Flowers are blooming all over campus, the quad is once again a gathering place for frisbees and sunbathing, and the countless year-end dinners and ceremonies are well underway.

It is a wonderful time of year at Alvernia, as we anticipate the graduation of the Class of 2012 and the many impressive honors achieved by our students.  More on that in a minute!

This spring, however, has also been a time of unusual sadness. Each week seems to have brought news of some loss suffered by our students, faculty, and staff. Parents of students. Children of students and staff. Even some of our own adult students.

And as we celebrated the feasts of Easter and Passover, Alvernia lost another icon—John R. “Jack” McCloskey, Sr., our Hall of Fame men’s basketball coach, 1991-2004.  (There are fine tributes posted on our website, and the Alvernia Community will join together next fall in paying tribute to Coach.)

Alvernia basketball did not start with Jack McCloskey. Coaches and student-athletes from the 1980s and early 1990s -- like his fellow Hall of Famers Dave Samsel ’80, Brian Bossler ’83, Steve Westley ’85, Seane Krinock ‘92, Dawn Ermert ’94, and Nicole (Brown) Schomp ’94 -- were among the earliest pioneers who helped launch Alvernia’s basketball programs. 

Yet Coach McCloskey made Alvernia basketball matter to a lot of people. And at a time when our school was the little college somewhere in Reading that no one could find, he helped make Alvernia matter, both locally and regionally and even—during one memorable season--nationally. 

Those of us who love March Madness still marvel that even his first team, the famed “Sixpack Attack,” enjoyed a winning season and some big-time victories. And only a few years later, when our program was still new to Division III, Coach led the team to the Final Four.

Yet when I visited Jack recently, we talked far less about past games than about coaching colleagues, former assistants, and former players, including his son, John, our Vice President for Enrollment who transferred to Alvernia from another fine Pennsylvania college to play for his dad back when it all began in 1991.

We are so fortunate that Coach considered Alvernia his second family.  Jack McCloskey was a Hall of Famer, on and off the court.

The countless tributes from Coach McCloskey’s former players remind us all that the legacies of devoted faculty and staff members are the students whose lives we touch and whose accomplishments we celebrate.  And as usual, we have many to celebrate at this special time of the year.

None more so than Jennifer Kingman ’13, who has been  recognized as one of only 162 Newman Civic Fellows nationally—“inspiring college student leaders”-- by Campus Compact, an organization representing 1,200 colleges and universities and over 6 million students.

Among many contributions, Jennifer will be helping lead both our Eco Fun Day in Angelica Park (April 20) and the all-University day of service on Earth Day (April 21).

Our largest-even Honors Convocation recently recognized dozens of outstanding students, including our student speaker, 2011 Senior Scholar Andrew Smolarski; the 2012 senior scholar, Daniel Kwasneiski, and the Peace and Justice honoree, Katherine Roesch.

And joining these worthy students in the limelight were some faculty honorees: Beth Berrett (Business), our 2011 Lindback Award winner; Deborah Greenawald (Nursing), the Sr. Donatilla Service Award; and Michael Kramer (Communication), the Faculty Service Learning Award.

There are so many other memorable occasions  that make spring a special time. . . the Senior Athletics Banquet, the Senior Leaders Dinner, the Nursing Pinning Ceremony, to name just a few.  And so many special seniors.

Congratulations to one and all.  And, Seniors, see you on stage on May 12 for a handshake, a photo, and a diploma.

Flynn Files