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President Marks Year of ‘Wows,’ Urges Patience in Months Ahead


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

Good morning!

When consulting the Webster “Handy College Dictionary” for a definition of the word, “Wow,” I confirmed the limitation of the word itself, but I also confirmed that it means “expressing admiration or wonder” or “a wonderful person, thing or performance.” This simple three-letter word, often considered slang, has been used by others when describing this past academic year and related events.

We had many student accomplishments that resulted in “Wows:”

  • Penn College had national scholarship winners two in Welding, one in Construction and Design Technology, and four in Plastics and Polymer Engineering Technology
  • Nine students will be off to the national Phi Beta Lambda competition
  • Twelve SkillsUSA-VICA (Vocational Industrial Clubs of America) students will be off to national competition in Kansas City
  • Eleven members of the Penn College Construction Association competed at the National Home Builders show in Las Vegas and finished second
  • Air Conditioning Contractors of America founded its first-ever student chapter at Penn College
  • Construction Management students finished fourth in the nation at the competition in Dallas
  • A Penn College student competed on a team that finished second in the All-Star Bowl competition at the 2002 Instrumentation, Systems and Automation Society’s International Student Games in Chicago
  • Some of you may know the television show, “Monster Garage,” for car enthusiasts; this year, we had a student Kristen Morris and a number of alumni appear on the show
  • Justin Humes was selected at the Associated Builders and Contractors Region 7 student to attend the ABC Legislative Conference in Washington later this summer

These are but a few of the many successes our students have enjoyed and the work that has brought regional and national recognition to Penn College Wow!

We are most fortunate to have any number of “wows” among the faculty and staff, as well:

  • Dan Doyle will be off to Egypt on a Fulbright scholarship
  • Dorothy Gerring was awarded the Agents of Change fellowship and, with two students, attended training in January at the University of Oregon
  • Vinay Bahl has been a visiting scholar/lecturer in Paris, Turkey and England this past academic year
  • Bob Vaughn has been elected to the Education Committee of the American Welding Society
  • Al Thomas serves on the National Advisory Committee for National Automotive Technicians Education Foundation.
  • Carol Kafer completed an Environmental Protection Agency grant to revitalize the Loyalsock Creek Watershed

Again, regional and national recognition as a result of this fine work.

On the fund-raising front, we have had a very successful this year. We signed our first Charitable Gift Annuity agreement, and you can read about Dr. Clarence Burgher and his passion for Penn College in the current issue of “One College Avenue.”

The Scholarship Ride earned almost $7,000, and the Annual Fund was a huge success.

This weekend’s “Relay for Life” again will be marked by the presence of many in this room, and special recognition goes to Kathy Kelsey, chair of this year’s event. Thank you all for your generosity of time and money.

In the category of “Wow!” miracles and surprises last year, we were dealing with the “miracle” gift/purchase of the former HON Building. (By the way, now named the College Avenue Labs, or CAL building.)

We are now in the midst of finalizing renovations to that building, and the relocation of Automated Manufacturing, Civil Engineering Technology and Collision Repair will begin in a few weeks. What a difference CAL will make for those program areas and the growth and development they have already experienced.

In addition, we are crossing our fingers on the Rose Street Apartments.

I believe we can all expect the buildings to be completed on time, but moving in furniture, setting up for new students and the related activities will certainly test our patience, endurance and will. However, we WILL prevail.

Our surprise of this year our “Wow!” was the funding of the Roger and Peggy Madigan Library and Learning Resource Center. Many people worked hard to make this a reality, and the hard work paid off.

Our initial round of educational specifications have been forwarded to Harrisburg and we are awaiting the architect selection process.

I am pleased that Lisette Ormsbee will be leading the Library into the future and working with the team to design and create a new facility that will be the envy of all.

If there is one project that has consumed time this year, it is the Academic Center renovation.

Countless hours have been spent to be certain that we do all we desire and are required to do by law to upgrade this building, provide optimal teaching and learning spaces AND meet the Board mandate of creating a “Wow” when you enter the building in Fall 2005.

Yes, I did say FALL 2005.

I considered bringing two visual aids to this meeting today to symbolize the upcoming renovation: a bulletproof vest (borrowed from College Police) and a Pennsylvania Department of Transportation sign, “Temporary Inconvenience . . . Permanent Improvement.”

