October 19, 2017


Dear Faculty and Staff Colleagues,

Early autumn has felt like mid-summer this year, but otherwise these months have featured enjoyable events that help mark the New Year. I always enjoy individually welcoming all first-year students as they anticipate a well-deserved barbecue after their orientation day of service. And receptions at Cedar Hill for the faculty, athletic staff, RAs, student government leaders and others are a great opportunity to catch up with familiar folks and meet those newest to our community. 

Among this year’s incoming students are 10 new Reading Collegiate Scholars. They join over two dozen continuing students who also are receiving full scholarships through the program. It’s hard to believe the first cohort of these scholars will graduate in the spring. Even more remarkably, 27 of the 28 original scholars continue toward graduation, with many of them on the Dean’s List. As I like to say, they are talented as well as deserving young people. And they are fortunate to have generous supporters in the community and on campus: all of our 2017-2018 scholarships are funded, and we have already secured many of the scholarships needed for those who will join us in August of 2018 and 2019 and well beyond.

As many of you know from my op-ed published in regional newspapers, I felt it important to share a timely message at this year’s New Student Opening Convocation and the Mission Day for all faculty and staff. I reminded students, faculty and staff alike that members of the Alvernia community have many different political views and wide-ranging perspectives on important current issues. But that we stand united in unequivocally condemning racism, anti-Semitism and other forms of bigotry as “just plain wrong.” And equally important, I emphasized that despite our natural political differences, we share much in common as proud Americans committed to “Liberty and Justice For All” and to our inclusive Franciscan core values. Thankfully, these messages have been well received by the Alvernia community.

Similarly, feedback on the newly designed Golden Wolves visual identity has been overwhelmingly positive. If you weren’t one of the 1,000 lucky people to score a shirt in the first 2 minutes after the unveiling ceremony, contact Stacey Cole in Advancement to give a gift of $30 (or more!) to the Alvernia Fund and receive a long-sleeve shirt. The bookstore should also be stocking up on new Golden Wolves apparel following the busy Homecoming and Family Weekend.

Homecoming and Family Weekend, like Thanksgiving, is a time to join together and take stock in things for which we are thankful. Here at Alvernia, we honor community leaders and high-achieving alumni, celebrate past star athletes with inductions into our Hall of Fame, and welcome families who travel to campus to spend time with our current students. This year’s weekend was the most festive and well attended in my time at Alvernia, with a great Irish band, a football scrimmage, and the appearance of our new mascot enlivening the usual schedule of events.

With Homecoming & Family Weekend a happy memory, this past Monday was the 123rd anniversary of the arrival of the first Bernardine Franciscan Sisters in the USA! What a legacy they have built.

The next campus update will occur at our January divisional meetings. See you around campus!

Peace and All Good,

Tom Flynn


Board of Trustees


Following a moving mission moment by the SGAE’s Hilary Saylor Schulze, Alvernia’s trustees covered a number of important topics at their fall meeting, including approval of our distinguished May 2018 Commencement speaker: John Hope Bryant. Bryant is an entrepreneur who founded a group of both for-profit and nonprofit organizations that focus on “doing well and doing good.”

For the Board plenary session on “The Alvernia Brand: Where We Are (and Are Not),” trustees engaged in a “branding IQ” exercise that included a short quiz and some education about the history of branding. Afterwards, small groups worked together to identify those characteristics that make Alvernia genuinely distinctive. The unusually strong, mutually supportive relationship between Alvernia and its community was a prominent theme as was our particular understanding of our Franciscan identity, compared with the almost two-dozen other Franciscan colleges and universities. Expect to hear and think more about what makes Alvernia distinctive and competitive as the marketing team conducts an internal and external brand audit later this fall.

