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President Honors Co-Workers, Rallies College for ‘Tough Questions’ Ahead

President Davie Jane Gilmour closed out the 2014-15 academic year by recognizing the Penn College employees whose galvanizing work ethic will prevail against the formidable opportunities that await on the other side of summer break. “I am confident in our future and in our meeting the challenges that lie ahead,” she said. “As you well know, for me, they are opportunities. I hope you join me on the journey and continue to work to allow Penn College to become the national leader in applied technology education we deserve to be.”

(The following is drawn from the president’s remarks during a May 14 all-college meeting to close the 2014-15 academic year.)

Well, here we are again.

Nearly six months after a Centennial year to remember, and a few short weeks after a winter we’d like to forget, we gather to mark the passage of yet another semester in one another’s company.

What do we do for an encore after a yearlong observance of our first century of career-based instruction?

Well, at Pennsylvania College of Technology, a beautiful and credible product of that history we celebrated, we dive head-first into a second hundred years, confidently forging onward with a balance of innovation and tradition.

As we looked back at an illustrious history of inspiring and meaningful work, we never lost sight of our vibrant present or of our responsibility to prepare the job-holders of the future.

This week is a culmination of that labor of love. On Friday and Saturday, another swirling blur of three graduations in two days, we will say “Goodbye” to the students who have touched our lives, and we will honor dedicated full-time faculty and supportive alumni who distinguish this alma mater with their service.

We also take time now – and this is the 20th year for such recognition – to commend our campus colleagues who do so much for our students and our national reputation. Before we start this last sprint toward summer, then, let’s salute our praiseworthy co-workers – retirees, 25-year employees, distinguished staff and part-time faculty, and two faculty advisers.

I’ll begin with our retirees.

The 2014-15 academic year brings the departure of 43 employees with more than 930 years of total service among them – that’s nearly 10 Centennials!

Eighteen of them have been with the college for more than 25 years, Kathryn Lehman has delivered crucial and consistent counseling to an ever-changing student population for more than 35 years, and Robert Slothus has been mentoring our future radiographers for more than 36.

I ask all of the retirees present to join me as I announce them … and to remain on stage until we can acknowledge the entire group.

Brenda G. Abplanalp
Karen R. Armanda
Robert A. Armstrong
Candace S. Baran
Jane J. Benedict
Barbara J. Betts
Jeannette F. Carter
Mary A. Cipriani
Ralph M. Cole Jr.
Barbara E. Croteau
Wanda J. Engel
David L. Evans
Gary S. Giacobbi
Colleen K. Hauser
James W. Housel
Bonnie L. Ingram
Dianne S. Keister
Lynne H. Koskie
Kathryn A. Lehman
Heidi V. Mack
Paul A. Mayer
Suzann L. Mayer
Edward J. McCabe
Judy F. McConnell
Crystal D. Michael
Jeanne L. Ott
Marilyn L. Palmer
Charles G. Phillips
Judy L. Phillips
Pamela B. Schappert
Susan L. Shaffer
Christine M. Shimp
David S. Sims
Robert Slothus
Bruce M. Smith
LeRoy D. Smith Jr.
Richard S. Smith
Barry R. Stiger
Mary A. Sullivan
Colin W. Williamson
Rick D. Wyland
Richard N. Wynn
Kay L. Yannaccone

Let’s honor our retirees together.

Quarter Century Club
It is also my honor to salute another group that helps keep us Penn College Proud: the faculty and staff who joined the college ranks 25 years ago.

What was going on in the world back in 1990?

“Seinfeld” and “The Simpsons” both debuted, the first page on the “World Wide Web” was published, “Home Alone” was the top-grossing movie, an in-car GPS unit went on the market, the average cost of a new home was $123,000, Microsoft released Windows 3.0, and musician M.C. Hammer influenced popular fashion.

And, yes, these longtime employees signed on to lend their talents to what then was a less-than-1-year-old Penn State affiliate. They, and Penn College, have shown far more staying power than “parachute pants” – and I ask that they join me as I call them to the stage.

Marc E. Bridgens
Donald J. Luke
David L. Mauck
Ronald Z. Miller
K. Park Williams
Susan A. Yeagle

Kirk M. Cantor
Kevin R. Derr
Richard L. Druckenmiller
David L. Evans
Vincent R. Fagnano
Dorothy J. Gerring
Walter V. Gower
Kenneth C. Kuhns
Edwin G. Owens
Joan E. Schell
David S. Sims
Mary G. Trometter
Edward A. Vavra
Katherine A. Walker

Donald J. Cohick
Jerry W. McNett

Please welcome this year’s class of Quarter Century Club inductees.