I fully expect, by Fall 2005, I will have used both on any number of occasions.

Let me begin by reviewing what is going to happen in the Academic Center:

  • New front entrance, fully handicap accessible
  • Exterior “cleanup” of the bricks and stone
  • New exterior lighting
  • New and improved landscaping
  • Two elevators, one key-operated
  • An atrium connecting and covering the central green area around the mezzanine and basement areas to the first floor
  • Air conditioning the entire facility
  • A new roof
  • An updated heating system
  • Install fire-suppression system and sprinklers throughout the building
  • Addition of many student work areas adjacent to faculty offices
  • Additional classrooms
  • Seminar and small-group study areas
  • Better and more adjunct faculty office space
  • A state-of-the-art paramedic laboratory
  • Expanded International Cafe
  • New look to the hallways
  • Lobby upgrade
  • Lighting repairs to the auditorium

    This is by no means the entire list, but some of the most notable areas.

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Now the real challenge this renovation will affect every person on this campus, not simply the residents of the Academic Center.

By the spring and fall of 2004, classes normally held in this building will likely be rescheduled to any variety of locations across campus.

This is a good time to remind all of us that none of us “own” space.

No classroom, lab or office is for the exclusive use of any one individual or department. This common understanding is vital for our organizational strength and survival over the coming months.

Some are impacted more than others.

If you currently live in this building, you are either being moved to a temporary location for the duration of the renovation or you will stay in the building and move as many as five times. If you are elsewhere on campus, you may find a renovation of space you requested put on hold while we temporarily relocate others to that open area.

I know some of you are disappointed.

For that I am sorry, but finding space for all who live in the Academic Center has been like putting together a puzzle without borders.

In addition to the challenges, this will provide to the people of the Academic Center, we will have to face some real facts for the duration of the renovation:

The building will NOT meet our standards during the work.

When classes begin in the fall, there will not be ceilings in the building.

There will be lights and all classrooms will have their technology installed, but think of the ceilings as those at Wegmans if you look up, you see the elements of the structure, not a finished ceiling.

“Why?” you ask To stop the project in time to put in and take out ceilings each summer and winter break causes additional delay to the project.

You will need to read carefully rest-room signs throughout the renovation; they will alternate men’s and women’s on alternate floors. My best advice is read and plan ahead.

Another challenge to this facility renovation is that we will occupy the building while construction is ongoing. Yes, we have been very clear that noise cannot be excessive, and we have staged the building in “sides” to assist us. But I assure you we are about to enter the time when patience, professionalism and tolerance need to be running at an all-time high.

This is an old building and we are certain to find “unexpected” challenges. The Board is committed to making this building as much of a “statement” on campus as our other facilities, including the Student and Administrative Services Center.

What can you do to assist in the project clean out and then clean out again?

If you are moving this summer, it will be readily obvious to you that the hours spent packing are directly related to your accumulation of materials.

If you are remaining in the building and moving multiple times, I assure you by the second move, that first test you ever wrote 20+ years ago will become less valuable.

We can provide shredding cans and large rolling garbage cans, but I urge you to take advantage of the opportunity to clean out.

The questions and rumors I have heard about the building are worth noting today. Will we “refurnish” the building in its entirety classrooms AND offices? We hope to.

We have identified a very promising type of classroom furniture for the CAL building and, if it functions as well as we hope, we would like to furnish all classrooms in this building with the new style of furniture.

Will we be making the internal aspect of this building as “modern” as the SASC? In function, yes . . . in look, no. All classrooms will be full-technology classrooms, but the interior of the building, the lobby and entrances will be in keeping with the overall design and character of this wonderful landmark building.

Will there be art for the Academic Center as there is in other buildings? Absolutely.

Our Art on Campus initiative is alive and well; we will be adding art to any number of buildings this year and will continue to do so.

Art belongs in all buildings not just the Campus Center, or in the new facilities or in selected offices. I feel strongly that all students and all locations should benefit from the art we collect.

Thank you in advance for your patience and understanding.

If you have built a house, added a room or even remodeled, you know there are always opportunities and challenges. The Academic Center will be the biggest challenge we have faced but, when finished, it will be incredible . . . and will prepare this building for another 20 to 30 years of life. The Board has given us its full support and we are anxious to get started.

