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President Salutes Employees for Focus on Students, Institutional Excellence

In a year-end message to the campus community, President Davie Jane Gilmour commended the daily contributions of Pennsylvania College of Technology employees toward the institution’s century-old purpose. “We celebrated 100 years of making lives better – our students’ and our own,” the president said, commemorating the past and contemplating the future. “I have faith – faith that we will stay true to our mission, faith that the people who come after us will consider our legacy and continue to make a difference in the world today because of who we are and what we do. Things will change – they always do – but, if you have a strong foundation, you have solid footing for transformation and change.”

(The following is drawn from the president’s remarks during a May 15 all-college meeting to close the 2013-14 academic year.)

It’s hard to believe that we are nearly halfway through our Centennial year, yet today marks the imminent end of another memorable academic year.

Yes, that means summer hours will return Monday. And, yes, as appreciated as they are, they will seem to end just as quickly as they began.

But in the brief window in-between, we take time to honor some very special people.

First, of course, are our students, whose graduation will be applauded in three commencement ceremonies this weekend. And because their success is partially attributable to the encouragement of others, we will also celebrate the full-time faculty members and notable alumni whose support helped smooth their walk across the Community Arts Center stage.

It’s an extremely busy time, even when we’re not celebrating a birthday!

But it’s important that we stop to notice some of the people who go above and beyond in furthering our student-centered mission with true Penn College Pride… and who set such shining examples for those of us privileged to work alongside them.

As we have since the ’90s, then, we salute our colleagues – retirees, 25-year employees, distinguished staff and part-time faculty, and two commendable faculty advisers.

I’ll begin with our retirees.

The 2013-14 academic year brings the departure of 29 of our co-workers with nearly 610 years of total service among them – that’s six times as long as this institution has existed.

Nine of them have been with the college for more than 25 years; two of them – Marge L. Withers and Linda J. Fischer – for more than 35 each; and Dennis F. Ringling, our 2010 Master Teacher, has seen our students (and our woodlands) thrive for nearly 42 years.

Befitting a year in which we honor all three incarnations of this campus – Williamsport Technical Institute, Williamsport Area Community College and Penn College – we acknowledge the role that all have played in our historical and ongoing successes.

As I will tell the students this weekend, whether they even yet appreciate it, we are intertwined forever – like threads in a family quilt.

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

William J. Astore
Sharon G. Auker
Linda J. Fischer
Paula M. Fisher
Connie E. Funk
Wayne E. Gebhart
William F. Geyer
Joan M. Gilbert
James F. Glenn
Darla K. Haines
Robert S. Heiser
Elwood A. Holmes
Joann M. Kay
Charles F. Kemnitz
Linda J. Miller
Richard R. Motter
Walter D. Nyman
Karen L. Patterson
David E. Pentz
Willard A. Probst Jr.
Dennis F. Ringling
Joseph S. Shoemaker
Wayne A. Smith
Debra L. Steckenfinger
Linda L. Strous
Alfred M. Thomas II
Robert M. Werkmeister
Dennis R. Williams
Marge L. Withers

Let’s honor our retirees together.

Quarter Century Club
It is also my privilege today to introduce another group of familiar faces: the faculty and staff who joined our college family 25 years ago. I sometimes use this occasion to be reminded of what was going on in the world back then – the cost of gasoline, for instance, or the predominant news headlines and popular-culture highlights.

In this anniversary year, however, I thought I’d take a freeze-frame of our more immediate surroundings in 1989, when these Quarter Century Club inductees came on board.

  • In late spring of that year, the state House Education Committee and the state Board of Education endorsed establishment of Pennsylvania College of Technology as the successor institution to Williamsport Area Community College effective in July. Among the first reactions on campus? A plea to make do with old letterhead for as long as possible … and a bookstore clearance sale on WACC merchandise!
  • A sculpture called “Interface,” designed in our Media Center and fabricated by welding faculty and students, was erected in the LEC courtyard, where it continues to playfully catch the sunshine and greet visitors to Le Jeune Chef.
  • Susquehanna Street was changed to “one way” between Third Street and Vine Avenue and traffic lights were installed at Third Street, between this building and the gym.
  • Alice Walker, author of “The Color Purple,” visited as part of the college’s Women’s Series.