Part-Time Teaching Excellence Awards
Now, I’m privileged to present the Part-Time Teaching Excellence Awards to two well-respected and extremely capable members of our adjunct faculty.

Tushanna M. Habalar
Tushanna M. Habalar

The first is Tushanna M. Habalar, learning laboratory coordinator for nursing and a part-time clinical instructor for the past five years.

She was described by her student nominator as enthusiastic, self-confident, impartial, incredibly knowledgeable and committed to high standards of quality. Many of those attributes are evident as she facilitates the interdisciplinary exercises for students from a variety of Health Sciences areas. If you think it’s hard to get a child to play well with others, how difficult do you think it is to get a student to work cooperatively with classmates from another major?

Her own excitement for learning is obvious in her laboratory interactions, fostering a healthy dialogue that adds to student understanding … and doing it all with clarity, accessibility and friendliness.

“Mrs. Habalar was invaluable to my nursing experience,” the nominator said. “She makes SIM Lab so great, and really takes the pressure and anxiety off students so they can focus on learning.”

Gaye R. Jenkins
Gaye R. Jenkins

Our co-recipient in this category is Gaye R. Jenkins, a sociology instructor whose far-reaching research and advocacy in adult education brings distinction to the part-time post she has held since 2002.

“I was very motivated to nominate Mrs. Jenkins because I haven’t had a teacher like her before,” a student supporter said. “Her love for the material that she teaches and her kind spirit has really helped me get through the course. On a more personal level, she has given me advice and shared stories with me that make truly helped me push through my rough times. Her guidance gave me the hope and confidence that I needed to keep moving forward.”

With a passion for teaching that shows in her smiling face at the front of the classroom … to her use of personal experiences to make connections with textbook material … to finding alternate explanations to make topics more relevant to students … Gaye gets students interested AND keeps them that way.

“And this is a three-hour evening class we’re talking about here!” the student said.

Please join me in congratulating this year’s Distinguished Part-Time Teaching Excellence Award winners, Tushanna Habalar and Gaye Jenkins.

Excellence in Academic Advising
Let’s now recognize two faculty members who, as academic advisers, have a measurable effect on students as they navigate the curricular path to their degrees.

This year’s recipients, nominated most tellingly by students, are Michael P. Covone, associate professor of applied health studies, and Margaret M. Faust, assistant professor of nursing programs.

Michael P. Covone
Michael P. Covone

“Dr. Covone continually responds to emails either the same day or promptly the following morning, with either an answer or a status report on a particular situation,” his advisee wrote. “He is always available during his office hours to discuss any current needs, unless he has an unscheduled meeting. On one occasions prior to scheduling my next semester classes, Dr. Covone left me both a phone message and an email to ensure that I knew the necessary steps that I needed to follow to be able to schedule those classes.”

Margaret M. Faust
Margaret M. Faust

His co-recipient has a similar reputation for student service.

“It took me over a year to get accepted into the nursing program,” Margaret’s nominator said. “She was the only person that continued to encourage me to pursue my dream. When others suggested I change my major and consider other options, she offered tips and suggestions to help my odds. She also motivated me to take classes toward by BSN because it would benefit me in the long run. I got into the program and graduate this year.”

Please join me in recognizing

Michael Covone and Margaret Faust, today’s two honorees for excellence in academic advising.

Distinguished Staff Awards
We move on now to our Distinguished Staff Awards, a two-decade tradition celebrating the extraordinary everyday work by our APT (Administrative, Professional and Technical), Classified, Service and part-time staff.

Hillary E. Hofstrom
Hillary E. Hofstrom

This year’s distinguished APT staff member is Hillary E. Hofstrom, director of employee relations and compliance, a job underappreciated by many … and vitally necessary to each and every one of us.

Whether helping employees understand the nuances of our massive institutional rulebook … following up on complaints that are inevitable in a workplace of such size and diversity … or making sure that she, herself, understands the legal landscape of the personnel world, Hillary is a reservoir of credibility, respect and integrity.

“Hillary possesses a keen ability to cultivate relationships with students, staff and faculty,” her nominator wrote. “She collaborates with departments and offices throughout campus, providing guidance and interpretation of the college’s policies and procedures. Hillary is well-liked and respected by colleagues, and I believe this is due to her calm, professional demeanor. Her ‘emotional intelligence’ is a unique, inherent trait that sets her apart from others.”

Another supporter noted her quick-mindedness, kindness, compassion and poise – and her commendable completion of her master’s degree while working full time and raising three small children.

