Skip to main content

President’s tribute to employees closes ‘incredible year’

Ending the spring semester with a Thursday morning message to faculty and staff, President Davie Jane Gilmour celebrated superhero-caliber employees who regularly and selflessly fight the good fight on behalf of Pennsylvania College of Technology students’ success. Her address also recapped accomplishments during 2018-19 and anticipated the opportunities to come: “We have had an incredible year. Student and faculty success. Expanding welding, opening in Wellsboro, the turf field,” she said. “Most importantly, we have changed lives – we have contributed to the growth of our community and our students. We have helped each other when necessary and made everyday efforts on behalf of Penn College.”

The following is drawn from President Gilmour’s May 16 remarks:

Good morning.

You do not have to be a pop-culture expert, a film critic or a grandparent to know that superheroes are a hot commodity. The latest movie in “The Avengers” series, for instance, made enough money in its first 11 days to build the Madigan Library 156 times over.

There’s obviously a lot of love for caped crime fighters!

But as I’m reminded every day – and certainly during this gathering every year – we’re surrounded by some mighty individuals in our own right. Who needs The Hulk and Captain Marvel when you have faculty, staff and alumni mentors who regularly and selflessly fight the good fight on behalf of our students’ success?

We will celebrate those students this weekend in three commencement ceremonies, at which we’ll also present several teaching awards and honor previous graduates who have carried their Penn College Pride into communities and workplaces alike.

As a preface to those festivities, today is dedicated to our employees – the people who work alongside you or across campus.

The uniform of choice is accented with a rolled-up sleeve, and their magical powers are obvious: the ability to smile through adversity, plow through problems, and get through the workday with a satisfied air of accomplishment that we honor during the Employee Recognition portion of this meeting.

Distinguished Staff Awards
I turn first to our Distinguished Staff Awards, being presented for the 24th year, to recognize APT (Administrative, Professional and Technical), Classified, Service and part-time employees.

Becky J. Shaner
Becky J. Shaner

This year’s distinguished APT selection is Becky J. Shaner, senior manager of donor relations and special events.

Becky, who holds two business-related degrees from Penn College, clearly loves her alma mater and is committed to our mission and the students we serve. She is known in her office as “the detail person,” but time does not allow me a thorough listing of the many ways Becky exercises her passion for Penn College.

She plans and executes all manner of donor recognition events – from golf outings to the Visiting Chef Series to the annual scholarship luncheon – flawlessly and impressively making each of them a positive reflection of “gifts that work.” There’s a lot of behind-the-scenes talent, strategy and diplomacy involved in building new relationships and properly making our long-standing partners feel rightfully appreciated, and Becky is constantly working on those vital connections.

She is also an inspiring role model, whether working with student development assistants to further students’ overall gratitude for donors’ philanthropy or to build awareness of food insecurity through a benefit for The Cupboard.

“I continually reach out to Becky as a source of information. She has a wealth of knowledge pertaining to our constituents, history of operations, policies, campus departments, and of the college overall,” a co-worker wrote. “She graciously shares her knowledge and job skills with others without hesitation. There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t use her as a resource.”

Another colleague noted her strong interpersonal skills – a plus not just with donors, but in any relationship. “Whether you are a faculty member, a student, external partner to the college or a member of the team, Becky displays a friendly and approachable demeanor.”

Her nominators and endorsers call her forward-thinking, enthusiastic, dedicated and dependable. We call her Becky Shaner, this year’s APT award-winner.

Brenda M. Kline
Brenda M. Kline

Our Classified honoree this year is Brenda M. Kline, secretary to Counseling Services. “Brenda’s ability to manage the multiple responsibilities of her job in an effective manner impresses me on a regular basis,” one of her many supporters said. “There is no doubt she is the glue that keeps the office running smoothly.”

It’s not hard to see why.

Her nominators provided ample anecdotal evidence of her juggling skills – supporting four counselors, checking in top-of-the-hour appointments while scheduling another by phone, and somehow managing to carve out one more spot on an overbooked list for a student needing to be seen and heard.

As noted by a colleague, Brenda has served Penn College with distinction for almost 30 years; she grew up here, obtained a word processing degree in 1987, and considers this institution an extension of her family.