In key action items, the Board approved a) the Board’s and President’s goals for 2017-2018; b) the operating and capital budgets for 2017-2018; c) trustee recruitment and annual fund goals and the University Dashboard goals for 2017-2018; and d) tuition and other costs for 2018-2019. Trustees also approved special allocations from last year’s mandated budget surplus for special initiatives in technology (infrastructure) and marketing (website) as well as the regular allocations to the PLEX project and to net assets.

This meeting marked the launch of the Board’s new streamlined committee structure, accompanied by revised charters and annual goals for each committee and overall guidelines to ensure best practices. Trustees conducted a comprehensive review of progress on the strategic plan, drawing on work by multiple board committees, and reviewed expanded reports on academic and Clery/Title IX compliance. Trustees also commended the finance and business staff for an excellent audit, completed ahead of schedule, and praised the university’s much improved financial balance sheet that features excellent investment returns and the strongest-ever debt to worth ratio. 


Budget & Enrollment


The fall 2017 semester began with the admissions team exceeding its overall new student goal of 435, with 448 (379 freshmen and 69 transfer) enrolled on the first day of classes. Both groups were significantly enhanced by the addition of football players, as Coaches Clark and Wood recruited 39 men to help launch our program. Alvernia awarded more than $6 million to incoming class members to help address their financial need. This is more than double the amount that was provided just five years ago.


Class of 2021 statistics:

• 31% are from out of state (up from 25% last year)

• 32% are from racially underrepresented groups (up from 17% last year)

• 16% are from Catholic high schools (up from 12% last year)

• 41% are recruited student-athletes

• 37% are male (up from 33% last year)

For all of us boomers, it is a sobering thought that this entering class includes the last of those born in the 1990s. They’ve never known a world without iPods, Wi-Fi, Wikipedia or free GPS. We can safely assume they have never used film cameras or listened to records or cassette tapes!

First-year retention for the entering class of 2016 dipped a bit from last year’s record level, but still was favorable at 78%. However, the overall number of returning students was disappointing, and so overall full-time undergraduate enrollment is lagging behind its goal. 

Although the School of Graduate and Adult Education continues to see more students graduate than are enrolling, it closed 2016-17 at 98% of its goal. Currently, SGAE is 94% to goal for the fall, so it will be important to make solid progress in Winterim and Mods 3, 4 and 5. 

A modest amount of funds (2% of the budget) from across the university will be held in abeyance to ensure a year-end balanced budget and with the hope that new student enrollment and retention will be ahead of goal for winter and spring 2018. 


Faculty Excellence


Following elections in late spring, the Faculty Council will be led in the 2017-18 year, once again, by President Nathan Thomas(theatre), Vice President Chris Wise (DPT), Secretary Carol Schwanger (music) and Treasurer Louise Fura (nursing).

The Office of Global Engagement welcomes our new Chinese Instructor Wenzhu Li (English name: Jewel) from Beijing Normal University, who will be teaching 13 students this fall. She joins other new faculty members: Claire Child (physical therapy), Robyne Eisenhauer (nursing), Alison Foura (occupational therapy), James O’Donohue (physical therapy), Sujan Pant (mathematics), Danielle Saad (communication), Michelle Serapiglia (biology), Staci Silar (physical therapy), and Robin Zappin (physical therapy).

Over two dozen faculty members received Summer Faculty Excellence Awards for teaching or scholarship, and many others continued or began new projects. Here are three of many examples:

Caroline Fitzpatrick (communication) presented a paper, "An Online Project Case Study: Writing Digital Profile Summaries," at the World Conference on Educational Media & Technology in Washington, D.C., this summer. In addition, Fitzpatrick served as a judge for finalists of the highly selective Penguin Group Publishing (USA) Internship Program co-sponsored by the International English Honor Society. The paid, publishing industry internship opportunity is available from Penguin Random House. 

Mark Kaufman (English) presented a paper titled "Where No Book Has Gone Before: James Joyce, Star Trek, and the Future of Letters" at the North American James Joyce Conference at the University of Toronto this summer. 

