May 1, 2006
Dear Faculty, Staff, and Student Leaders,
May Day, with all its wild associations, has arrived. Spring Fling is a memory, and Senioritis is in full swing. Graduation approaches. And summer beckons.
It is the season for honoring our students. There have been recent e-mail announcements, so I won’t repeat all the names, but it is good for us to take pride in such an array of student honors.
A few recent events have also done us proud! Congratulations to Nathan Thomas and Carol Schwanger for the wonderful and witty Spring Musical review; to Dwayne Walker, Laura Gingrich and many others for hosting over 200 junior high students for a special campus visit day; to Dolores Bertoti, her students, the faculty-staff basketball “team,” and many others for the Harlem Wizards’ event; and to several campus groups for their collaborative sponsorship of an enjoyable Senior Send-Off.
This will be a longer newsletter than usual, with the next being a mid-summer edition on July 1.
Our big news is the appointment of two key members of the senior leadership team of the College. For those of you who may not have seen the memo announcing Dr. Shirley Williams of Gonzaga University (Spokane, WA) as our new Provost, I attach it to this newsletter. Joining Shirley in providing campus educational leadership is Sister (Dr.) Margaret Anne Dougherty, RSM, our new Vice President of College Life and Student Learning Services.
Sister Margaret’s appointment and the creation of this new position reflect my commitment to having a chief student life officer with professional expertise, academic experience, a portfolio linked to student learning, and a commitment to addressing the needs of all students and to strengthening college life by enhancing campus community.
Sister Margaret fits this profile perfectly. An experienced executive (and former college president), she has the requisite background and prior vice presidential experience in student development as well as recent service as a full-time faculty member and interim academic vice president. She knows Alvernia and its people well, and she enjoys those interactions. And she has very high standards of expectation for herself and for faculty, staff, and students alike. Margaret’s oversight of student life and enrollment management will enable Shirley to provide strong leadership for our faculty and academic programs and to focus on improvements in academic quality.
Between now and mid-July, Shirley and Margaret will be discussing together, and with me, the details of their portfolios and working relationship. They will also have ample opportunity to talk with fellow administrators and with faculty and student leaders. Additional announcements will follow later this summer.
Because I view community-based learning and community partnerships as essential to Alvernia’s future, I am pleased to announce that Dr. Anne Skleder, has accepted my invitation to be the founding Director of the Center for Community Engagement. Anne will be assisted by April Cunningham, currently on the Provost’s staff. April will provide administrative support for community initiatives, with emphasis on the myriad logistical details for faculty involved in service learning projects and/or our major strategic partnerships. As Anne leaves the Provost’s office and resumes life as a psychology faculty member, I thank her for her contributions to the College these past eight years, express personal appreciation for her invaluable service during this transitional year, and look forward with anticipation to her increased presence in the classroom and her leadership of the Center.
At this point, the Center is only a concept. Much thinking and planning will be required this summer. It will develop by building on and expanding the good work of faculty. Many have fostered our commitment to service, but from listening to people the last few months, it is clear that the pioneering work of Ellen Engler during the 1990s is especially noteworthy. The recommendations of last year’s Service Task Force (Tim Blessing, Gail Metzger, and Judy Warchal) regarding the need for faculty leadership and administrative commitment and the work this year by Polly Mathys and Ana Ruiz will help frame the necessary campus-wide discussions.
As mentioned in my inaugural address, I envision the Center as being the College’s “front door” for the community’s many requests and a resource to help enable “our community to be an essential part of our curriculum, a learning laboratory for students and faculty.” Besides sponsoring collaborative work by faculty and students, it will need to engage community partners, draw on community resources, and leverage Alvernia’s external contributions. Such a Center requires academic leadership as well as skilled administration.
In Anne Skleder, we have that person. This past semester, in addition to her duties as Vice Provost, as a member of the Strategic Planning Council Anne has led efforts to inventory and analyze our many current activities and has also explored promising partnerships with community leaders. I have learned she is respected in the community as an articulate educator committed to community engagement. Following graduation, coordinated with the summer work of the Strategic Planning Council, and with the help of many others, she will lead the process of developing the Center. We anticipate some exciting announcements in the months ahead.
Honors and Awards
Earlier this month, a large contingent from English and Communications participated in the international Sigma Tau Delta convention in Portland (OR). Carrie Fitzpatrick was elected to the Board of Directors, Janine Surmick was elected as a regional student representative, Lynzie Biggs received multiple recognitions (including a scholarship for graduate studies), and Beth DeMeo was feted royally for her leadership as both Eastern Regent and National President.
Congratulations to the many business students who received awards at the recent State Leadership Conference. John Le, Jena Hillenbrand, and Heather Leader won first place awards; Bryan Dreibelbis led our effort.
At the 18th Annual Athletic Awards Banquet, John McCloskey, Laura Gingrich, and their fellow coaches honored numerous student athletes, including 33 seniors. Two of our faculty trainers, Tom Porrazzo and Kim Stoudt, were honored for recently completing their doctorates; Coaches Kevin Calabria and Craig Wojszwillo were honored for their milestone achievements, as was Linda Martin, for 20 years of service.