We could go back and forth all day on whether those events seem like yesterday or whether they clearly prove none of us is getting any younger. One thing is certain: These longtime employees are a vital part of that history – of our history – and I ask them to join me as I announce their names.

Valerie A. Baier
Candace S. Baran
James E. Bies
Jennifer L. Hammond
Charles A. Kern
Heidi V. Mack
Susan K. Manzitti
Carol T. Sims
Mary A. Sullivan
Josephine S. Taylor
Rick D. Wyland

Karen L. Rishcoff
Kim I. Schweikart
Joan E. Shade
Jennifer L. Whitmoyer

Billie A. Coffman
David E. Pentz
David P. Showan
Keith A. Vanderlin

Barbara J. Betts
Duane C. Fargus
Bruce A. Sechrist

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

Part-Time Teaching Excellence Award

Amelia A. Seaton
Amelia A. Seaton

Now, I’m proud to present the Part-Time Teaching Excellence Award.

“Impartial,” “enthusiastic” and “reassuring” are just some of the words used to describe our 2014 recipient: Amelia A. Seaton, dining room manager at Le Jeune Chef Restaurant.

A friendly and familiar face wherever Hospitality skills are on display, Amy puts her 25 years of front-of-the-house experience to good use in training staff and students on all aspects of service. She also shares her expertise with those from outside the school who attend Career Services etiquette dinners to learn proper table manners to make the best impression on potential employers.

It does not escape notice that Amy’s nominator identified herself as a “student/colleague,” a clue to the philosophy that our honoree brings to the workplace.

“She holds her professional disposition no matter what type of day she is having, and is always cheerful with her staff and students,” the nominator wrote. “She listens to what students’ needs are and accommodates them to the best of her abilities. She never talks down to her students and staff, never has a bad word to say about anyone. She has never made me feel stupid and gave me a chance when no one else has. She never lost faith in me.”

“She has this great big heart for everyone she comes in contact with,” the student added. “She keeps a positive attitude and helped me come out of my fear to speak to people. I just hope I can be as awesome as a boss and teacher as she is one day. I’m honored to know her.”

We know the feeling!

Please join me in congratulating Amy Seaton, this year’s Distinguished Part-Time Teaching Excellence Award winner.

Nancy A. Grausam
Nancy A. Grausam

Excellence in Academic Advising
It’s now time to recognize two faculty members who have made a positive impact on students as academic advisers. Theirs is a crucial role – among the more underappreciated responsibilities we get – of keeping students focused and moving forward on the right curricular path. 

This year’s recipients of this award, made all the more meaningful because nominations directly reference service to students, are Nancy A. Grausam, assistant professor of education/early childhood education, and Thomas J. Mulfinger, associate professor of building construction technology.

“I have had Nancy as an adviser since I started the early childhood education major,” one of those students said. “She made it known from Day One that, no matter what, I and all of the other advisees/students could come to her if we needed help with something. She has worked with me on my schedule to get my graduation date to be earlier than I thought it was going to be by knowing how to place the classes so that it was more efficient.”

A staff endorsement echoed those accolades: “Professor Grausam is an “adviser’s adviser.’ Throughout her long and distinguished career at Penn College, she has excelled in classroom instruction and in advising individual students in the major. Her students benefit from her enthusiasm for the discipline, her dedication to her profession, and her continuing mentorship even after they have completed their requirements for graduation.”

Please welcome Nancy A. Grausam, one of today’s two honorees for excellence in academic advising.

Thomas J. Mulfinger
Thomas J. Mulfinger

Her co-winner was characterized as “a great listener with a very comprehensive knowledge about advising students. This allows him to help students make the correct decisions, time and time again. Tom has so much experience that he can refer all his advisees to the correct department – or even contacts that department himself for them.”

He is also tireless when it comes to communication: “He takes the time to reach out and contact his advisees if anything in their schedule changes, either through email, phone – or going out and finding the student in the classroom.”

Corroboration from a colleague noted that Tom is “meticulous in planning schedules for his advisees and investigates all avenues that can assist the students when concerns are beyond his scope. Tom will spend as much time as needed to insure that students are advised properly. He is a model for others to follow and is able and willing to share his strategies, experiences and advising tools with any faculty member to enhance their skills.”

