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Grounded in Success, College Embraces Challenges of 2003


(The following is drawn from remarks by Dr. Davie Jane Gilmour, Pennsylvania College of Technology president, during a College-wide meeting to kick off the Spring 2003 semester.)

Good morning.

Welcome to the Spring 2003 semester. I trust you have renewed and revitalized, and I would like to begin today by expressing some very sincere “Thank you’s.” This year, the holiday was shortened for many I would like to thank all of the Information Technology Services staff for giving the majority of their time to relocating the AS400 and computer servers. Your long hours, in addition to the time at work, are greatly appreciated.

Bill Martin, Walt Nyman and Andy Richardson worked almost every day of the holiday nudging a carefully chosen term the contractors through the finishing touches to the new building.

General Services staff worked for two causes over the holiday snow removal and work in the Student and Administrative Services Center. Our thanks go to those staff members and to the Penn College Police who worked throughout the closure. In addition, I know that many of you came to campus to work on that special project, sort and distribute mail, or to do that winter office cleaning that allows sanity for the spring semester. Regardless of your purpose, thank you for your commitment to the College. In addition, any number of you worked from home to prepare for Jan. 13 (the start of Spring 2003 classes). Thank you for your commitment to our students.

The move to the SASC dominated our world at the end of the fall semester. The move, of course, went flawlessly. Offices involved were well-prepared and General Services did a wonderful job. The building is coming along well. However, it’s best not to ask those immersed in the project they will be able to all too quickly tell you the few items remaining in need of attention but it is a beautiful and functional addition to our campus. The building provides a well-deserved workspace AND, most significantly to the first-time and return visitor, this building provides a visual and physical manifestation of everything that is Penn College.

Mark Feb.14 on your calendars in addition to being St. Valentine’s Day, that afternoon, we will hold a College-wide employee and student open house to show off this new facility. Please watch PCToday for details of the event.

Many would say we have just concluded the season of giving I suggest that giving is an ongoing value at Penn College and I am very proud to share some of the landmark activities that demonstrate that laudable characteristic.

Employees have set two records. First the Annual Fund Employee Campaign shattered last year’s record. With a goal of $45,000 as of Wednesday morning, with four months remaining in the campaign, gifts and pledges from employees total $50,587! Thank you!

This is an incredible accomplishment, considering it is an increase of $9,000 over the last campaign and more than $17,000 over a two-year period.

Those gifts will help hundreds of students, and that is a direct reflection of the commitment of Penn College’s faculty and staff to make sure our students have the opportunity to succeed.

The second record is in our United Way giving. This year, an all-time high for Penn College: $24,354, when our goal was $23,000. Thank you to Jim Temple, Jeannette Fraser and Myra Shaffer for their work on the campaign. Another wonderful example of Penn College giving to the community.

A big “Thank you” goes to all of you, and especially Matt Branca, for making sure all of the “angels” on our tree were taken care of this past holiday season. Matt took his time to collect funds from across campus, then took hours to shop for gifts to be certain all of the children on our tree received a gift. Thank you, also, to the College Store staff who wrapped all of the packages. We all missed that additional week of time between Thanksgiving and Christmas, and, thanks to Matt and the caring staff, we were able to make many children happy.

I hope you have read the wonderful news on PCToday about the very generous gift from the volunteers of the Community Arts Center to the “5.30 Campaign.” For those of you not familiar with the campaign, it was 10 years ago this May that the Community Arts Center opened its doors. As part of the fund-raising for the Arts Center, 7-year-old Laura Williams emptied her piggy bank and gave her life savings of $5.30 to the then-Capitol Campaign. Laura had the vision of others and, today, serves as the Honorary Chair of the “5.30 Campaign.” It is hard to believe that, 10 years ago, we opened that Center a facility that is part of our College and community life. The current campaign will help insure the future of the Arts Center, and the generosity of the volunteers is a huge contribution to the future.

I am pleased to report that, in late December, the College and a donor signed the first Charitable Gift Annuity. This is one more planned-giving option for our donors and one that is likely to be popular. Congratulations to Barry Stiger for his work in securing this gift.

We could not reflect on this past year and giving season without recognizing the loss the College experienced.

It is with great sadness that we continue to comprehend the recent loss of our dean of the School of Hospitality, Bill Butler. He passed away suddenly on Dec. 29, 2002.

I would like to quote Tom Speicher in his recent Williamsport Online tribute to Bill:

“As dean of Penn College’s School of Hospitality, Bill spearheaded the growth and evolution of the school as it became one of the most prominent culinary programs in the East. He brought visiting chefs in from across the country, helped build an award-winning restaurant and wine list, and oversaw curriculum changes to ensure the school would remain on the cutting edge. He did all of that while never losing his student-centered focus.”

Bill did not do this alone. We are blessed with talented faculty and staff in the School, and it is for that reason they will continue to thrive. I am most grateful that Fred Becker has agreed to serve as interim dean of the School.

I invite all of you to join me and Bill’s family at “A Time of Remembrance” this Tuesday (Jan. 14) at 3:30 p.m. in the Thompson Professional Development Center. We will hear tributes from his colleagues and family. All are welcome.

Some of you no doubt know that Bill’s wife, Debra, and two daughters are current students at Penn College. The College is committed to providing their continuing tuition waiver and related benefits for them to finish their education, and, in addition, provisions have been made for educational opportunities to Bill’s son, Ethan.