Please join me in congratulating Hillary Hofstrom, a true asset to Penn College.

Deborah A. Dougherty
Deborah A. Dougherty

Our distinguished Classified staff member this year is Deborah A. Dougherty, the ever-approachable secretary to the dean of business and hospitality … who, with her ready access to baking and pastry arts students, might have one of the best jobs on campus.

“Deb is always abreast of what is happening within our programs,” her nominator said. “Special events, food shows, visitors to campus and the like. Deb is always able to contribute and inform all parties involved. She is a go-to person if you have a question about what’s happening on any given day. Additionally, (she) demonstrates creativity and sound thinking when a problem does arise.”

She is also the school’s efficiency expert, making paper copies electronic … transforming checklists into spreadsheets … reorganizing computer drives and portal sites … and generally looking to improve office operations.

“Her vision, sense of responsibility and her commitment go well beyond her listed job duties,” an endorser wrote. “Through the (school’s) reorganization and, then, through the transition from one dean to the other, Deb is the person who assured that all essential work/duties were completed.”

Please join me in congratulating a consummate professional, Deb Dougherty.

Our distinguished Service staff member this year is Scott A. Bierly, lumberyard attendant and equipment-repair person for carpentry.

Scott A. Bierly
Scott A. Bierly

The very definition of a hands-on employee, no doubt instilled when he graduated in Williamsport Area Community College’s home remodeling major, Scott makes sure that the carpentry labs are shipshape and well-stocked for students and faculty alike.

“Scott works with many different personalities and always maintains a high level of professionalism,” his nominator wrote. “He works well with the students, and shows them that being professional with clients, vendors and consumers is very important to running a toolroom or working on their future jobs after college.”

“Scott has stepped up to the plate on many occasions to ensure that faculty have what is needed to teach, share, demonstrate or assess students’ abilities on a daily basis,” an endorser said. “I have yet to hear Scott say that he can’t do something or wishes not to.”

In addition to diplomatically appeasing a dozen faculty members, many of whom were unreserved in their praise, he has been known to go beyond his job description: serving as a judge for SkillsUSA, helping the Penn College Construction Association, substituting for someone in case of emergency – even building sets and backdrops for his daughter’s school plays.

Please join me in congratulating Scott Bierly, “an all-around great guy to work with” and one who understands that a good job begins with the proper tools.

In the course of our busy lives and hectic workdays, it is all too easy to dwell on the negative. We all do it – admit it! – overlooking a beautiful sunset for a bug on the windshield. But we have much for which to be grateful and, together as Penn College family, there is much of which to be proud.

Let’s again congratulate our 2015 distinguished staff and part-time faculty, our honorees for excellence in advising, and our retirees and Quarter Century Club members – with gratitude for their friendship and pride in their accomplishments.

A few thoughts to share as we end this academic year.

Each of you understands the importance of scholarships to our students. Today, I am proud to share with you an update about a scholarship fund that so many of you have supported. The Mary Beth Saar Memorial scholarship has reached endowment, meaning that over $25,000 has been designated to that fund. This fund will now provide scholarship awards in perpetuity to Penn College students who have a financial emergency that may jeopardize their ability to remain as a college student. Originally the Financial Aid Emergency Need Scholarship, established by the Financial Aid Office staff in 2007, the fund was renamed to memorialize Mary Beth in 2009, the year of her passing. A WACC graduate, Mary Beth worked as a financial aid specialist in federal programs from 2002 until her death at the age of 52. She was a consummate professional, always trying to make processes easier for parents and students to ensure they maximized their financial-aid opportunities. Like me, Mary Beth would be proud of the work you have done and the gifts you have given to support our students in her memory.

As with the close of every spring semester, the Penn College Fund employee campaign has kicked off. Last year, over 440 of you joined me in supporting our students through gifts to this campaign. Those of you who have auto-renewing payroll-deduction gifts were reminded in this year’s appeal letter that, if each current employee donor increased his or her annual gift by $1 per pay this year, that would translate to more than $11,400 in increased support for our students! Imagine what we could do if each of you considered joining this campaign. I thank those of you who have increased your support this year and ask the rest of you to consider joining us. Please contact Valerie Fessler or visit the Institutional Advancement portal page for more information about this effort.

Early this semester, members of the Institutional Advancement staff participated in the faculty leadership training program. As a result of this presentation, much collaboration has taken place between the IA staff and faculty. In an effort to continue this collaboration, the Alumni Relations staff will be reaching out to department chairs and directors this summer for one-on-one meetings to discuss partnership between the college and our biggest advocates – our alumni. I look forward to continuing to involve alumni in efforts across campus as volunteers, classroom presenters and recruiters.