She puts her heart into each day and truly embodies the phrase, “people make the difference,” whether serving Governance, blanketing her total efficiency in a roar of lighthearted feistiness, or keeping cool amid the emotional issues that flood her office.

“When improvisation is all she has to go on, she makes it work. Her student-first and compassion­for-all values are most clearly exemplified in her work with students, particularly those who are dealing with significant life issues and often come into the Counseling Office upset or downright distraught,” an endorser wrote.

It is said that she is never too busy to answer a question … and I will test that this morning by asking, “Brenda, would you please come forward to receive our gratitude as this year’s Distinguished Staff Award winner in Classified?”

Mary Jo DeVinney
Mary Jo DeVinney

In the Service category this year, we have selected Mary Jo DeVinney, a General Services horticulturist who matches our other honorees in creativity and attention to even the smallest details.

“She is a positive employee and her interpersonal skills are off the chart,” supervisory personnel said. “She plays a significant role in preparing, planting and maintaining all of the annual flower arrangements seen around campus throughout the summer months. The work that goes into each of the plantings is beyond what most people can imagine, but she does not let that hold her back one bit.”

Another fellow employee also commented on the substantial dedication inherent in making such hard work appear so deceptively effortless.

“You would think a little water and sunlight is all you need, but it takes many hours every week on watering, trimming, deadheading and disease control to keep the flowers looking great all summer. It is truly an art,” he said. “I see the faculty, staff and students enjoying these displays by getting pictures by them, posting pictures online, in magazines, and just the simple ‘stop and smell.’”

Affidavits drafted in support of her nomination make it clear that Mary Jo also considers co-worker morale and success to be among her other job responsibilities. She closely monitors her phone in inclement weather so she can be among the first to hop aboard a Kubota to salt and plow campus sidewalks. She obtained licenses in pesticide application and storm-water management, and has mentored colleagues interested in doing the same.

And she regularly brings in treats for horticulture teammates’ special occasions.

“She never misses recognizing anyone’s birthday,” one such beneficiary wrote. “Mary Jo bakes a dessert for all of us to share. This might not sound like much, but trust me: It keeps our morale up and we all love sweets!”

Please join me in a big green “thumbs-up” for Mary Jo DeVinney, this year’s distinguished Service employee.

Janet L. McDermott
Janet L. McDermott

Honored from our lineup of Regular Part-Time employees is Janet L. McDermott, a familiar and friendly Dining Services face in the Wildcat Express and anywhere else she’s needed.

“I have the same feeling of being welcomed by Janet each and every time I go to ‘Wildcat,’” a colleague wrote. “It is easy to see that Janet has great customer service skills and she is liked by many customers – students, faculty and staff alike.”

“Most everyone who enters the Wildcat Express knows Janet by name, and many have shared with the Dining Services management team the excellent experiences they have with her,” another co-worker said. “Alumni who come back to campus often stop to see her and, recently, a current student just stopped in to say ‘Hi’ and tell Janet about her day. Just as students enjoy talking to her, she truly enjoys talking to them and always thanks them for taking time to stop in and see her.”

“Janet treats the Wildcat Express as if it is her home,” a nominator noted. “She keeps it organized, clean and respects everyone who enters its doors. She takes pride in the products that we sell, tasting the soup or checking a package of buns to make sure consistency and quality are correct. If she feels something is not up to par, she will alert the kitchen and management team to have it corrected. If she would not serve it at her house, she will not serve it to her customers.”

Her dedication goes beyond what’s on the shelves, however. As one of Dining Services’ longest-serving cashiers, she is keenly aware of procedures – and conscientiously able to troubleshoot and resolve problems when there are hiccups in those processes.

“She remembers your name, your food preferences, your stories, and truly cares for each and every person she interacts with. She can make suggestions based on her experiences and based on yours. You can tell that working here is not just a job; it’s something more than that. I hope that she knows we appreciate her for not only being amazing in customer service, but also because she is Janet.”

Please join me in recognizing Janet L. McDermott, a 1983 alumna in nursery management, as this year’s distinguished part-time employee.

Excellence in Academic Advising
We now honor a co-worker who has had a positive effect on students through her role as an academic adviser, significantly influencing the personal, intellectual and professional development of our students.