Please acknowledge Thomas Mulfinger, the second of today’s honorees for advising.

Distinguished Staff Awards

Dennis L. Dunkleberger
Dennis L. Dunkleberger

Now, I present our 2014 Distinguished Staff Awards, which – for nearly 20 years – have recognized praiseworthy work by our APT (Administrative, Professional and Technical), Classified, Service and part-time staff.

This year’s distinguished APT staff member is Dennis L. Dunkleberger, registrar, and perhaps the only person on campus who sees more graduates than I.

Commencement is just one of his office’s duties, however, which also include scheduling, transfers, transcript requests, curriculum changes, adds/drops/withdrawals, and catalog updates.

“His work is consistently of high quality and without error,” his nominator said. “He is unbelievably reliable in all that he does and the work he produces. He is extremely knowledgeable of college policies and applies them appropriately and fairly in his work on a daily basis. The nature of his work with students requires a high level of flexibility, and he does that with grace – which is not always easy. He is a top-quality performer, second to none.”

Denny is widely appreciated as a student advocate, a team player, a critical thinker and an innovative problem-solver – all delivered with an elusive blend of candor, credibility and comedic timing.

He has been at the forefront of modernizing his office’s many processes, taking them from paper to online, always asking the important questions to make sure the focus remains on student service and efficient operation. He also stays current with trends in higher education, connecting with his counterparts on other campuses and suggesting professional-development sessions when more effective models emerge.

“Although Denny knows the history of what we do, he never shies away from asking himself and others if that policy or process still makes sense,” a co-worker said. “He will, when appropriate, seek out a better, more effective way to accomplish a task, and he does so with an uncommon focus on the intricacies.”

“It is said that employees are an organization’s greatest asset,” another wrote. “I believe that employees like Denny are the spirit behind that phrase. His contributions over the past decades hold a collective value that I think deserves the public gratitude and recognition of his colleagues.”

Please join me in acknowledging Denny Dunkleberger.

Barbara A. Adzema
Barbara A. Adzema

Our distinguished Classified staff member this year is Barbara A. Adzema, secretary to the Residence Life Office – a position that requires very little … other than diplomacy, efficiency, approachability and compassion.

“We have parents that come in the office looking for moral support as they think about their child leaving home,” her nominator said. “She is always there to help them with empathy and encouragement, and to let them know that she … has gone through this very process with her children – and that two of (them) are products of Penn College and doing very well.”

Among the many documented and diverse duties on any given day, Barb may deal with a waiting list for housing, a parent whose credit card was declined, setting up a room and refreshments for programming, a judicial issue or a hold on grades, student workers and the ever-ringing telephone.

None of which fazes Barb, who infuses her “go-to” position with all of the focus required when recruitment and retention are on the line.

“She always uses sound judgment, even when a new situation arises for which there is no established protocol,” another person noted. “When Barb is asked about her response, she has said, ‘I just think that, if that was me in that situation, how would I want to be treated?’”

Please join me in congratulating Barb Adzema.

Lee R. Whittington
Lee R. Whittington

Our distinguished Service staff member this year is a familiar face to any of our students who frequent the Capitol Eatery. I can vouch for his skill and good nature, as it was my pleasure to staff a pancake griddle with Lee R. Whittington – shoulder to shoulder, and spatula to spatula – during Dining Services’ Midnight Breakfast a few years ago.

“Though our students may be too young to remember, shouts of ‘Lee’ on the walk up to the grill are reminiscent of the cast yelling ‘Norm!’ on “Cheers.” Students are always happy to see him and he is genuinely happy to see them, too,” a nominator said. “Lee has a knack for remembering customer’s likes and dislikes, along with specific conversations. He asks students about their classes, sports schedules and daily life. This has helped create that home-away-from-home bond with students, a relationship that many of them remember well after graduation.”

It was that demeanor that led Dining Services to move Lee from his original assignment as a dishwasher at the “back of the house” to a spot where his uplifting interactions, organizational skill and personality could be put to far better use.

“During a typical shift, he prepares food orders with speed and accuracy, restocks his assigned area, maintains the cleanliness of the fryer and grill areas, follows safety and sanitation practices, and provides exceptional customer services,” a nominator added,

“If you meet Lee, you won’t forget him,” another said. “Everyone respects him and greets him warmly the next time they see him.”

