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Penn College Board OKs emeritus status, accepts 2018-19 audit 

Pennsylvania College of Technology’s Board of Directors on Thursday approved emeritus status for a longtime faculty member and accepted the audited financial statements for the fiscal year that ended June 30. 

Faculty emeritus status was authorized for Robert M. Vaughn, who taught welding for nearly four decades, retiring in August. 

Nominating documentation cited by Michael J. Reed, vice president for academic affairs/provost, noted that Vaughn was instrumental in the development of the welding associate and bachelor’s degrees, including numerous individual supporting classes, and he provided leadership during welding lab expansions, including the most recent renovation that has nearly doubled the size of the facility in the Lycoming Engines Metal Trades Center. 

Vaughn held various positions with the American Welding Society, including acting division director, section chairman and national chairman of higher education. Additionally, he provided technical support for the AWS-accredited welding shop at the college. 

Suzanne T. Stopper, senior vice president for finance/CFO, said the college’s independent auditors, Baker Tilly Virchow Krause LLP, issued an unmodified opinion on the college’s financial statements for the fiscal year ending June 30 – the highest level of assurance given in an audit. The consolidated audit included the college, the Penn College Foundation and the Community Arts Center. 

Stopper said the audit reflected a significant investment in infrastructure, including technology and equipment, to further enhance the hands-on learning experience for students. She said the audit represents “the financial story of the college.”  

“The story is about capital investment,” she said, explaining that the $14.13 million invested for projects like the welding expansion, UPMC Field and related athletics facility improvements, the Shell Polymers Rotational Molding Center of Excellence, and The Dr. Welch Workshop: A Makerspace at Penn Collegeare “capital investments for the future of our students.” 

The board heard updates on Global Experiences from Shanin L. Dougherty, coordinator of international programs, and on athletics from John D. Vandevere, director of athletics. 

Global Experiences’ missionDougherty said, is to foster a community of respect by educating the College community about other cultures, broaden and deepen students’ thinking about their courses of study and world affairs through academically integrated global experiences, serve the on-campus international student population by assisting with their integration into the campus and community, sponsor events increasing international student engagement, and enrich campus culture by promoting a global perspective. 

Thursday's Board of Directors meeting encapsulated for college communityShe cited 14 Global Experiences in four categories in which students may participate, as well as 10 Global Experience courses that are offered. Annually, approximately 70 to 80 students avail themselves of the various opportunities, Dougherty said. 

Penn College President Davie Jane Gilmour said Global Experiences benefit diversity on campus by exposing students to different cultures and new perspectives. 

“It is a fundraising priority for us,” the president said. 

In his presentation, Vandevere noted Wildcat Athletics has recruited 346 student-athletes to enroll in the past four years, and 81% are either still enrolled or have graduated. He said student-athletes registered a 3.18 overall GPA in 2018-19, a record-setting performance. The college also had 60 North Eastern Athletic Conference Scholar-Athletes, as well as 21 Chi Alpha Sigma National College Athlete Honor Society inductees and seven Academic All-Americans. 

Wildcat student-athletes volunteered more than 2,300 hours of community service, and Penn College placed first in the NEAC’s Senior Woman Administrators’ Cup, which recognizes excellence in community service by conference members. 

The college finished third overall in the President’s Cup standings, Vandevere said, including a second-place finish in the sportsmanship category. 

Vandevere also spoke of the enhancements to facilities made possible by corporate donors, including UPMC Field (which now has a synthetic turf playing surface), the M&T Bank Entrance Gate, the Susquehanna Trailways Scoreboard and the Pepsi Pressbox. Bardo Gym saw significant upgrades, as well, including the Blaise Alexander Family Dealerships Scoreboard. 

Co-chairs for the 2022 Self-Study, Mary Jo Saxe and Tracey Amey, provided a brief overview of the Middle States accreditation and Self-Study processes. They highlighted changes to the accreditation cycle and Middle States standards, the Self-Study design, and the proposed timeline. 

The 18-month Self-Study process launched this week, Amey said. Ultimately, a final report will be issued in Spring 2022, followed by a site visit to campus by a team of administrators from peer institutions, Saxe said.

In her comments to the board, Gilmour noted the college will soon raze a blighted property at 942 First St. that it had purchased previously with board approval. 

She said the recent Career Fair featured the largest student participation in the college’s history – 1,942 students met with employers – while attracting 458 companies and organizations offering 4,900 job and internship opportunities.  

Gilmour noted she has been asked once again to present testimony to the state Senate Appropriations Committee in support of the college’s state appropriation request. On March 3, she will present to the committee in a panel with Thaddeus Stevens College of Technology President William Griscom. 

Board Chairman Sen. Gene Yaw noted that the Center for Rural Pennsylvania, which he also chairs, was hosted on campus recently for its quarterly meeting. The visit included a campus tour of academic program labs. 

“They were impressed, and that’s an understatement,” Yaw said. 

The next Penn College Board of Directors meeting is scheduled for Thursday, Feb. 6. 

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