I will no doubt need my visual aids for the coming months, but I can assure you what will be a temporary inconvenience will be a permanent and worthwhile improvement.

The Student and Administrative Services Center has passed the real test it is functional and has proven to be all the occupants have hoped for. When we look at testing, scheduling, tours and special events, the building has functioned well and the employees occupying the building have worked together as a team throughout the process.

The move was another one of our challenges, but, thanks to the General Services and Information Technology Services staff, all went very well.

The dedication was a success and we again owe our thanks to General Services, Hospitality and the staff located in the building. We certainly experienced a number of “Wows” that night and continue to receive great praise for the building.

Now for the questions and rumors regarding that building:

No, we have not found a new species of arborvitae called “golden glow.” Yes, every one of the specimens died and soon will be replaced.

Yes, our own very talented grounds-keeping staff will be supplementing the plantings around the building.

And watch for something never before done on our campus to appear on the south side of the building.

Yes, we just may have a competition to decide what color or variation of colors will be projected on the south side of the building at night there are 2,700 to choose from.

This summer will be a “Wow!” of its own With all of the renovation projects, in addition to our normal summer work and the bringing online of two new facilities, it will be a summer of challenge and opportunity.

I am pleased the Teachers’ Learning Institute will be launched this summer; in addition, RENO Recurring New Employee Orientation is now being formed. Two important activities to provide ongoing professional development and orientation for all employees at Penn College.

We look forward to hosting the first Adult Summer Camp for the enjoyment and study of Hospitality, Floral Design or Information Technology. If you are interested or know anyone who may be, contact the Office of Special Events or Technology Transfer Center for a brochure.

We continue to work on the budget for 2003-04. Where are we? What will happen? I know where we are at the moment the governor has proposed a 5 percent reduction in our appropriation and I have no real sense of what will happen.

The key is the uncertainty. No one is promising a budget by June 30 earliest predictions are the first week in July. I know Rep. Brett Feese and Senator Roger Madigan are working hard to keep our needs known; we cannot set tuition until there is a budget passed for us at the state level.

Tuition bills would go out around July 8 and are due Aug. 4; we are making provisions now for a July Board meeting. My concern is our students; we need to have a real bill in their hands as soon as possible, giving them time to make financial arrangements.

We have much to look forward to over the next few months: the 10th anniversary of the Community Arts Center, orientation of a new vice president for student affairs, and a plan for working more closely and more proactively with our off-campus landlords, just to name a few of our coming opportunities.

I hope you read the recent series of articles in the Sun Gazette about the multiple College Town initiatives. We will be active in both groups. If you read the set of articles written by the three educational institutions and the Chamber of Commerce, you would have noted a difference between us and the others.

I was asked to write about Williamsport as a College Town, and I did just that with the help of some talented staff on campus. It was not the time to speak of our virtues as an educational institution, but to present our feelings about the potential of our communities.

We DO live in a College town, and I remain committed to the continuous improvement of our reputation in the community.

We are not without critics, regardless of our community service, our financial relationships with the city and the Williamsport Area School District.

I was dismayed when I read that one candidate singled out Penn College from all of the nonprofits pointing out in campaign literature that we are not doing our fair share for the community. Since that candidate published a brochure citing Penn College, my phone has been ringing with expressions of concern.

I have been encouraged, pushed, even challenged to take time and write down all we do and get that information out to the community.

My response continues to be as it has for five years: We can do for our community every day with large and small acts by countless faculty, staff and students or we can take our time to compile, validate and quantify our community contributions.

Doing is more important than counting. I believe actions do speak louder than words, charts or graphs. We have done more than ever, we have done more than most people know and I am not ready to change our practice doing the work is more important than claiming credit for it.

I ask you to understand and to join me to continue to demonstrate to the members of the community our value and our role in Williamsport as a College Town with potential.

I hope each of you takes time to renew and refresh this summer. We have a full agenda ahead of us for next academic year, when we can once again reach out and make a difference for so many.

Thank you for your ongoing contributions to make Penn College a special place.

I would like to close today with a quote from Emerson that I found in Staff Notes prepared weekly by College Information & Community Relations. I hope the quote will guide us all as we face the challenges and opportunities before us: “There is no limit to what can be accomplished if it doesn’t matter who gets the credit.”

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