Dr. Rodney Ridley Ben Franklin Technology Partners Venture Idol Award

From left: (top) Jordan Turner; John Stetler, M.S.; Adonis Fleming, M.A., Nick King; Max Horn, MBA; Logan Minford (bottom) Michelle Conway, MBA; Michael Peffer; Rodney S. Ridley, Sr., Ph.D., RTTP; Caitlin Long, Ph.D.; MSPAS, PA-C; Jack Short 

Ridley receives Frederick J. Beste III Award at 2024 Venture Idol  

Alvernia Vice President of Research, Economic Development and Innovation Rodney S. Ridley Sr., PhD., RTTP receives the Frederick J. Beste III Partnership Award at the Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Northeast Pa (BFTP/NEP) Venture Idol 2024 Innovation Awards. Ridley earns the award for his commitment to enhancing the region’s entrepreneurial ecosystem through the university’s O’Pake Institute for Economic Development and Entrepreneurship.  


“It’s an honor to be recognized by BFTP as one of their long-term partners and receive the Frederick J. Beste Partnership Award,” said Ridley. “BFTP/NEP is a critical partner and plays a pivotal role in serving as the inspiration for our operational models. We consider ourselves akin to the minor league of BFTP/NEP, drawing inspiration from their expertise. It's through our partnership that we believe we will be able to help shape the entrepreneurial ecosystem in the greater Berks County inspired by their internationally award-winning business incubator in Bethlehem.” 


According to a release from BFTP/NEP, the Frederick J. Beste Partnership Award is presented annually to an individual or organization whose strong vision, dedication, and commitment have helped advance the region’s entrepreneurial ecosystem, aligning with the mission of the Ben Franklin Technology Partners. Recipients can be portfolio companies, incubator network members, or other economic development partners. Alvernia's partnership with BFTP/NEP was announced in 2020. The O'Pake Insitute has collaborated with the organization to support innovative projects developed by local entrepreneurs and industry partners through the SPARK Business Incubator. 


"As the recipient of the Frederick J. Beste Partnership Award, Rodney Ridley’s strong vision, dedication, and commitment to Eastern Pa.’s entrepreneurial ecosystem align with the mission of BFTP/NEP,” said Regional Manager of Greater Reading/Berks BFTP/NEP, Kimberly Valuntas. “Rodney is a visionary and a leader who brings industry, community, and higher education together for the greater good. He continually promotes and supports BFTP/NEP and looks for ways to collaborate and work together. Rodney recognizes the impact we can have together and that the whole is better than the sum of the parts. He drives economic development and entrepreneurship and is met with respect throughout the commonwealth of Pa. Rodney turns ideas into reality, and when Rodney says something is going to happen, you can be sure it is going to happen." 


The O’Pake Institute has served over 300 small and established businesses in and beyond Berks County since the inception of the SPARK Business Incubator in 2020 and surpassed its goal of engaging 50 students in providing business incubator services by nearly double. The SPARK Business Incubator also expanded to the Pottsville CollegeTowne campus in Oct. 2023 in partnership with Pottsville Area Development Corporation (PADCO) and the Schuylkill County Chamber of Commerce's IGNITE Schuylkill.   


“Alvernia is committed to demonstrating the value of higher education in our ever-evolving economic landscape and does so through transformational student experiential learning opportunities and intentional community partnerships like BFTP/NEP,” said Alvernia University President Glynis A. Fitzgerald, Ph.D. “Dr. Ridley’s leadership in curating the unique, student-powered entrepreneurial model has been pivotal to the Reading CollegeTowne initiative and to the Alvernia student experience.” 


Ridley was also recently tapped by AUTM, an association of over 3100 technology transfer professionals, as a panelist on ‘Reimagining The TTO: From Technology Transfer to Knowledge Transfer’ panel at the 2023 AUTM Annual Meeting in Austin, TX. Ridley was also recognized by the Accreditation Council for Entrepreneurial and Engaged Universities (ACEEU) at the Triple E Awards Ceremony in June 2023 in Barcelona, Spain for the model. He was recognized in the Male Entrepreneur of the Year award category for demonstrating exceptional entrepreneurial acumen, leadership, and a profound impact on the Americas' entrepreneurial ecosystem. 


Alvernia's $1 million purchase and $40 million renovation of a 260,000-square-foot building in downtown Reading, the John R. Post Center at Reading CollegeTowne, which currently houses the O’Pake Insitute, has spurred over 1.5 million square feet of transformation projects along the downtown corridor. It also resulted in Alvernia’s purchase of the former American House facility across from the Post Center, finalized in June 2022, as part of the university’s second phase of the Reading CollegeTowne initiative. The building will expand incubator space for the O’Pake Institute and retail space for local businesses. It is estimated that over 300 new jobs will be created through the student-powered business incubator. 

In This Section