The summer is a time to rejuvenate and to extend our learning – I am pleased to remind faculty to faculty to register for the 1-1/2 day Summer Teaching Institute on May 19-20, to be held at the Earth Science Center.

Keynote speaker is Dr. Rayne Sperling from Penn State: “Rayne A. Sperling is an educational psychologist. Her research examines the measurement and promotion of learners’ self-regulation including their motivation, metacognition and strategic processing.”

Last Friday concluded the inaugural Faculty Leadership Institute. Nineteen faculty from across all six schools and the Madigan Library participated in 14 sessions each Friday afternoon during the spring term. Many thanks to these faculty for their commitment to the program and the college. Many thanks, also, to Marianne DePasqua and WDCE for organizing and delivering this program.

It is only fitting that we take time to recharge our batteries and look to the future as we approach summer. Many of you will embark on new projects, new initiatives and new learning. Yet another group of you will spend the summer making sure we are ready for our new students this fall through Connections, Summer Camps, summer renovations and curriculum work.

The 2015-16 academic year will be another opportunity for us to do our best and for us to stop and take stock in what we are doing. Can we do it better? Is it time to change? Peter Drucker said, “If you want something new, you have to stop doing something old.”

Our enrollment is not growing. A very serious point for us on any number of fronts. First, we do not have all of the funds we would like to provide more services and activities for our students. We do a great deal for our students, but we want to do more; we want our students to have the full collegiate experience. Second, we risk our Standard and Poor’s rating. That may not mean much to you but, if we are to remain attractive from a financial point of view, our credit rating is key. Just as you are constantly reminded by the television that your credit rating is important, so is that of the college. A decline in enrollment impacts our financial status and balance sheet, thus can impact our S&P rating.

Low enrollment causes us to look at all we do and determine if we are doing the right things or in the right way. Do we have too many programs? Should we add new programs? What is our right balance? Do our services equal our program offerings?

These are the tough questions we are going to begin to answer this summer in preparation for the fall. As a community this fall, we need to “reinvent” ourselves, or reimagine how we do things and what we do.

We are addressing marketing. Our national initiative has been very productive.

A new video sent out to all of you and across all of our social media earlier this spring, visits by a blogger helping parents make choices, two NPR stories on highly “listened to” shows giving us great exposure. Jay Leno visiting campus resulting in more than 150,000 social media exposures. Mike Spinelli and the Drive Channel filming our students for any number of national exposure opportunities. An AP reporter following the progress of the restoration of the Rolls Royce in preparation for the Hershey car show. Regardless of the program featured – all of these bring national attention to Penn College and our successes, our students, and our faculty and staff.

As Drucker said, “Before you can do something new, you need to stop doing something old.”

We have had a good year. Our first championship as a member of the NEAC: Congratulations to Chris Howard and the baseball team. Countless recognition of our students and their accomplishments, as well as those by many of our faculty and staff.

There are some reorganizations on the table for this coming July, some office shifts and some renovations for the summer. I am confident in our future and in our meeting the challenges that lie ahead. As you well know, for me, they are opportunities. I hope you join me on the journey and continue to work to allow Penn College to become the national leader in applied technology education we deserve to be.

I am considering my message to graduates this weekend. I have a few quotes to consider. The front-runner is one by Estee Lauder: “I never dreamed about success, I worked for it.” Then I read an article in Tuesday’s USAToday outlining Jack Canfield’s “Keys to Success”:

Take 100% Responsibility for Your Life You are the person responsible for the quality of the life you live.

Take Action

Develop Four New Success Habits a Year – Change one habit at a time. It takes about three months to change a habit.

Visualization Visualization is the act of taking a few minutes every day to imagine your goals as already complete.

Ask, Ask, Ask and Reject Rejection Most people are afraid of rejection, so they don’t ask. They are afraid of looking needy, looking foolish and looking stupid.

Commit to Constant and Never-Ending Improvement Successful people are extremely curious and commit to learning something new every day.

Face What Isn’t Working A lot of people don’t deal with what’s not working, because it means they’d have to do something that is uncomfortable.

Be a Class Act Class acts leave places better than they find them. They are always positive. They are willing to help. Maintain dignity and grace under pressure. Counteract meanness, pettiness and vulgarity.

Find a Way to Serve People who volunteer live longer, recover from illness faster and report being happier.

That applies to us as a college – we need more than hopes and dreams, we need action … and, together, we can work to reach our goals.

Enjoy the summer; most of all, make a difference.

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