Skip to main content

Retired Dean Secured Funding for Many Noteworthy Projects

As someone whose chief mission was to obtain federal, state and local funding for a multitude of projects at Pennsylvania College of Technology and its predecessor institution over the years, Dr. Grant M. Berry Jr. can be said to have put the “grant” in grantsmanship.

Berry, who retired Jan. 31 as Penn College’s dean of grants and contracts, estimates that, under his supervision over more than two decades, the College’s Development Office secured external funding exceeding $110 million. The second of three generations of Berry men who worked (and continue to work) at the College, Berry is quick to deflect credit for the grant-funding achievement.

“Today, we’re averaging between $3.5 million and $4.5 million per year,” he said recently. “It’s critical to understand the “we” part. Literally dozens − perhaps more than 100 − of College staff work to develop, complete and close out the 40 or more different grant projects we handle each year.”

Berry’s contributions were placed in perspective by Penn College President Dr. Davie Jane Gilmour.

“For many years, Dr. Berry has headed the College’s Development Office and served the institution with dedication and distinction,” she said. “He is responsible for facilitating the acquisition of millions of dollars worth of instructional equipment that has brought our laboratories to state-of-the-art status. Dr. Berry was involved in securing state and federal funds for building projects and served as the author of projects that substantially enhanced the College’s ability to serve students and local business development.”

Berry, who earned a bachelor’s degree from Lycoming College, a master’s degree from The Pennsylvania State University and a doctoral degree from the University of Connecticut, Storrs, began his tenure at the former Williamsport Area Community College in January 1969 as a counselor.

From 1974-77, he was director of financial aid. In 1977, he was named director of resource development, and in 1981, he became dean of development. He established the College Foundation in 1981 and served as executive director in its inaugural year. Since Penn College began its affiliation with Penn State in 1989, Berry has been dean of development, vice president for development and dean of grants and contracts.

Berry’s father, Grant Sr., had served as registrar and dean of students at W.A.C.C. and its predecessor, The Williamsport Technical Institute, retiring in1976. The third generation of Berrys to work for the College, Philip G., has been an admissions representative since 1999.

Addressing his decision to work for Penn College, Philip Berry said he wanted to “have a chance to experience and add to the successes that the College has had over the years.” He also acknowledged the family connection, though the work he does − recruiting students − differs somewhat from the jobs performed by Grant Sr. and Grant Jr. “For me, the opportunity is unique, but I still carry that sense of family history and a little bit of pride because of that,” he said.

Philip’s father recalled the first substantial funding secured under his direction was a matching grant of $595,000 for replacing the heating system and all 452 windows at the Klump Academic Center (the former Williamsport High School building).

“When we were notified of the award, it was conditional on our providing complete engineering calculations and formulas within 48 hours,” he said. “Man, did we hustle.”

Rapid response on other grant opportunities netted $1.6 million in state and federal funding for the establishment of the College’s North Campus near Wellsboro and led to the creation of the Weatherization Training Center, which came at the height of the College’s sponsorship crisis. The center has helped many low-income families statewide reduce their energy bills during its 16 years of operation.

The largest funding package assembled on Berry’s watch was the $21 million required to construct the Breuder Advanced Technology and Health Sciences Center and to renovate other campus facilities. The total included local, state, federal and College funds.

Berry is hesitant to say which Penn College project has had the greatest impact on the community, but candidates include the Community Arts Center in downtown Williamsport; the Weatherization Training Center, which has expanded to include the Modular Housing Training Institute; the Plastics Manufacturing Center; the new College entrance on Maynard Street; the tutoring and special support services provided to 1,200 to 1,500 students each year; and the Tech Prep program, which assists school districts and vocational-technical facilities throughout the state.

“The people involved in planning, managing and completing all of these projects, have played a part in who and what we are today,” Berry said.

Berry concedes he was not the most experienced candidate for the development director’s job when it was offered to him two decades ago, but he reckoned he would learn fast. He didn’t realize how soon. When more than half of the initial wave of 20 grant applications submitted under Berry’s direction were returned because of arithmetic errors made by others (and unchecked by him), he vowed it would never happen again. It’s a pledge he has kept.

“There’s no such thing as being too meticulous,” he says, noting his demand for exactitude has been known to rankle some.

Though he’s officially “retired,” Berry isn’t severing ties with Penn College or taking it easy just yet. He will work as a consultant for the College, helping his successor to close out current projects and submit applications for the next round of selected grants.

He will also explore the feasibility of launching his own business − one in which he would help parents and students complete the complex and often intimidating federal and state student-financial-aid forms.

“I think there’s enormous potential,” he said.

Penn College is blessed with employees who possess “an enormous range of talent in every imaginable field,” Berry says, and he describes community and technical colleges as vibrant institutions staffed by committed people who often forgo the greater financial reward offered by employers in the private sector.

“The central theme − providing service, giving something to somebody else − that has remained constant over the years,” he said of his Penn College experience.

Subscribe to PCToday Daily Email.