Community That Counts

Pictured above, Carolyn Holleran is a retired educator and former board chair of Alvernia. Jerry Holleran is co-founder and chairman of the board of Precision Medical Products as well as a former vice chair of the board at Alvernia. The pair reflected on the last decade at Alvernia University for a special issue of Alvernia Magazine:

Alvernia is a special place for both of us. As trustee emeriti, we know and care about the university deeply. It represents who we are in so many ways. The school’s community focus and Catholic Franciscan mission embody our ideals in so many ways. In fact, we think so highly of the university (and its leadership) that we literally gave it our home — Cedar Hill Farm — for use as its President’s House!

Our involvement with the institution goes back almost 30 years, and so we have a broad perspective to draw upon regarding the university and its role within Reading and beyond. It was precisely that role that first attracted us to the school when it was a then small Catholic college, wrestling at times to realize its full potential.

It has been very rewarding to witness the university’s coming of age. We are so very proud of the school and its students, its faculty and alumni. The impact they are having reaches far beyond Berks County’s borders and is felt around the world through service work being done by graduates and students in many different settings.

We are also proud of Alvernia’s growing awareness and national reputation, and gratified to have helped nurture its commitment to community service into a strength that is making a difference in the lives of so many. It is fair to say that we never imagined Alvernia would evolve, as it has, into an institution of such depth, character and prominence.

Two examples stand out for us that are emblematic of the university’s impact. First, Alvernia was the initial area college to really give access to women of all ages. By rolling out a welcome mat to nontraditional students and working mothers, Alvernia sent a loud message to women of Berks County that it was a campus that valued and respected them. To this day, Alvernia remains a welcoming campus for all students from all backgrounds.

The second aspect we find so compelling is Alvernia’s commitment to service as a core value. The institution was by far one of the earliest to require community service as graduation requirement in our region, which was unusual at the time. And you see it not just in students, but equally in faculty and staff. Service to others, and to the community, is woven into the DNA of Alvernia.

In fact, that is why we endowed the Holleran Center for Community Engagement. The center has helped institutionalize service at the school and given it a visible presence within Berks County and beyond. We feel so very fortunate that we have lived to see the gift we have given, give back!

Truly, Alvernia’s impact in the community has become pervasive. It extends far beyond those individuals and organizations that are recipients of programs and service efforts. It is a spirit that inspires students long after they leave campus to make a difference in whatever community they live in, serving on nonprofit boards and working with organizations that help those who have unmet needs.

We can’t imagine the void that would exist in Reading, in Berks County, in our nation, without an integrated university that has the vision, motivation and soul of Alvernia. Where would nontraditional students earn their degrees? What would become of smart young people of the region who come from economically disadvantaged backgrounds with the hearts and minds to succeed but not the checkbooks?

In the end, communities like Reading need universities like Alvernia. And honestly, schools like Alvernia need communities like Berks County. It’s a symbiotic partnership that works for us all!