Elizabeth S. Gizenski
Elizabeth S. Gizenski

This year’s recipient of the Excellence in Academic Advising Award is Elizabeth S. Gizenski, who holds four degrees from the School of Nursing & Health Sciences and serves as clinical director for surgical technology.

“(She) helped me to set up my FBI fingerprinting last year so that I could start clinicals,” a student nominator said. “She also encouraged me to put my family first and helped me to do so by (organizing) a class schedule that lets me be a mom first and a student second.

“Mrs. Gizenski helped me to be able to take the summer off and be a part-time student for a while so I could get used to having two kids. She supported me the whole way and has been very helpful in letting me know what classes I need to take. (She) is a joy to work with. She has a really caring heart and is very approachable. I am never afraid to email her or stop by her office. She is always smiling and happy to see you.”

The student’s nomination was endorsed by a colleague, who noted that the honoree’s interaction with students is always courteous and above what is expected to help them achieve their educational goals.

“She works with the pre-surgical technology students to ensure they will be competitive for selection into the surgical technology program,” he said. “She not only provides guidance on which courses would most benefit the students, but she learns the students’ academic weaknesses and provides advice on how to overcome them. It is obvious that the students connect with Liz, as (they) continually meet with her throughout the semester to review their progress toward achieving their academic goals.”

The documentation paperwork is punctuated with such attributes as “quick to intervene,” “well-liked,” “extremely proactive in her preparation” and “exceptionally helpful,” a much-deserved tribute to a trusted advocate for the most important people we serve.

Please join me in honoring Elizabeth Gizenski as this year’s exemplary academic adviser.

President’s Award for Outstanding Assessment
Alongside advising, we put a great deal of institutional emphasis on academic outcomes – and, in recent years, we added the President’s Award for Outstanding Assessment to this annual recognition ceremony.

The distinction recognizes outstanding effort – individually or as an academic team – to improve student learning and services, and reflects the college’s commitment to continuous betterment as a result of ongoing assessment activities.

This year’s award – which follows detailed Quality Through Assessment criteria – goes to the Plastics and Polymer Engineering Technology Department: Adam C. Barilla, Kirk M. Cantor, Jose M. Perez, Joshua J. Rice and Timothy E. Weston.

As both of the college’s plastics degrees are on the short list of those accredited by ABET, the team employs a deliberate system of assessment and reassessment to ensure that the courses meet learning goals and satisfy accreditation standards.

“The hallmark of the department is the pursuit of continuous improvement,” the group’s application states. “Even if a course meets the minimums, the activities are reviewed to make improvement – or, sometimes, the bar is set higher.”

The team’s assessment process is an ongoing and collaborative one in which the entire department meets to discuss areas of concern.

“In this way, new ideas come out to help correct the issues,” the paperwork continues. “As such, student learning is the department’s responsibility, not the faculty member who teaches the course.”

Please join me in acknowledging the Plastics and Polymer Engineering Technology Department for its team approach and foresight in gauging our collective effectiveness in providing the best possible educational experience for our students.

And, now, our 2018-19 retirees.

Some of this year's retirees gather with the president outside Le Jeune Chef Restaurant.
Some of this year’s retirees gather with the president outside Le Jeune Chef Restaurant.

This academic year brings the departure of 43 faculty/staff colleagues with roughly 947 years of service among them.

Seventeen have been with the college for more than 25 years, 12 of them for more than 30, and five for more than 35. Elaine J. Lambert, who most recently served as my special assistant for creative development and public relations, ended a near-39-year career in December, and Bob Vaughn, retiring as an assistant professor of welding, will leave in August after more than 39½ years of teaching – and will leave big shoes to fill when we dedicate an expanded facility centered around a skill he imparted to so many students.

I ask all of the retirees here today to join me as I read their names … and to stay on stage until we can recognize the entire group.