Let’s share that warmth with our next honoree, Lee Whittington.

Singled out for recognition among our part-time employees is Karen L. Fischer, an aide in the Dunham Children’s Learning Center.

Karen L. Fischer
Karen L. Fischer

Because her employment coincided with that of Karen Woland Payne, the center’s former director, the children called her “Kitchen Karen” to avoid confusion.

What else would you call someone who singlehandedly prepares and serves breakfast, cleans up, then starts all over again with lunch for 55 kids? She’s “Kitchen Karen” all right, with a foolproof system that allows her to accomplish that miracle on only five hours’ employment each weekday.

“Karen knows how the kitchen … functions and is always right on top of things,” her nominator said. “She knows when we are getting low on supplies, always keeps accurate records of changes to menus, and completes her duties with little or no errors. Karen has high standards with regard to the cleanliness of the kitchen. She takes extra time to be sure that her area is maintained and has an established routine to see that everything is cleaned.”

Besides her many duties in the kitchen, she is also responsible for laundry at the center, including children’s cot sheets and the dirty clothes that “occasionally” need attention. She also helps in the classrooms, usually in the youngest toddler room, to lend a hand to teachers during breakfast.

She’s also able to adjust meal times in the event of a delayed start, early dismissal or field trip that runs longer than expected, and her observational skills are keen enough to notice a spill that requires cleanup or a serving bowl that need to be refilled.

“Even more importantly,” a co-worker noted. “Karen loves the children and she loves them! The youngest toddlers know her name and jump for joy when they see her! It is not by accident, but through Karen’s bright and joyful personality that children gravitate to her.”

She has been called “exceptional” and “extraordinary,” and I’m glad she’s ours. Please join me in honoring this year’s distinguished part-time employee: Karen Fischer.

I am very proud to work among people who so consistently exemplify the values and work ethic to which we all should aspire. In a Centennial year – or any other year – these employees are the foundation of our institution … of our success… and of our very future.

Let’s again congratulate our 2014 distinguished staff and part-time faculty, our honorees for excellence in advising, and our retirees and Quarter-Century Club members.

Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, “Good thoughts are no better than good dreams unless they are executed.” We had a very good year. We made some thoughts and dreams come true! The year was not one without challenges – we lost too many young lives. Nine students left us early, never having the chance to fulfill their dreams, before they could embrace all that life has to offer. In recognition of their work, we will award three posthumous degrees this weekend.

We just said “Congratulations” and “Goodbye” to a tremendous amount of talent – to people who made a difference every year, and they will be missed. We also welcomed new colleagues and provided opportunities for all of us to learn and develop into better people and faculty and staff.

We had a winter that would not quit, and I am confident it will be 85 degrees in September and October. We celebrated 100 years of making lives better – our students’ and our own.

I confess to occasionally stopping and wondering what the next 25, 50, 100 years will bring. I have faith – faith that we will stay true to our mission, faith that the people who come after us will consider our legacy and continue to make a difference in the world today because of who we are and what we do.

Things will change – they always do – but, if you have a strong foundation, you have solid footing for transformation and change.

It is bittersweet.

Summer is coming. We end this academic year and already are planning and readying for next year. Summer Connections, a dog show in July – a first for us – renovations, faculty summer work on curriculum and new teaching methods. And, yes, some “downtime,” as well.

A reminder to faculty: The Summer Teaching Institute is being held Tuesday, May 20, and Wednesday, May 21. Registration packets have been sent, but, if by chance you have misplaced them in the stacks of paper related to the end of the semester, please contact Tina Strayer in the Professional Development Office.

You received a communique about organizational change coming in July. I want to mention two changes today:

Fred Becker has decided to take a new career path as a faculty member. Fred will be leaving us this summer and we wish him good fortune. Fred, you will be missed. I am pleased to share that Dr. Gerri Luke will step in as interim dean for the School of Business & Hospitality for one year.

Walt Nyman is leaving. Walt has been a fixture (no pun intended) on our campus for 24 years and 11 months. He has truly made a difference all across this campus. Walt, you will be missed – Happy Fishing! Don Luke and Charley Kern will divide Walt’s duties and report to me. I look forward to learning about more about General Services in the coming year.

