Pennsylvania College of Technology presented a Mentorship Award to alumnus Ronald A. Burger, co-owner of George Burger & Sons Inc. Garden Center in Luzerne County.
The award was bestowed upon Burger by Penn College President Davie Jane Gilmour during a Summer Commencement ceremony held at the Community Arts Center, Williamsport.
The Mentorship Award recognizes alumni, individuals or businesses that have made significant or ongoing contributions to the education and development of Penn College students by providing mentorship opportunities or professional guidance.
Burger, a 1978 nursery management graduate of the college’s immediate predecessor, Williamsport Area Community College, has been involved with the family business since 1968. Upon graduation, he expanded it to include retail nursery and greenhouse operations. A second retail location followed in 1998, and both sites were consolidated at the current Mountain Top headquarters in 2002.
“He believes so much in this institution that he once accompanied a prospective student and his parents to a campus Open House, having learned of the young man’s career interest during a shopping visit to the Garden Center,” Gilmour said of Burger before presenting him with the honor. “‘You have to go to Penn College,’ Ron told him, in just one example of advocacy for his alma mater.”
During the past two years, Burger joined faculty in chaperoning, mentoring and encouraging Penn College horticulture majors during spring Student Career Days competitions in Kansas and Alabama sponsored by PLANET, a national trade association representing more than 100,000 landscape industry professionals.
“Spring is the busiest time of year for someone in this industry, but that is the kind of guy Ron is,” a faculty nominator said. “On this last trip, Ron spent quite a bit of time telling the students what kind of impact they can make in this industry. The students really relate to Ron because of his genuine personality and take to heart his encouraging advice.”
Burger has returned as a campus volunteer during High School Field Days, which brings teenage competitors to the college’s Schneebeli Earth Science Center in conjunction with Spring Open House.
Outside of the family business and his Penn College connections, Burger is also involved with service to his community. The Kiwanis Club, American Cancer Society, and Hazleton Area Dive and Swim Team are some of the organizations benefiting from the volunteer efforts of the Drums resident. Active in his church, he created a “The Garden of Feedin’” to supply fresh vegetables to the local food pantry.
From 1998 to 2012, Burger hosted the “Garden Spot,” a local TV production showcasing timely garden and planting advice. He also teaches adult gardening classes at Crestwood High School and was instrumental in recruiting members of the Mountain Top Garden Club.
“Ron is the most genuine and thoughtful person I’ve met,” a student wrote in support of Burger’s nomination. “He appreciated his education and time at this institution so much that he is constantly giving back and representing it as much as possible. Ron is just a great guy to know.”
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