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Board approves emeritus faculty status, appointment of auditor

The Pennsylvania College of Technology Board of Directors on Thursday approved emeritus status for two retired faculty members, authorized appointment of the college’s auditing firm for Fiscal 2021, and ratified a unanimous-consent action for bond refinancing.

Approved for the faculty emeritus designation are two faculty members who retired in 2020: Eric K. Albert, associate professor of automated manufacturing and engineering, who began his employment with the college in 1991, and Chef Craig A. Cian, associate professor of food and hospitality management/culinary arts, who started with the college in 1985.

Albert served both as an administrator and faculty member, performing such roles as school dean and department head. He wrote and managed several foundation, state and federal grants allowing the college to remain in the forefront of advanced manufacturing technology. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Albert used 3D printing to create face shields and ventilator splitters, using his own equipment and materials.

In retirement, Albert has continued to serve as a co-principal investigator for a National Science Foundation grant supporting the automated manufacturing department.

Cian served two stints as a department head and received an Excellence in Teaching Award from the college in 1998. He served as chairperson on three reaccreditation reports with the American Culinary Federation Educational Institute and the Accreditation Commission for Programs in Hospitality Administration. He also served as a peer evaluator and/or team chair on 15 site visits with the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools and the ACFEI.

Though he retired in May, Cian returned voluntarily in August 2020 to ensure his students had the opportunity to finish their Spring 2020 lab requirements.

Thursday's Board of Directors meeting encapsulated for college communityIn other action, the board authorized the appointment of Baker Tilly to perform auditing services for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2021.

The board also ratified a March 15 unanimous-consent action authorizing the college administration to pursue refinancing of bonds.

Presentations were made to the board by Jessica Hunter, director of financial aid, and Timothy O. Rissel, executive director of general services.

Hunter updated the board on the 2019-20 Financial Aid Office Annual Report. The overall percentage of students receiving aid from all sources was 92.5% in 2019-20. Aid to students totaled $91.53 million. Grant award totals for 2019-20 included $8.41 million in federal Pell grants and $496,571 in federal SEOG (Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant) funds, as well as $5.75 million in Pennsylvania State Grant aid.

Educational loan totals included Federal Student Loan, $24.43 million; Federal Parent Loan, $15.74 million; and Private Alternative Loan, $21.52 million.

Penn College scholarship aid to students totaled $1.58 million, veteran benefits were $3.41 million, and Federal Work-Study aid to students was $197,841.

Rissel presented on the college’s Facilities and Site Master Plan – a systematic assessment of the institution’s physical plant and property holdings over the next four years.

Strategic planning includes the reduction of unplanned institutional costs, disruptions and emergencies and exploration of modern and flexible spaces in support of the college’s mission.

The document features five distinct sections: Maintenance Plan Projects, Facilities Plan Projects, Capital Plan Projects, Annual Plan Projects, and Site Acquisition and Planning.

Vice President for Academic Affairs/Provost Michael J. Reed updated the board on new academic majors for Fall 2021 and faculty promotions.

Some of the new programs were converted from two years to one year or feature combined tracks requiring a new curriculum proposal. The new majors are: a master’s degree in nursing education; bachelor’s degrees in applied health studies: physical therapist assistant concentration, business administration, and health science: prehospital medicine concentration; associate degrees in allied health and landscape/plant production technology; certificates in automotive restoration, brewing & fermentation science, and culinary applications; and credentials in innovation leadership, radiographic inspection for non-destructive testing, ultrasonic inspection for non-destructive testing, concrete technician I and concrete technician II.

Promoted to assistant professor is Christopher S. Weaver, diesel equipment technology. Receiving promotion to associate professor are: Stephen R. Cheskiewicz, computer information technology; Pamela W. Baker, nursing programs; Justin M. Ingram, biology; and Joshua D. Hill, speech communication-composition. Promoted to professor is Kelly B. Butzler, chemistry.

In her remarks to the board, President Davie Jane Gilmour said the college’s ability to make it to this point “without any slowdown at all this academic year” due to the COVID-19 pandemic is remarkable and “a significant accomplishment.”

She detailed for the board how the 12 planned commencement ceremonies at the Community Arts Center on May 14-16 – honoring Fall 2020 and Spring 2021 graduates – will comply with a variety of pandemic protocols. There are 974 students who have petitioned to graduate in May, with 716 marching. An additional 75 Fall 2020 graduates are expected to march, as well.

Gilmour noted that the National Sustainable Structures Center recently changed its name to the Clean Energy Center at Penn College, and a lab that was added in Latrobe is holding its first two classes this spring.

The president also told the board there will be a dedication ceremony held April 27 for the Larry A. Ward Machining Technologies Center, and the college’s Kick Start Scholarship project has officially launched. Up to $5,000 in scholarship aid will be offered to eligible new and transfer students who start their Penn College education in Fall 2021.

Gilmour said athletes who are seniors have been allowed to bring up to four guests to recent Senior Day activities, and the college’s men’s lacrosse team is enjoying its inaugural season of competition.

Board Chair Sen. Gene Yaw thanked Michael DiRaimo for his service on the board. DiRaimo, who has served since 2017, is resigning for personal reasons. His successor has not yet been named.

“He was a great addition to this board,” Yaw said. “We will miss him.”

He also congratulated board member Rob Pangborn on his retirement from Penn State in December after almost 15 years leading undergraduate education and more than 41 years of service to the university. Pangborn continues his service on the Penn College Board.

The senator said he has no significant updates on negotiations related to legislative approval of the 2021-22 state budget.

“Things have not gotten really serious in Harrisburg yet,” he explained.

The next regularly scheduled meeting of the Penn College Board of Directors is June 10.

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