for instructional areas affected by Stage X, she handles it all!
She also handles the frantic people behind the paperwork. One of her nominators said: “When I am harried and at my wits end, she always has that extra moment to allow me to say what I need to say, and though she has one of the busiest jobs in the college, she always takes the time to listen, to respond clearly and appropriately, and to look forward to the impacts of her personal and professional actions.”
Finally, one nominator said: “When I need help with something, Joan does not simply tell me how to get it done, she tells me how to get it done RIGHT in compliance with all rules and regulations, of course, but also in compliance with an ethical code that demonstrates her respect and concern for the institution and our students.”
Please join me in honoring Joan McFadden.
We have honored our colleagues, and as we take a few minutes to reflect on the year we just completed, we have many positive outcomes to position us well for the future.
Our reaccreditation process through Middle States is well under way. As members of a dynamic institution, where change is certain and our focus on the future guides our work in the present, for most of you, so much has happened since early January that it’s probably hard to remember the work you did after our last all-college meeting on Jan. 8. On that cold winter day, more than 600 employees from all departments and from every school met in 20 classrooms here in the Academic Center to register their impressions of how well Penn College meets the 14 characteristics of excellence required for reaccreditation. Immediately after those meetings, gathering in 12 classrooms, more than 250 faculty members discussed student advisement and assessment.
Several weeks ago, you were alerted that the input generated during those meetings had been posted on the myPCT portal for your review. Perhaps when you saw the portal notice, you wondered about how your suggestions and questions had been used.
The Self-Study Steering Committee, through its five study groups, collected all the input from every classroom, from both the first and the second round of meetings. Each study group carefully examined the input related to the standards its members were investigating. The Steering Committee then used the information as a part of formulating the charges to each study group. Your input was instrumental in fashioning the Design Document the document required by Middle States and which serves as the blue print for the self-study.
Robert Schneider, our liaison with Middle States, approved our Design Document during his on-campus visit in March. Many of you attended one or more of the meetings with him, in which he explained the self-study process, elaborated on the accreditation requirements, and answered questions. In fact, he reported that he was quite impressed by students’ and college members’ level of awareness about the self-study and by your interest in the process.
On April 29, the Design Document was shared with the Board, and it has been posted on the public website for all college stakeholders to review. Periodically, as we reach milestones and complete tasks listed in the timeline for the self-study, new information will be posted.
So, now what? We have a structure for conducting the self-study in the form of the Steering Committee and five study groups. We have a plan to guide the study and to keep us on track in completing a report to the Middle States Commission by February 2012.
What are the most immediate next steps?
- Over the summer and fall of this year, the study groups will be gathering data relevantto assessing how Penn College fulfills accreditation standards.
- They will also identify any gaps in information necessary to complete that assessment and determine how to fill them.
- By December, they will be pulling together their findings.
- In January, the Steering Committee will share the preliminary findings when we return for the Spring 2011 semester.
Your Responsibility (How You Can Help)
- Read the information posted on the portal now and in the coming months, so that you are informed and well-positioned to provide input.
- If you are asked by the Self-Study Steering Committee or one of the study groups to attend a meeting or to provide input, respond thoughtfully.
- Contact Tom Gregory or Elizabeth Meyer, the Steering Committee co-chairs, if you have questions about the process or ideas you wish to share.
- Support the college members and students who are giving up time and devoting considerable effort to carry out the work of the study groups.
In August, I invited many of you to join our Foundations of Excellence Campus Task Force and you accepted. Task Force participants were asked to invest an incredible amount of time and energy in this yearlong process that was designed to explore every aspect of our students’ first year experience. In January, I shared that the work of the Task Force was progressing well and thatits recommendations were expected by the end of this semester. Several weeks ago, a draft of the FoE Final Report was released for campus comment. Through the portal, departmental andStudent Government Associationmeetings, and a Governance Open Forum, considerable feedback was provided, which was used to shape the final version of the report.