George A. Babcock             
Michael D. Barrett                
Patricia A. Barrett                                        
Debra Q. Bechtel
Kenneth L. Berry                 
John F. Blasdell                   
Ronald A. Bubb                    
Debra A. Buckman               
Vickie D. Carpenter             
Ann Marie Furdock
Nancy A. Grausam              
Dale E. Henne                       
Cathy I. Hill                           
Linda D. Huffman                 
Sharon R. Jenney                
Robert C. Karschner Jr.      
Susan E. Kemnitz
Janet L. Kissinger                
Ronald E. Kodish
Ida J. Kohler
Regis C. Kohler                                
Elaine J. Lambert                 
Denise S. Leete
Thomas Livingstone
Paul E. Mach                        
Frederick A. March              
Karl E. Markowicz               
Laurie A. Minium                 
Thomas J. Mulfinger
Debra L. Paucke                               
Judy Quinti                           
Chester E. Rogers                           
Michael A. Round                
Richard M. Sarginger
Judy T. Schultz        
Patricia A. Scott                   
Bruce A. Sechrist                 
Debra L. Shadle                   
Joyce B. Shrimp                  
Phyllis J. Spong
Robert M. Vaughn                
Jane L. Williams
Park Williams

Let’s acknowledge our 2018-19 retirees together.

Quarter Century Club
Now, it’s time to acknowledge the newest members of the Quarter Century Club, who have added their energy and expertise to the very fabric of this institution.

Love it or hate it, it has become a tradition at this end-of-the-year address to lead you down a road of remembrance to what occupied our lives 25 years ago. Some of them spark nostalgia, maybe even a little nausea, but let’s nonetheless take a short journey back to 1994:

  • Richard Nixon and Jackie O. died, Lisa Marie Presley married Michael Jackson, and Justin Bieber was born.
  • A first-class stamp cost 29 cents, and gasoline was $1.09 a gallon.
  • Popular movies were “Pulp Fiction,” “The Lion King” and “Forrest Gump.”
  • Nelson Mandela became South Africa’s first black president.
  • Dallas defeated Chef Paul’s Buffalo Bills in the Super Bowl.
  • Tonya Harding was stripped of a national figure skating title after an attack on her rival, Nancy Kerrigan.
  • “Friends” began its 10-year run on NBC.
  • A former NFL star took 95 million of us for a ride in a runaway Bronco.
  • Yahoo, Amazon and PlayStation debuted … and Netscape Navigator was released, fleetingly enjoying its status as the market’s leading web browser.
  • The “Chunnel” opened between England and France.
  • An August players’ strike resulted in cancellation of professional baseball’s season and the World Series (in the final year of Major League play for our own Chris Howard).

In campus news:

  • A child care facility was established, providing a safe and educational environment for 55 children from the Penn College family.
  • Our Plastics Manufacturing Center was opened.
  • Enhancement of the college computer network allowed self-scheduling by students.
  • Heavy construction and diesel – once split between campuses – were consolidated at the Earth Science Center.
  • Movies returned to the theater screen at the Capitol Theatre-turned Community Arts Center.
  • Our first commencement in the CAC was held May 13
  • A record 22 international students were enrolled at the college.
  • Admissions added a toll-free number for prospects’ convenience.
Many of the newest members of the college's Quarter Century Club – those employed for 25 years during 2018-19 – stand for a photo with Gilmour.
Many of the newest members of the college’s Quarter Century Club – those employed for 25 years during 2018-19 – stand for a photo with Gilmour.

And these 11 employees became part of the Penn College family:

From APT
Myra K. Shaffer
Bernadine M. Welickovitch

From Faculty
Gerald D. “Chip” Baumgardner
Dorothy M. “Dottie” Mathers
William J. Miller
Mark E. Sones
Richard C. Taylor

From Classified
Kate M. Wetzel

From Service
Holly M. Campbell
William H. Emerick
Mark J. Kieser

We have two more groups to honor today: those employees with 30 and 35 years of experience at the college.

A total of 370 years of dedicated work to make a difference – what incredible contributions these individuals have made.

With 30- and 35-year pins in hand, a number of longtime employees are recognized on stage.
With 30- and 35-year pins in hand, a number of longtime employees are recognized on stage.

When I call your name, please come forward for your 30-year pin.

Valerie A. Baier
Duane C. Fargus
Jennifer L. Hammond
Susan K. Manzitti
Karen I. Rishcoff
Kim I. Schweikart
David P. Showan
Carol T. Sims
Keith A. Vanderlin
Jennifer L. Whitmoyer

When I call your name, please come forward for your 35-year pin.

LaDonna J. Caldwell
Thomas A. Zimmerman

Let us have one more round of applause for all of our honorees.


As we look to next fall, there are a number of great things I would like to share with you.