Bongrae Seok (philosophy) published "Moral Agency, Autonomy, and Heteronomy in Early Confucian Philosophy" in the Philosophy Compass journal. The article discusses the Confucian notion of moral agency (i.e., communal agency) that is different from Western notions of autonomy and heteronomy.





This year’s President’s Dinner awardees included Joanne Judge and Rick Oppenheimer, Franciscan Award, Cheryl Callahan ’79, Distinguished Alumni Award, and Julia Angstadt ’05, Ellen Frei Gruber Award, and Opportunity House, Pro Urbe Award.

Casey Moore, our men’s soccer coach, was inducted into the Wilson High School Hall of Fame earlier this month. As an athlete, Moore led his soccer and swimming teams to a total of 4 District III championships and earned multiple individual awards, including All-American recognition three times in swimming. He also later had similar success in the MAC as a two-sport star at Elizabethtown. 

Two Alvernia students, Eric Moran ’19 (history/theology) and Joshua Harmes ’18 (occupational therapy), are piloting a partnership program this year, with the Highlands at Wyomissing retirement community. Moran and Harmes are living full-time on the Highlands’ campus and work with residents 12-16 hours each week. This type of program has shown early success in Europe but is quite rare in the United States. I have already heard enthusiastic feedback from several Highlands’ residents enrolled in our Seniors College. 

Carl G. Anderson Jr., general partner of Cannondale Partners LLP and newly named trustee emeritus, has been named Business Executive in Residence at Alvernia, for 2017-18.

Ph.D. candidate Robin Carter published a book chapter “Breaking the Zero-Sum Game: Transforming Societies through Inclusive Leadership” in the International Leadership Association Series, “Building Leadership Bridges,” this October.

Members of the Student Government Association attended the NACA® Student Government Institute – East, in July. The conference is designed to assist in the development of a strong, effective, student-driven leadership on campus. 

Director of Career Development, Megan Adukaitis participated in the Eastern Association of Colleges and Employers (EACE) Professional Exchange Program this summer, and visited LinkedIn, Twitter and Idealist.org in their Manhattan offices to participate in idea exchanges between employees, interns and college professionals.

Mikaileigh Baker ’17 is pursuing a Post-Graduate Year of Service project in Sustainability Education this academic year though the Holleran Center for Community & Global Engagement. In addition, three AmeriCorps*VISTA workers, Melody Dilee, Daisy Porrazzo ’17 and Briana Pearson ’17 are working on educational outreach programs this academic year.

Mark O’Connor, the latest addition to a wonderful tradition of visiting students from Northern Ireland, will be taking business courses at Alvernia this year. He can anticipate an invitation to Holleran’s Pub at Cedar Hill! I had the pleasure of providing a reference for one of our most popular Irishmen, Michael Lavery, who recently won a fellowship competition that will return him to the Untied States. 




An unusually wet summer (the sixth wettest in 148 years of Berks County record keeping!) played havoc on campus construction projects, with more than 25 days lost to downpours this summer and fall. Though slowed considerably, progress on the highly anticipated stadium and new locker room building is at last nearing completion. Renovation of the Physical Education Center — with expanded locker rooms, athletic training space, and new bathrooms on the first floor — were completed in early September.

Francis Hall’s colorful clay tiles, damaged in the epic hailstorm of 2014, were replaced by tiles made by the exact same Chicago company that produced them back in 1924 when Francis Hall was originally built.

The Holleran Center’s sustainability staff moved to a new off-campus location at 712 High Boulevard, next to the Ken Grill Pool. This “EcoHouse” has been transformed into an office for VISTA Daisy Porrazzo ’17 (healthy futures project), Mikaileigh Baker ’17(post-graduate year of service for sustainability education), Alicia Sprow (sustainability initiatives coordinator) and the student staff for Bog Turtle Creek Farm.