It is my honor to announce that Bill’s closest friends and colleagues, the school deans and Hospitality faculty have recommended that Bill be memorialized by founding the “William C. Butler Visiting Lecture Series.” Bill was instrumental in bringing in so many visiting chefs and pastry artists to share their experience and knowledge, that this tribute is a true honor.

The school deans and faculty will begin efforts to fund this endeavor in Bill’s memory and encourage others to join them in providing contributions to this opportunity established by the Foundation. Contributions to this fund may be directed to the Penn College Foundation.

As you could no doubt see from the flurry of post-holiday e-mail messages, any number of our colleagues lost loved ones over the holiday. Our thoughts are with all of you.

Giving, sacrifice and personal losses, in addition to the start of a new year, cause us to take stock of our lives making certain we are grounded and headed in the right direction.

Our fall semester concluded with one of the most incredible “grounding” events in the history of this College. The Dec. 12 announcement of the Roger and Peggy Madigan Library and Learning Resources Center did it for me.

Rep. Brett Feese and just three of us on campus have worked since March on the “possibility” of funding for this much-needed building. I cannot describe the highs and lows of the process from March until December. One day on, one day off and the day was finally here. The preliminary paperwork signed, the surprise announcement planned and then it snowed. Sen. Madigan sent his regrets for the meeting that day, and sheer panic set in. Within a two-hour period, we dispatched police Chief Chris Miller on Route 15 North and crossed our fingers. Not only was the snow causing transportation problems, the senator’s home had NO heat, NO electrical service and NO hot water. A proud and public man, Sen. Madigan was not about to attend the meeting without a shower! To their credit, his staff prevailed and the much-awaited announcement was made.

In 25 years at Penn College, I can tell you the only day that rivaled Dec. 12 was the announcement in City Hall of the sponsorship crisis resolution in 1988.

We deserve a world-class library. Our students, faculty and staff will have a library that will take this College many years into the future.

I do remind myself that the hard work is about to begin. We are working with an external consultant to prepare our educational specifications. This will be a new experience for us, as the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania; Department of General Services will oversee the building of the Library with us as very close partners throughout the project.

We are so fortunate.

Add to record fall enrollment what looks like record spring enrollment and sound results from the students this past fall. Seventeen percent were on the dean’s list, 14 percent on academic probation, and only 74 individuals were asked to leave the College.

We have much to be thankful for and much work ahead of us.

Our community is about to launch a carefully planned campaign to improve the “town and gown” relationship between the City and both Lycoming College and Penn College. The Williamsport-Lycoming Chamber of Commerce is responsible for this initiative, and I am pleased that two students and a number of staff will be working on this project.

Congratulations go to the entire team of Web, print and multimedia staff who worked on the award-winning CD “degrees that work.” This incredible comprehensive effort resulted in an Award of Distinction from the Communicator Awards, an international awards program founded by communications professionals to recognize excellence in the field. The award of distinction recognizes entries that exceed industry standards in quality and excellence. The entries are judged individually on creativity, quality and resourcefulness, not against each other. This year, there were 3,242 entries from 48 states and nine countries for the visual communications video/film/multi-media category.

Congratulations to the more than 50 staff and students responsible for the final product.

Orientation for new students begins tomorrow and, as you all know, classes begin Monday.

In preparing for these remarks, I experience the same feelings I did when I was preparing for my first day of class with new students. I face the same quandary as a faculty member, I wanted to review the “important” points of the course things like syllabi, evaluation methods, expectations of students, etc. But, at the same time, I wanted to be certain I motivated and inspired students for those 50 minutes to insure that they would “love” this material like I did. Of course, they would love the precision of dental and oral anatomy and this would quickly become their favorite class!

Today’s parallel is painfully close: There always are many things I want to share, things that you all accomplish that make me, the outside community and all in this room proud. There always pulls at me a need to find the words to motivate, stimulate or perhaps remind us all, me included, just how lucky we are as individuals and as an institution.

Do not be afraid, I do not for a moment think this will be your favorite “class” hour, but maybe taking time to help a bewildered new student, assuring a soon-to-graduate student that all requirements are met – when they really are or helping each other when we need to as we did so clearly these past few months maybe today can encourage a positive word or deed . . . reminding us all to outwardly and routinely practice what we hype: Penn College IS a student-centered learning environment.

As an institution we have a vision, we have a mission and purpose, and we have before us in the coming months incredible opportunity.

By the next time we visit, we will be housing 350 more students on campus, and Collision Repair, Automated Manufacturing and Civil Engineering Technology will be in new academic facilities. Retrofitting vacant spaces will be in various stages across campus, and this building (the Klump Academic Center) will be in chaos, yes, inconvenience comes with the improvements AND we will be well on our way to the Madigan Library.

It is prudent that we balance our positive news and educational opportunities with a dose of reality. Enrollment growth brings challenges better challenges than an enrollment decline, but they are nonetheless real.

Higher education’s standing under Gov. Rendell is yet to unfold . . . our financial position with the 2003-04 budget remains undefined AND related to the overall economic position of the commonwealth.

We plan well and respond to the unplanned a response that is more complex as we put more projects and initiatives into play.

Students must come first, closely linked with teaching and learning. As we examine our noncredit position in the marketplace, adjust credit programs and explore new academic areas, we will need all of our senses to be keen. The future is bright, but not as crystal-clear as I would like. No doubt we will rise to the occasion any occasion.

We are most fortunate, and I, most of all, because it is my honor to work with each of you. It is time to embrace all that 2003 will bring us. Take time to get grounded, reflect on our successes and our challenges and work with me to make the future something for which we can all be proud.

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