In the spirit of employee recognition today, I would like to celebrate the loyal support of our campus community through the Employee Campaign.

Recently, I sent out a video to all employees with an expression of gratitude directly from students. The students in this video shared how your gifts are in action on our campus through scholarships, academics, athletics and global experiences.

I stand by my philosophy that people make the difference. This year, 395 employees contributed nearly $171,000. Think of the lives we influenced with our collective giving. An accomplishment that I’m proud to celebrate with all of you.

I did a little equation for us today, and I’m sure our math faculty will be calculating right along as I say this. Did you know, if every Penn College employee gave $5 each pay period, nine more endowed scholarships could be generated? That’s a total of over $225,000.

Giving $10 a pay would create 18 more scholarships. That would mean 18 more students would have the opportunity to earn the life-changing degrees we offer.

I thank you all for the many forms of contributions you make each day on this campus to place tangible and intangible resources into the capable hands of our students – our “tomorrow makers.”

I extend my sincere gratitude to those who have already supported the Employee Campaign. If you wish to participate, I encourage you to explore your philanthropic passions with our Institutional Advancement team.

In Workforce Development, we have had a remarkable year. In the last two weeks, a new rotational molder was installed in the Advanced Technology & Health Sciences Center, just in time for the 25th anniversary of the creation of the Plastics Innovation & Resource Center.

The molder was purchased with funding from Shell Polymers, which is building a state-of-the-art ethane cracker facility in western Pennsylvania that will produce feedstock for the plastics industry. Our graduates, from several majors, are employed onsite with 4,000 others during the construction phase, and an estimated 2,000 jobs will be added before the site is complete.

The PIRC held a Rotational Molding workshop this week, putting the new equipment to use for 32 adult learners from multiple states.

Apprenticeship programs continue to be the most sought-after program offered by Workforce Development (A new office name! – shortened from Workforce Development & Continuing Education).

Today, we have over 100 individuals from more than 69 companies on-site for our second Apprenticeship Summit, featuring nationally recognized speakers known for their efforts in increasing apprenticeship participation in the U.S.

We are continually looking for ways to create pathways between apprenticeship and academic programs. On May 9, we dedicated a new facility, Pennsylvania College of Technology at Wellsboro. With a generous building gift from UPMC Susquehanna, we were able to create a beautiful new hub for health care and other in-demand workforce programs in the rural area, such as Licensed Practical Nursing, phlebotomy and EMT. Congratulations on a great year.

As we have discussed before, the security of our students’ data, the college’s data and your data is always a priority here at Penn College.

While we are making headway by using longer passwords, safe links and user security training, the growing sophistication and complexity of new threats requires us to be ever vigilant to protect the college.

To provide an additional layer of security, Information Technology Services has enabled Multi-Factor Authentication. A second authentication channel will be required to gain access to the system. For example: entering a code texted to your mobile device, using an app or getting a phone call with a code.

Starting on the following dates, MFA will be required to gain access to college resources from off campus:

  • APT – June 3
  • Classified – June 10
  • Service – June 17
  • Faculty – Sept. 9
  • Students – Sept. 16

If you are on campus using a college computer, MFA will not be required.

ITS encourages all users to set up MFA ahead of the deadlines to minimize any disruptions. Contact ITS if you would like assistance setting up MFA. Additional information regarding MFA can be found on the portal announcement sent this morning.

It is hard to believe, but Welcome Weekend planning is underway. In the coming weeks, Student Activities will again be asking for your support with Connections, our new student orientation program, and Welcome Weekend/Convocation activities.

Each year, volunteers from across campus assist in welcoming students through volunteering as a Connections check-in volunteer, Welcome Weekend check-in volunteer and by lining the sidewalks for convocation. (Yes, our new students will be here in 13 weeks). Please consider signing up for one of these opportunities to support our new students as they join the Penn College community. Your participation not only makes these events possible, you make a difference when you participate. You can expect a CollegeWire announcement in just a few weeks prompting you to volunteer. Let’s show our Penn College Pride to our new students and their families!

The Science and Technology Colloquia Series will again partner with the local Notre Dame Club and the Notre Dame Hesburgh Lecture Series to bring Dr. Edward Maginn to campus on Tuesday, Oct. 29. Dr. Maginn, a renowned professor and researcher, will address the topic of “energy sources, use, conservation and research.”