The student-led Bog Turtle Creek Farm had another successful season, caring for more than 15 types of produce and a variety of herbs and flowers. The farm provided produce to 12 shareholders and sold produce at the Penn Street Market and at Alvernia’s campus market.


News Flashes


Bishop Alfred A. Schlert made his first visit to campus yesterday, jointly hosted by Alvernia and our Sisters. After a morning spent at the Villa and Motherhouse, he took time to meet personally with a group of Assisi pilgrims, with the staff and student leaders in Camus Ministry, with some football players and with several nursing faculty. He also conducted Mass at our main chapel and attended a campus and community reception.

As mentioned above, we are finally “ready for some football,” even if — in Allen Iverson’s memorable words, “It’s just practice!” — 58 football players assembled (at 5:45 a.m.!) on Sept. 5. More than half of the new students are from out-of-state, including 13 from Maryland. The team’s first two intra-squad scrimmages took place Sept. 30 and Oct. 14, and two more are scheduled for Oct. 28 and Nov. 11. The schedule for our opening year has been announced. > 

The first graduate service-learning class is underway! Doctor of Physical Therapy students are working with neurological patients (balance, walking, etc.,) who have exhausted their therapy healthcare benefits. The pro-bono clinic patients include a Marine who returned home only to injure his spinal cord in a car accident and a Parkinson’s/Dementia patient who is now walking after being wheelchair-bound for years. In addition, a homecare patient who speaks no English is benefiting from an inter-professional partnership between her DPT caretaker and Spanish-speaking OT students.

The U.S. EPA awarded Alvernia $91,000 for an Environmental Education Grant to educate elementary school students and their teachers about environmental protection and water-related issues. More than 700 people will be reached through the project, led by alumna Mikaileigh Baker ’17 and Alicia Sprow.

Alvernia and the Charlotte W. Newcombe Foundation are expanding a partnership to support adult women pursuing undergraduate degrees. The Newcombe Foundation is doubling grants to $10,000 for immediate scholarship use and offering a $10,000 endowment challenge, for a total of $20,000 available in 2017-18. Alvernia will match the funds for both the scholarship and endowment challenge.

Alvernia’s recruitment partner in India sent two dozen high school students to visit campus on Oct. 4. Hosted by Admissions team members Melissa Manny and Rebecca Finn-Kenney, the students and chaperones are part of a tour organized by the Ryan Group — a well-known and highly respected high school system throughout India. At Alvernia, students toured campus and participated in workshops led by Alvernia’s faculty. (I arrived for my session with them in time to see a bunch of all-too-eager high school students cutting up a shark’s stomach under the enthusiastic guidance of Eric Recktenwald (science). 

In addition, a planning session is scheduled for early October to discuss a global engagement opportunity trip to Grand Manan in May 2018. The Grand Manan Museum, research station and other community organizations are interested in developing opportunities that will benefit both the island community and Alvernia students, potentially including research, service and internships. A number of webinars and events are planned for both students and faculty who are interested in learning more about studying abroad.

Students can apply for 2017-18 Real World Experience Awards until October 31. Last year 45 students earned awards of up to $2,000 to help fund study-away opportunities, alternative breaks, internships, research and other life-changing learning experiences.

Reflecting efforts that earned Alvernia a Voter-Friendly School designation, voter registration and student voting rates rose significantly from 2015-16 to 2016-17. These efforts, including a recent Constitution Day event with first-year students and the League of Women Voters, continue to be noticed by area media.


Community Engagement


As part of New Student Orientation, Alvernia’s first-year students gathered with professors and student leaders (about 460 total people) to clear clutter, paint murals, improve landscaping and otherwise help prepare for the opening of 19 of the 20 schools in the Reading School District. A little over a month later, another group of Alvernia community members helped the Reading Food Pantry fill its coffers with potatoes harvested during the annual St. Francis Day of Service Potato Project. 