2013-14 had been a very busy year in Institutional Advancement and I am excited to tell you about several ongoing campaigns.

The Penn College Scholarship Campaign has raised over $5.4 million in scholarship support through gifts, pledges and planned gifts. This additional support means that, in 2014-15, the Penn College Foundation will be able to more than double the amount of scholarship support provided to students prior to the start of the campaign in 2011. This additional support will benefit current and future Penn College students.

In an initiative outlined in the strategic plan, it is the goal of Institutional Advancement, by 2014, to double the number of alumni who participated in the Penn College Fund in 2009. To support this effort, the Penn College Foundation offered a matching gift program. The Foundation made a $250 gift in the name of each first-time alumni donor who gave a gift of $25 or greater this year. Combined, those gifts are being used to create one-time scholarships in the major from which the alum graduated. To date, 146 new alumni donors have taken part of this generous incentive.

To generate excitement and participation in this unique opportunity, the Annual Giving Office collaborated with College Information and Community Relations to create an online giving challenge called 72/72 – with a goal of acquiring 72 new alumni donors in 72 hours via social media. To make this even better, Penn College graduate and employee Sarah Shott and student Matthew Wagner agreed to star in our very own infomercial with a fun message designed to elicit laughs while it solicited support (and with all the subtlety of the late-night infomercials it so pointedly parodies). If you have not already seen this video, it can be viewed on the Alumni Relations Facebook page. This mini-social media campaign was a success and, as a result, 75 new alumni donors came on board. Not only was this great work by all Penn College employees involved, many of our alumni employees motivated their friends and colleagues to give, too. Thank you!

Throughout this fiscal year, employee support of the various initiatives and campaigns has been significant. I am pleased that nearly $130,000 has been raised from the generosity of 455 employee donors. You should be proud of yourselves. I am proud of you.

The 2014-15 employee campaign kicked off in April 2014. To celebrate our Centennial, we asked for 100 new or increased employee gifts. I am proud to announce our progress to date:

  • Seven employees became first-time donors
  • 38 employees increased their gifts
  • 302 total employees have already given to the 2014-15 campaign, totaling over $82,000

Here is my challenge to you: We asked for 100 new or increased gifts. There happen to be exactly 100 days between the last day of finals this semester and the first day of classes in the fall. 100 years, 100 days, 100 gifts. I can’t wait to update you in the fall and to tell you that we reached that goal in recognition of our Centennial.

For those of you who need information about how to make your gift, members of the Institutional Advancement staff will be posted at the exits after this meeting and would be happy to give that information to you.

Thank you again for your incredible support.

As we continue celebrating our first 100 years, the Centennial Colloquia Series is a reminder of our enduring focus on applied technology and is also an opportunity for students, faculty, staff and the community to delve more deeply into the role of technology in our societies. Next semester, two faculty and one guest speaker will present topics ranging from biometrics to the consequences of technological innovation. This semester’s topics drew strong attendance with the opportunity to continue the discussions during the receptions that followed. Next semester’s program will be equally engaging and thought-provoking.

We had great fun at the employee picnic, we had a record-setting spring Open House, and our students have been remarkable in their athletic and co-curricular competitions. Faculty and staff have distinguished themselves with national awards, recognition and presentations.

We must continue to focus on excellence, on our students and our financial stewardship. These are not easy financial times and everyone must do his or her part to use our funds wisely for what is necessary, not simply nice to have.

I have one new Centennial activity to announce today. We are going to “place” a time capsule in the basement of the library in late December. We want to put 100 items in the time capsule and need your help. I have a great committee that will review and select from all of the selections: Pat Scott, Elaine Lambert, Allison Bressler, Nate Smyth and Veronica Muzic.  Please send ideas for inclusion in the capsule. Deadline is Oct. 1. I can’t wait to see what is suggested; we are also asking students, alumni and retirees. Put your thinking caps on. The capsule will be opened in 100 years.

When all of us return to this room in the fall, we will continue with our Centennial Celebration, we will begin to see the campus enhanced by student work out of doors, and we will embark on a new year with new opportunities and challenges – finalizing our Strategic Plan, implementing the Enrollment Management Plan and working daily to make Penn College a national leader in technology education.

Thank you for all you do, and have a safe and productive summer.

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