Eric Bonds and Carey Manzolillo were honored as Outstanding Male and Female Athletes. Eric was a pre-season Baseball All-American. He has lived up to that billing and, with fellow All-American candidate, Zach Lutz, and their teammates, hopes to lead us to the NCAA tournament. Carey was the star goalie on our NCAA Sweet Sixteen Field Hockey Team. It is a coincidence, but not surprising, that Carey was selected (in a blind review process) by a panel of faculty as the student graduation speaker. She is an outstanding student. Camrell Gholston, a three-year member of the women’s basketball team, has been selected from among over 1,300 nominees for the 2006 NCAA Leadership Conference at the Disney Resort in Florida and is the second Alvernia student to be so honored.
Our student-athletes continue to compete successfully in the PAC and beyond. Men’s Lacrosse, in only its fourth year, won its first PAC game and was keenly competitive in many others. Our Women’s Lacrosse Team, under first-year (but not rookie) coach Kelly McCloskey, lost a playoff heartbreaker in the final seconds of their Saturday playoff game. Men’s Tennis also made the playoffs, with Tom Pierantozzi and Bill Garceau reaching the semi-finals. Softball appears headed for post-season play, led by frosh pitcher Emily Williams. Senior Nayson Avery returned from injury to lead our Golf team to the PAC Championships and earned his second career medalist honor, besting all 101 other golfers. Finally, our perennially strong Baseball program, under Coach Yogi Lutz, begins post-season play in Boyertown this coming weekend, May 5-7, led by seniors Dan Myers, Ryan Zimmerman, and Eric Bonds.
Today, May 1, courtesy of Marc Lucht, we have a distinguished philosopher, Gary Steiner, the John Howard Harris Professor at Bucknell, speaking in the Shander Room at 4:30 p.m. on “Nihilism and Faith: What we Can Learn from Descartes.”
May 1-5 is Jewish Heritage Week. Among the events is a “Chocolate Seder” this Wednesday!
Continuing this week are Senior Honors Theses Presentations as well as some departmental presentations. This past weekend, Alvernia hosted the Seventh Annual Conference on Undergraduate Research and Creative Expression, with about 140 students presenting from the five Colleges in Berks County. Tom Bierowski, Phyllis Hay, and John Rochowicz led Alvernia’s efforts, with help from Anne Skleder and Betsy Stiles.
In the coming weeks, as part of ongoing upgrades of our web presence, the home page of the Alvernia Website will be revised to present a less cluttered and stronger graphic appearance and to provide direct links to our most important focus groups and our most heavily used web pages. Michele Spotts of our Educational Services staff has done the majority of this design work.
Campus (Facilities) Master Planning will begin this month, with the first of a set of workshops conducted by Tom Gavic and the team from Performa (NC). Performa’s process is unique: they visit campus several times—each for a week—and seek to engage as many individuals as possible by providing multiple opportunities for campus input. The first set of meetings will tentatively be held on Wednesday and Thursday, May 17-18.
I have asked the co-chairs of our Strategic Planning Council (SPC), David Silbey and John McCloskey, to join members of the cabinet in serving as the senior project team, along with Jim Boscov, chair of our Board. In addition, we will be establishing a campus-wide advisory committee whose members will meet regularly with the Performa team and help review input from all on campus. This group and other additional details will be announced later this week.
Development of a Center for Ethics and Leadership and implementation of our new Ph.D. program in Leadership will be important summer projects. With doctoral students arriving this fall, the latter is especially urgent. Work on the Center need not be rushed. Two informal faculty gatherings this past month generated countless good ideas. Interest is strong also among some in the community. I will be convening a small faculty planning group this summer to review similar centers at other colleges, identify key issues requiring deliberation and decision, discuss targeted community connections, and identify a few possible pilot projects for the coming year.
Facilities: Our new Science building is still due to be completed by July 15. Renovations of a few old laboratories in Bernardine will also be finished by fall. Admissions should be in their new campus home by mid-August. There is no news yet on our hoped-for purchase of Upland, though we continue to be cautiously optimistic. The upgrade of campus food service continues. Over the summer, the popular Courtside Café (PEC) will be expanded, to include additional hours of service and a small convenience store. Thanks again to Doug Smith for his continued leadership of these projects.
We will again feature a student speaker at Graduation along with a short speech by our honorary degree recipient. Joining Carey Manzolillo will be Sister (Dr.) Mary Louise Fennell, RSM, a national leader in Catholic higher education. An announcement will be posted on our website.
While Helen and I will have the opportunity later this week to thank personally the members of the Inauguration Committee, it is important that we all express appreciation for their efforts in showcasing Alvernia by organizing so many fine events. Campus efforts were led by Lisa Ross and Karen Thacker, with many others coordinating the various events supported by countless staff from across the College.
Last week’s closing Mass, celebrated by Bishop Cullen at St. Joseph’s Villa, was an opportunity to celebrate the sponsorship of the Bernardine Franciscans. Represented by Sister Madonna, they surprised Helen and me with the marvelous gift of a pilgrimage to Assisi, part of a program developed for lay leaders of Franciscan-sponsored colleges, hospitals, and other institutions.
So, it is only fitting, as the main academic year draws to the end, that I end on a note of gratitude—for a gracious welcome to Alvernia by faculty and staff, students and Sisters; for good work done so well by so many; for our shared commitment to Alvernia’s heritage and the work underway to shape our future.
Cordially, Tom Flynn