Last month’s column told the stories of three individuals—two distinguished alumnae and a legendary coach--who embody Alvernia’s “Legacy of Leadership.”  This major theme of Alvernia’s Fiftieth Anniversary celebrates the contributions of women and men, Franciscans and lay people, individuals of diverse backgrounds and talents who share a passionate dedication to Alvernia’s mission. Individuals who have also made a major impact on the lives of those around them . . . and on Alvernia. 

Here are three more such Alvernians, all honored recently, all still active today. Twice this fall, we had the opportunity to recognize a former president for his accomplishments, past and present! A few weeks ago, a prominent community leader and dedicated trustee was honored with the Franciscan Award, our highest honor. And earlier this fall, on Founder’s Day, we honored a Franciscan Sister both for her own exceptional contributions and also as representative of the many pioneering Sisters and committed lay women and men who founded and sustained Alvernia in our earliest years.   

President Emeritus Dr. Laurence Mazzeno led Alvernia through a period of transformational change and growth. Following a twenty-year career in the military, with several impressive leadership positions, he came to Alvernia after gaining experience as an administrator at two other colleges. A tiny school when he arrived in 1997, Alvernia boasted large graduate programs, an innovative Seniors College, and a robust undergraduate enrollment by the time he departed in 2005.  From the Student Center to Judge Hall, campus facilities were improved. And the academic program was strengthened by the hiring of additional fine faculty.  Recognized on Founder’s Day for these and many other contributions, the Mazz Man was recently back on campus to talk on not one but two new books he has authored, now as a full-time writer of books, articles, and essays. For today’s students, he models the values and value of a liberal arts education as he flourishes in his third career!

Students seldom meet members of the Board of Trustees, unless they hold leadership positions on campus.  Yet Alvernia could not thrive today without the generosity of volunteers like Alfred J. Weber.  A prominent local businessman and co-founder of a respected strategic planning and consulting firm, he is even more renowned for voluntarily contributing his expertise to help countless organizations, most of them small not-for-profit groups that seek to address the community’s most pressing needs. Alvernia is fortunate that, both in the 90s and again today, he has been a leader of our Board. He has challenged us both to strengthen our Franciscan identity and to enhance the quality of our students’ education and total experience. Each year, we celebrate Franciscan values, such as humility, respect for others, and “a life of service” by bestowing our highest honor, the prestigious Franciscan Award. In Al Weber’s case, as with our most impressive alums, we have someone who has done well and done good! 

A member of the Alvernia community since 1961, Sister Pacelli is without peer in her contributions, as faculty member and administrator, to the development of our academic programs.  Founder of our criminal justice program, she was for a time the only woman in the country to lead such a program. Countless professionals in law enforcement and related fields trace their professional growth back to their Alvernia education. Today, she is more likely to discuss vampires than criminals in her honors seminar! Few can match the range of her interests. No one can rival her knowledge of Alvernia’s history. (Her second book has just been published.) And Sister also embodies the Franciscan ideal of “knowledge joined with love.”  I seldom meet graduates of our adult education programs, especially alumnae from the 70s and 80s, who don’t recall Sister’s support as they pursued their dream of a private college education. It is fitting that in May, at the close of our anniversary year, Sister Pacelli will be awarded an honorary doctorate at graduation.

When we honor the best among us, we honor the best in all of us. So let us all be inspired and challenged by the example of these and other impressive Alvernians.  Among our current students, there are future school teachers and college faculty members, social activists and government servants, business people and lawyers, those involved with the legal system of justice and those dedicated to religious life, scientists and health care professionals, perhaps even an author or college president!  

So look in the mirror, challenge yourself to excellence, not just routine accomplishments, and become part of Alvernia’s “Legacy of Leadership.”

Flynn Files