Each fall as students reemerge on Mount Alvernia like swallows returning to Capistrano, Helen and I reflect on how very proud we are to be part of an institution that actually lives its mission. And that mission is compelling — combining commitments to both enhancing academic excellence and serving the local community, especially those in special need of educational opportunity. This fall, we welcomed a record number of full-time undergraduates to our university, just as we again received national attention for our civic leadership.
As demonstrated by surveys of our graduating seniors and recent alumni, our students embrace the “call to serve,” rooted in our Franciscan core values. Nowadays almost all schools contribute some community service, but at Alvernia it is featured at freshman orientation and throughout the year. Over 500 Alvernians — all new students, joined by faculty and peer mentors — participated in the first of our four annual days of service, working hard to tame the old Angora Fruit Farm and help nurture it back into shape as part of Antietam Lake Park. A smaller student-run project has already made a large impact, as students have transformed unused space at our Cumru-based Sports Park into an organic garden, growing vegetables to provide disadvantaged Reading residents with access to affordable produce.
Headlines around the country also drew recent attention to our mission. An Associated Press story that ran in nearly 400 media outlets highlighted our new $10 million Reading Collegiate Scholars Program (RCSP), an effort geared to increase the number of inner-city youth who attend and graduate from college. Our first five Alvernia Reading Scholars enrolled this fall, supported by several generous initial donors.
Yet we know, to paraphrase Robert Frost, there are miles to go before we sleep. The RCSP is an ambitious initiative, combining high school college-readiness programing for hopefully dozens of Reading youth, with intensive mentoring and support for those who choose to pursue their dreams at Alvernia. To be successful, we will need the help of many friends to provide the financial resources necessary if we are to extend college opportunities to more students. Truly there can be no more noble cause for a university than to open the doors of a life-transforming college experience to those most in need. We invite you to join others in supporting this most worthy of causes.
There are many, many other newsworthy items to share that you will find of interest.
By the numbers
Each year we conduct a number of studies to learn more about how our students and alumni feel about their Alvernia education. This year’s numbers tell a very inspiring story indeed!
- 98% of our freshmen say they are very satisfied or satisfied with their Alvernia experience.
- 94% of our alumni say they would proudly recommend Alvernia to others.
- Nearly 9 in 10 recent graduates are employed or in grad school just six months after receiving their diplomas
Walk in the Park
A $2.7 million project to upgrade nearby Angelica Park got an initial boost recently from a $1 million state grant. The effort includes repaving St. Bernardine St. (the main artery through the park), replacing a bridge and installing walkways, bike paths and street lighting. As part of our extensive voluntary support of the city, both financially and otherwise, Alvernia will continue to commit significant resources to support the park and this beautiful entryway to our main campus. In an exciting related development, the Berks County Conservancy recently announced plans to build a $3 million headquarters in Angelica Park.
Updike for all
Updike aficionados from all over the world are gathering at Alvernia as I write this, participating in the John Updike Society Biennial Conference, an event we also hosted in 2010. David Updike, son of the Pulitzer Prize winning novelist, is our current Updike Scholar in Residence, and our campus is home to the scholarly archives of the society.
Dr. Richard R. Gaillardetz delivered our Founders Day address, exploring the Council’s reinterpretation of and re-emphasis on the responsibilities of baptism for the faithful. The Boston College professor was the latest addition to our three-year series that extends into 2015, commemorating the 50th anniversary of Vatican II.
A place to call home
The Alvernia Veterans Center officially opened last month as a resource center and a hub of activities and programs for the approximately 100 active duty, reserve and military veterans already enrolled at the university. Located in Bernardine Hall, the center is a meeting and gathering spot for veterans, students and their friends. We have just last week again been among the select universities honored nationally as “Military Friendly Institutions.”
To provide our growing adult student population with even more options to address their busy schedules, Alvernia Online will soon launch. This new comprehensive approach to delivering online learning and full degree programs will expand our adult offerings. Beginning in January 2015, we will launch a range of undergraduate and graduate degree programs, with more to come in the ensuing years.
A recent national Gallup poll makes it clear: it’s not where students go to college that counts most toward their future success and long term well-being, it is what they do while there and how much they get engaged. And when it comes to student engagement, Alvernia stands out! One hundred percent of our graduating students participate in at least one real-world learning or service experience, with 86% also involved in a co/extracurricular organization or athletic team.
The best among us!
In just a few weeks on Oct. 17, we will bestow our two highest honors at our President’s Dinner. At this year’s event we will recognize Albert and Eunice Boscov with our Franciscan Award, while Carpenter Technology will receive the Pro Urbe Award. In addition, we will honor Meggan Kerber ‘96, M‘01, with the Ellen Frei Gruber Alumni Award, and the Distinguished Alumni Award will be presented to John McCarthy ‘06.
Among the many cultural offerings scheduled this fall are October appearances by New York Times bestselling author Denise Kiernan (Girls of Atomic City) and the Rodale Institute’s Mark “Coach” Smallwood. Congressman Jim Gerlach will deliver the annual O’Pake Lecture on Nov. 10. And don’t miss the beautiful artwork of the illustrated St. John’s Bible on display in the Franco Learning Center through December. Visit our web site for full details.
I look forward to seeing you soon on campus, around town, or during my travels in the coming months.
Peace and All Good,
Thomas F. Flynn