The Dr. Welch Workshop: A Makerspace at Penn College has been a resounding success. Nearly 600 students, faculty and staff have registered as users of the makerspace, which has proven to be popular place to express creativity. This spring, daily use averaged more than two dozen “makers.” If you have not yet visited, please put that great space on your “to-do” list.

We need to spend a few minutes on the topic of enrollment and budget. First, the budget – we have had to make some significant choices. I am well aware that there are initiatives and work that we would like to do that we cannot right now. We are unaware of what funding may come from the state. Our most important goal is to keep Penn College affordable, and there is a very delicate balance to make that happen. We have less than two weeks to bring next year’s budget into balance. We will get it done; that is our job, but I know it will not be without sacrifice.

Enrollment is a challenge for us and for many organizations across the commonwealth and the nation. We will face this challenge together.

As we look forward to welcoming our next class of incoming students this fall, recent enrollment reports suggest we still have some work to do to reach our targets. The college has made a great investment in a new branding campaign, including a new suite of recruitment marketing materials.

So many of you have stepped up to the charge, “Recruitment is everyone’s responsibility.” We are hearing very positive feedback about the relationships being built between prospective students and our Admissions counselors, and we are seeing positive results from those efforts through improved yield rates of our applicants. And there’s some wonderful collaboration happening across campus with an eye on enrollment objectives.

But we need to do more. And we need to do it together, as one well-oiled operation.

Over the past year, Enrollment Management has done a deep dive into evaluating our enrollment processes. So, in conjunction with branding and recruitment efforts, we are also taking a look at what we require of students throughout the enrollment process – and we’re going to see many changes for Fall 2020.

To start, the college has become a member of The Common Application beginning with Fall 2020 applications. In addition to our Penn College application, the Common Application gives students another way to find us as a way to increase our applicant pool.

We are revising the post-acceptance process to allow incoming students to placement test before being required to commit to the college. We are refreshing the new-student advising model for incoming students. And, we are evaluating our processes and communications related to financial aid, the scholarship application timeline and the start-of-semester purge.

Finally, we are introducing a new student dashboard to facilitate all communications related to the enrollment process for incoming students. This is not an insignificant amount of work, but it shows that we are willing to dig in and do what is needed to impact change.

And, speaking of change, some of you may know that Mapworks, our early-alert referral program, will no longer be available to us when we return in August, so we have been on the search for a replacement, which led us to Starfish. Starfish is a very powerful early-alert system utilized by many postsecondary institutions, including Penn State.

While we were not prepared to replace our early-alert system, the result is that we will have an even more robust tool to help us identify students. Using grades, attendance and other analytics, we will be able to start to intervene with students very early in the semester. The Academic Success Center team is working on a rollout plan that will include professional development, informational resources and train-the-trainer sessions to help facilitate the transition to a new campus resource prior to startup in August.

The importance of focusing on students in need of help cannot be underestimated. While new-student enrollment was up in Fall 2018, our retention of current students dipped. As such, the college’s Strategic Plan also calls for an updated collegewide strategic plan for retention. Dr. Randy Zangara, dean of college transitions and first year initiatives, is leading the development of the new plan, which will be a topic of discussion when we all meet again in August. Just as recruitment is everyone’s responsibility, so, too, is retention.

We have had an incredible year. Student and faculty success. Expanding welding, opening in Wellsboro, the turf field. Most importantly, we have changed lives – we have contributed to the growth of our community and our students. We have helped each other when necessary and made everyday efforts on behalf of Penn College.

Summer is always a time to refresh and renew. To learn new ideas or processes. I wish you all a wonderful summer. I myself look forward to tackling some big projects and reading for both work and pleasure. I want to leave you with this thought from Martha Norton, author of “Coaching.” Eight things to improve your life:

  1. Stop complaining and appreciate how lucky you are every day.
  2. Embrace loneliness and reinvent yourself in the process.
  3. Say goodbye to the people that don’t bring positive energy into your life.
  4. Turn off the TV and set internet controls.
  5. Pick one skill you want to cultivate and put all your effort into developing it.
  6. Commit to the goals you set and never look back.
  7. Sweat every day to boost your mood.
  8. Fail Forward. Learn from every mistake you make.
Subscribe to PCToday Daily Email.