Throughout early fall, Alvernia community members unsurprisingly rallied around alumni affected by record-breaking hurricanes in Texas and Florida, gathering supplies and sending donations.

Campus Ministry is sponsoring seven Alternative Breaks (hopefully for more than 90 students) this year in wide-ranging communities such as Philadelphia, Washington D.C., the Dominican Republic and a new Franciscan Missionary union in Cuba. 

As the newest initiative to strengthen our inclusive campus community, Alvernia has expanded its partnership with Caron Treatment Centers to educate young people in recovery from drug and alcohol addiction. About 15 are enrolled in online Alvernia courses. Also established is a sober living residence on campus. Staffed by a live-in house manager, who is a joint Caron and Alvernia employee, the Collegiate Recovery House offers dedicated living space for young men who have finished treatment and wish to live in a sober college environment. These students attend weekly meetings at Caron, keep curfew, and host community-building events like family dinners.




Encouraging 2016-17 student satisfaction survey results reflect the hard work of many across campus. Overall satisfaction is 92% (up from 86% last year). Other measured satisfaction areas include:


Relationships with peers                                                  93% (up from 83%)

Relationships with faculty                                                95% (up from 79%)

Relationships with staff/administrators                              89% (up from 63%)

Academic support                                                           91% (up from 75%)

Social support                                                                 84% (up from 76%)

Congratulations to the faculty of our Master of Arts in Clinical Counseling program for earning accreditation from the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Program (CACREP) for both our Reading and Philadelphia campuses. This is a tribute to the hard work and commitment of Program Director Judy Warchal as well as Paul West and Monir Morgan for the time and energy they put into this accomplishment. Special thanks also to Peggy Bowen-Hartung (psychology) and Deans Daria LaTorre (SGAE) and Beth Roth (arts/sciences) for their assistance throughout the process. 

Congratulations to Director of Grants, Mary Rizzo, on her achievement as a Certified Grants Management Specialist. Mary is only one of 156 people in the country to have achieved this credential.

In addition to excelling on sports fields, Alvernia student-athletes continue to out perform peers in the classroom. Over the last year, members of our teams posted a cumulative GPA of 3.27, with 19 teams achieving a GPA of 3.0 or higher. In addition, 179 were named to the MAC Academic Honor Roll (up from 124 in 2014-15 and 94 in 2013-14). Even more impressive, both male and female student-athletes graduated at a 15% higher rate than non-athletes. 

Beth Roth, Tony DeMarco (advancement) and the fine arts faculty hosted a spectacular, sold-out “Broadway” revue, featuring alumna (and former trustee) Deanna Reuben ’79, and current doctoral student Ben Watts. It was one of the most extraordinary campus events in memory, with exceptional solo and ensemble performances.

Inter-professional learning isn’t just for students! The Veterans Center sponsored a “Green Zone II” professional development session for about 25 faculty and staff members in August, and in collaboration with Residence Life, Public Safety provided active shooter and sexual assault response training for all officers.


Coming Events


Be sure to mark your calendar for a number of important events coming to campus this fall:

Oct. 30-Nov. 2: Spring semester registration week

Nov. 1: FYS Lecture with Regina Calcaterra (6 p.m., PEC). Calcaterra’s bestselling memoir, “Etched in Sand” tells her difficult yet inspiring tale of a childhood filled with abuse, foster care and homelessness in the city of New York.

Nov. 6-11: Veterans Day observances during the first full week of November include a flag ceremony and a screening/panel discussion on the Reading campus and at the Philadelphia and Schuylkill Centers about the critically-acclaimed film “Dunkirk.” 

Nov. 8: O’Pake Lecture: Inequality, segregation and failing the middle class — the new urban crisis with Richard Florida.

Nov. 17: Learn what it’s like to be a refugee though an interactive experience on the quad.

Dec. 11-15: Final Exams week. (Exams optional for all staff!)


Visit the online calendar for information on all university events.


President Flynn's Newsletter