At the same time, our liaison from the Gardner Institute, John Gardner, was given a copy to review. I’d like to share just a brief portion of the feedback he provided. He wrote, In conclusion, there is really very little that is substantive that I could suggest for possible revision. If you make no revisions based on my responses, this will still be an outstanding report. Your format is outstanding, as effectively communicated as any final report I have read since we started the FoE process back in 2003.
I do hope that you have all taken the time to read through the report or that you will when the final version of it is posted on the portal. What we have learned about our students and the work that we all do through the FoE process has been invaluable.
The writing and vetting of the Final Report is coming to an end. Later today, College Council will gather one last time this year to discuss the FoE Report. Although summer is upon us, we cannot lose our momentum. Upon College Council action, I will communicate the next steps of this process with all of you. We have said from the beginning that our involvement with the FoE program could be an experience that transforms our campus. So, while the series of recommendations in the report represent what we have defined as our “vision” for excellence in the first year; next comes the challenge to make that vision a reality for our students.
July 1, Paul Starkey will join us as vice president for academic affairs and provost. We have worked with Paul since the Board approved his hiring in January, and I am pleased to report that he and his family have secured housing in Williamsport and will be relocating to the area in June. A transition team has been identified to assist in the planning and transition to the area and position. I am certain that, by August and Convocation, Paul will be well on his way as a successful and key part of our institution and leadership team. I know I can count on all of you to welcome him to Penn College.
This has been quite the year for our workforcedevelopment staff. The Marcellus Shale Education& Training Center has been a hub of activity this year. Its reputation for research grounded in facts and related directly to workforce has garnered them attention across the commonwealth and country. Pro or con is not our position; we are doing what we do best: education and training of the workforce needed for this industry. In addition, their work in weatherization hasresulted inmuch recognition and support. Congratulations to the staff forits ongoing work and a job well done.
Enrollment, as we know, is important to this and all colleges and universities. All you need to do is to read current publications and mainstream media to hear of budgetary challenges, program eliminations and staffing cutbacks across the country. We are again fortunate;most of you in this room have stepped up to the challenge and assisted with the preparation of the budget, and we have had no retrenchment of faculty or displacement of staff. That said, there are no guarantees in life. We must be certain that our majors are meeting our mission, the needs of industry and our students. If that is not the case, the days of luxury are over, and hard decisions will be made. This is not the time to say “someone else” will recruit for my program or “I will not update my skills to keep my courses fresh” or “My current way of doing things is just fine, I don’t need to look at new ideas or approaches.” This applies to all of us: teaching faculty, counselors, librarians, student affairs staff, support offices and administration across campus. “Same old, same old” won’t work anymore; our future, your future, depends upon it.
I had a conversation with someone just a few weeks ago, and the bottom line was this is not their problem, they were “coasting to retirement.” I find that sad and misinformed. If there are no students to teach or no job to do, there is no “coast.” Regardless of where you are and what you do, now is the time to do it better than ever. For 2010-11 you will hear me talk about the “year of responsibility.” I want us to focus on that word it applies to many of our daily situations and activities and to our students. We have an obligation to teach them to be more responsible and not rely on parents to solve their problems. We each need to be fully responsible for our own actions or inactions. Our collective success or failure depends upon individual responsibility. If not you, then who? Only you know if you are giving 100-plus percent.
This is a great place to work; you said so. We have great benefits, we will have salary increments again this year when many colleges and universities are having none or givebacks. In exchange, we owe it to our students and colleagues to give 100 percentand get it done right. It is important to take time and rejuvenate this summer, but be ready in August all of us, faculty and staff to make a difference in our work lives and the lives of our students. The future depends upon it.
As for the future, there are some exciting things and not-so-exciting things coming our way in Fall 2010.
We have been notified of an award from the National Science Foundation for a grant valued atmore than$882,000 to develop curriculum and programming related to Marcellus Shale. This is an exciting honor and opportunity, and you can expect to hear more as the plans develop for this grant.
College work-study funds have been decreased for summer and this coming fall. It is important we use that resource carefully; in addition, we know that scholarships are vital to our students and given the shall we say, challenges in the investment market, we have faced the need to increase the “donation” part of reserved parking for the first time since its inception. The fee will increase to $120 plus the permit fee. Reserved parking has been a great benefit for those who so desire and has allowed us to offer scholarships to students. Thank you in advance for understanding.
