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Board OKs CAC merger, emeritus actions, property sale

The Pennsylvania College of Technology Board of Directors on Thursday authorized a merger with the Community Arts Center, approved emeritus status for three retired faculty members and gave the green light for the sale of a 425-acre property in Nippenose Township.

Thursday's Board of Directors meeting encapsulated for college communityThe board also approved parameters for its 2021-22 state budget request and reelected its slate of officers for 2020-21.

The merger of the college and Arts Center’s corporations effectively brings the CAC, a wholly owned subsidiary, completely under the college’s administrative umbrella. The merger of the two nonprofit entities is also subject to approval by the Charitable Trusts and Organization Section of the state Attorney General’s Office and the Lycoming County Orphans Court, which will ensure that any bequests made to the Arts Center can be appropriated to the college, said Ann S. Pepperman, the college’s legal counsel. Any restricted funds will remain segregated and used for their restrictive purposes. Pepperman said the remaining approvals are anticipated in 2021.

The college has increasingly subsidized operational and infrastructure costs for the Community Arts Center. Merging with the college will allow for a sharing of the college’s marketing, development, finance, human resources and hospitality resources.

President Davie Jane Gilmour said the consolidation makes financial sense at a time when the COVID-19 pandemic has affected so many cultural venues and community theaters nationwide.

Approved for faculty emeritus status were Richard J. Calvert Jr., assistant professor and co-department head, electronics; Jeffrey B. Weaver, associate professor, electronics; and Timothy Weston, associate professor, plastics technology. Calvert retired in August after 28 years with Penn College. Weaver retired in 2018 after 32 years. Weston retired in August with nearly 34 years of service.

Calvert served as department head for the Electronics Department for more than 25 years and was honored with an Excellence in Teaching Award in 2005 and an Excellence in Academic Advising Award in 2016.

Weaver received the Veronica M. Muzic Master Teacher Award in 2006, the highest honor accorded to a Penn College faculty member, as well as Excellence in Teaching Awards in 2003 and 1990.

Weston was a founder of the college’s Department of Plastics and Polymer Engineering Technology and served as department head of plastics, founder and director of the Plastics Manufacturing Center (now the Plastics Innovation & Resource Center), principal investigator for the National Science Foundation’s Plastics Resources for Educators Program grant, chair of Governance Curriculum Committee, and adviser to the student chapter of the Society of Plastics Engineers.

The board authorized the college administration to sell woodland property at 2780 Morgan Valley Road that includes an 1,800-square-foot cabin that was used for special events and as a retreat center. Academic programs also made use of the property over the years. Closing on the sale is expected later this month.

The property consists of two parcels originally acquired by Penn College predecessor Williamsport Area Community College in 1975 and 1989, respectively. Both parcels were subsequently conveyed to Penn College in 1990.

All proceeds from the sale of the property will benefit students, Gilmour told the board.

In other action, the board approved the college’s parameters for the 2021-22 state budget request, which is submitted along with the request for Penn State. Suzanne T. Stopper, senior vice president for finance/CFO, said the parameters are a current best estimate.

“When we come to you in June, these may not be the parameters,” Stopper told the board.

The board reelected its current slate of officers for 2020-21: Sen. Gene Yaw, chair; Robert N. Pangborn, vice chair; and Joseph J. Doncsecz, treasurer. Gilmour will continue as secretary to the board, Stopper remains as assistant treasurer, and Valerie A. Baier, administrative assistant to the president, continues as assistant secretary to the board. (Secretaries and assistants need not be actual members of the Board of Directors.)

Stopper provided the board with an update for investments managed by Wilmington Trust as of June 30. It was noted that the portfolio increased over the prior year, driven by a $500,000 contribution from the Stabler Foundation. The foundation has established an endowment at the college for the purpose of assisting Penn College students through scholarships.

Elliott Strickland, vice president for student affairs, discussed the recent rules changes to Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights, and its impact at Penn College.

Title IX is a civil rights law that protects people from discrimination based on sex in educational programs or activities that receive federal financial assistance and impacts both student and employees at Penn College. The rules changes where highlighted by a new definition of what constitutes “sexual harassment,” new parameters for what behavior falls within Title IX purview, and guidelines on how colleges and universities can investigate and adjudicate violations of Title IX.

Penn College utilizes a Title IX Team that consists of 12 staff representing various offices on campus that are key to ensuring compliance with Title IX, including Academic Affairs, Student Affairs, Athletics and Human Resources.

Brian J. Schurr, chair of College Council, updated the board on the Internal Governance Annual Report. He said the 2019-20 Academic Year was a productive time for Governance despite the interruptions caused by COVID-19 in the spring semester. College Council continues to focus on efficiency and ensuring that all standing committees have representation from important constituents across campus.

The college has transitioned all programs to the new Core Curriculum model. Additionally, the Student Affairs Committee created a Distance Learner subcommittee to explore more in-depth strategies to engage students who are enrolled in online programs.

Student Christopher M. Schweikert, a senior manufacturing engineering technology major from Jamison, who serves as president of the college’s Baja SAE club, presented an overview of his internship with PDC Machines Inc., a mechanical and industrial engineering firm in Warminster. The firm’s work includes providing gas diaphragm compressors for alternative energy/hydrogen refueling stations.

Schweikert said when his original internship fell through because of the pandemic, he found out about another one offered by PDC Machines. It turned into “the best internship I’ve ever had,” he said, explaining he got to perform both in machining and engineering roles. He hopes to be employed full time with the company after graduation.

Michael J. Reed, vice president for academic affairs/provost, informed the board about 13 new faculty for Fall 2020, noting their industry experience totals 141 years, and their combined teaching experience is 84 years.

In her comments to the board, Gilmour congratulated Pangborn on his impending retirement from Penn State in December.

Pangborn, who currently serves as vice president and dean for undergraduate education at Penn State, has 41 years of service to the university. He plans to continue serving on the Penn College Board following his retirement.

Gilmour also noted the college’s low employee turnover rate: 4.58%. “We are really proud of the low turnover rate we have,” she said.

The president thanked faculty for their resilient efforts in helping the college reach week seven of the Fall 2020 semester while continuing to provide in-person, hands-on instruction for students.

In his comments, Yaw thanked the board for the opportunity to continue serving in the chairman’s role. He also mentioned how well the college has fared during the pandemic when compared with other higher-education institutions.

“We’re at the right place, at the right time, with the right product,” he said.

The next regularly scheduled Board of Directors meeting will be on Dec. 10.

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