I hope as you walk around campus you have noticed the many changes under way. Yes, Stage X is moving along, and across campus this summer, we will be as busy as ever. There are some who predict that we will have record summer enrollment and the busiest summer ever to get ready for classes to begin in the fall. A big “Thank you” to all who have endured the challenges of construction and related activities. One addition to campus is the solar array, which now provides power to the Victorian House. You can follow their “power production” on the Sunny Portal. We eagerly await the wind turbine for our renewable-energy program, and be sure to watch as the new masonry lab takes shape between Vine Avenue and Fourth Street.
There will be a great new opportunity in Le Jeune Chef this fall: an organization is being formed the “ONE” College Club or “OCC” for short. The OCC is an informal organization open for membership to all full- and part-time Penn College employees faculty/staff, college retirees and all Penn College alumni. The purpose of the organization and its membership will be to further the educational, socialand intellectual activities of Penn College.
Starting in August, club members will be able to visit regularly and informally in a dedicated space established at Le Jeune Chef Restaurant. Between 11:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, club members may enjoy a casual lunch and network with other college friends and associates. A special “gastro-pub”-style menu, including a daily buffet, has been designed specifically for the membership, and “community” seating will be established for the purpose of better promoting innovative ideas and exchanging collegiate information with your peers. Operating simultaneously with the club operation, Le Jeune Chef fine-dining restaurant will continue as always.
As an OCC member, a declining-balance meal plan will be created. Monthly dues amounts will be loaded onto your current employee ID cards, and you will be able to use this plan for all club activities. Details will be forthcoming over the next couple months, and a portal site is being developed to outline all member benefits. We encourage everyone to consider membership and participate. The “ONE” College Club will be a great place where the campus community can come together for food, dialogue and camaraderie. Remember,all employees are eligible to join the OCC.
Unfortunately this year, we lost three employees: Joe Younes, Linda Banzaf and Steve Parker. I hope you all are aware of the remembrance garden behind the Carl Building Technologies Center, where employees and students whopass onwhile working or attending, respectively, are remembered.
We have had many requests for a remembrance garden or location for alumni, retirees or friends of the college, and as the semester comes to a close, so does the construction of a new remembrance garden outside the BTC. Built by students in the School of Natural Resources Management under the leadership of Mike Dincher, the remembrance garden provides a long-lasting tribute to loved ones who have passed away, as well as offering a place for the survivors to gather in remembrance.
Many of you also are familiar with the commemorative walkway located on Hagan Way. This project provides an opportunity to pay tribute to a family member, mentor or friend, or to make note of a personal milestone on an inscribed brick. Since its dedication on Sept. 24, 1999, nearly 1,000 bricks have been installed in the commemorative walkway.
Alumni, employees and friends are invited to leave a lasting memory on the Penn College campus by purchasing a brick to be displayed in the commemorative walkway or remembrance garden. You can learn more about ordering an inscribed brick for one of these areas by calling the Alumni Relations Office. I encourage you to enjoy these beautiful campus features.
It is difficult to imagine another academic year is in the books. Watch for the first publication for our Countdown to the Centennial to be available later this summer and fall.
I want to thank you all for your tenacity, dedication and commitment to our students; remember, we can and do make a difference, and to each of you, I wish a summer of rest, rejuvenation and new ideas, new opportunities that allow us to face 2010-11 with renewed commitment to our students and our mission.
In closing, many people in the Penn College family have been touched by cancer.
This year’s Relay for Life team is trying to raise $5,000 to help fight this disease.
As you leave the auditorium, members of the team will have available Dress Down Day stickers. For a $5 donation, you can wear casual dress including jeans tomorrow.
Also available are raffle tickets formore than30 prizes gift certificates, gift baskets, jewelry, flowers that were listed yesterdayin ane-mail. The team thanks all the Penn College employees who donated the prizes!
Have a great day and a wonderful and safe summer.