Presidential Newsletters

July 16, 2010

Dear Faculty, Staff, Student and Alumni Leaders,

I hope you are enjoying your summer and finding time to catch up with family and friends – and maybe even to get to those nagging projects that have previously escaped your attention. Here’s the annual mid-summer newsletter to update you on campus news and developments.

With everything going on, my letter to you is growing as well. Feel free to read through, or click the following links to find more specific information:



Faculty Excellence Program

June Board Meeting

Budget Update

Important Updates: Budget and Enrollment

News Flashes

Community Engagement

August Events

As always, Alvernia is alive with activity and signs of continued progress. Summer classes, Connection Days for incoming students, admission tours for future students, capital campaign appointments, planning meetings, construction projects, and a range of scholarly activities are all in full swing, just as you would expect at a thriving university.  

Certainly one indicator of Alvernia’s progress is the ongoing success, even amidst a troubled economy, of our Values & Vision capital campaign. It continues to provide much needed fuel for our vision to become a “distinctive Franciscan university.” We closed on over an additional $1million in gifts during May and June!  The recent kickoff of the faculty and staff campaign, focused on the Francis Hall renovation and the creation of a Sr. Pacelli Endowment, has already produced impressive results. More than $600,000 has been pledged toward a goal of $750,000.

As we anticipate another exciting academic year, the first John Updike Society Biennial Conference at Alvernia from Oct. 1-3 is particularly noteworthy. The event is attracting Updike scholars from around the world, as well as national media attention, to our campus and will provide our community with opportunities to participate in designated conference sessions. It is a rare opportunity for a small university to serve as the setting for an international scholarly event of this scope.


We will officially welcome new people and celebrate promotions and other honors at our August State of the University gathering, so I will simply note that several important areas of campus will welcome some talented new (or already familiar) individuals to replace good colleagues who have assumed other duties or moved on professionally.

Our national search for a new Dean of Undergraduate Admissions and Financial Aid brought us Stacey Adams Perry, who last served as Director of Admissions and Financial Aid at Miami University of Ohio’s Middletown campus. The School of Graduate and Continuing Studies has been strengthened with the addition of two familiar faces, Daria LaTorre and Susan Rehhausser along with the arrival of Stephanie Tremble, who joins us from Georgetown University’s Law Center. One of our own “best and brightest,” Christopher Fake ’10 has joined the Holleran Center staff as the South Reading Youth Initiative Program Manager, a position funded through the U.S. Department of Justice grant received in 2009. Christopher majored in psychology and spent three years in the HCCE as a work study student.

Spence Stober has assumed duties as Director of the Center for Ethics and Leadership, where he will coordinate all leadership programs as well as develop new initiatives. His fine work as our first Ph.D. Director will be the foundation for his successor, Tufan Tiglioglu. So too, Robert Gannon of our business faculty will build on Tufan’s prior efforts, as Bob has been tapped to succeed him as the Graduate Program Coordinator for the MBA program.

A special welcome to Dr. James C. Foster, who joins Alvernia as the new Interim Dean for the College of Arts and Sciences on a two-year appointment through the Registry for College and University Presidents. Dr. Foster earned his Ph.D. from Cornell University in History with a Minor in Industrial and Labor Relations.  He has also completed postdoctoral research with the Institute on Quantification through the Newberry Library and the Institute on Cliometrics through the National Science Foundation.  Dr. Foster served as the Dean of Arts and Sciences at University of Michigan, Dearborn Campus and served as Vice President of Academic Affairs at several institutions, including Mount Marty College (SD) from which he retired in July 2009.  His knowledge of national accreditation standards, particularly related to assessment, and his work with faculty helped ensure an effective system of external program review and facilitated the development of new niche programs such as Forensic Science and Graphic Design. His knowledge of distance education, general education, and information literacy will be especially helpful as Alvernia moves forward with program growth and other quality initiatives. James’ home is in Yankton, South Dakota with his wife, Mary Louise, a professional librarian.  

This summer we have gained hundreds of new alumni, including twenty-two graduates of the Leadership Berks (LB) program, the first class since Leadership Berks became an Alvernia program. With this foundation, director Toni Eckert will now be expanding related leadership programs, coordinated with our Center for Leadership and Ethics. By the way, the class president of this LB group was our own Zane Gizzi, director of planned giving.       

Some promising future alums are getting closer to their goal! Among our 63 active Ph.D. students, the members of the 2006 cohort group are currently working on dissertation proposals, with the first graduates anticipated in December 2011.  
Nine Alvernians participated in the 2010 AFCU Franciscan Symposium hosted by the University of St. Francis (IN).  Kevin Godfrey was introduced as the new Executive Director of AFCU, with the main office now at Alvernia. Sister Rosemary Stets and Susan Rehhausser were presenters, with Sister Rosemary sharing a summary of her sabbatical research titled “Can You Speak Franciscan – A Lexicon for Franciscan Learners,” and Susan providing an overview of an ongoing blog project developed with Jon King on the “Ecology of Franciscan Values: Educating Those Who Don’t Know.” Also attending the symposium were Sister Paula Marie Nowak, OSF, Steve Campion, Kevin Queally, T.O.R., and Judy Bohler.  Hard to believe it is already two years since we hosted this national conference at the then-new Conference Center!

Our student-athletes were well represented in post-season competition this spring, with some impressive individual accomplishments. In its first year, under Coach Laura Gingrich, the Track and Field program sent two student-athletes to participate in the ECAC championships.  Brian Nerney finished fourth in the high jump and Brennon Ferrizzi placed 18th in the 400 meter dash – the same event he won at the MAC Championships.  The softball team (22-15), coached by Lindsay Burger and led by its first ever All-American, junior third baseman Rhiannon Sorrentino, played in the ECAC championships. Although it had an early departure from the tournament, the team still enjoyed one of its best seasons in recent history.  

The women’s lacrosse team (12-6), coached by Kelly McCloskey, also finished the season in the ECAC championships, soundly defeating Frostburg State at home before falling to the eventual champion FDU. The Alvernia baseball team was once again selected to participate in the NCAA D-III Mid-Atlantic Regional tournament. The team ended its season with an overall record of 32-12 with head coach Yogi Lutz picking up his 600th career win in the middle game of a three-game sweep of Albright College.  All-American senior Shane Zellers recently got signed to play in the minor leagues for the Washington National’s affiliate Vermont Lake Monsters. (He joins Anthony Recker ‘05 and Zach Lutz ’08 who are already in the minors.) Senior Brian Longo, an Elementary Ed/Special Education major and a relief pitcher for the baseball team, was a fine representative of the institution, completing his second term as the President of our conference’s Student Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC).



While no single summer project matches the scope of last summer’s transformation of the entire South Campus, there are countless important efforts, mostly directed at improved teaching, learning, and performing spaces.  Here are some details:

Francis Hall - The first phase of work in Francis Hall, due to open in August, includes a complete renovation of the auditorium into a theater/recital hall. New seating, air conditioning, and a rebuilt stage are among the key features. Handicap-accessible restrooms are being installed, along with an elevator providing access to all occupied levels of the building.

Bernardine Hall – As part of the five-year Teaching and Learning Plan, work is well underway on the first phase of construction of an Educational Technology Center, made possible by a major federal grant.

During the first phase, the large lecture hall is receiving all new seating with 39 seminar table seats and 135 theater-style seats. Infrastructure work will also be completed in preparation for the addition of interactive video equipment in the lecture hall and the completion of the Educational Technology Center next summer. Video, sound, editing, and production equipment will allow for student productions and instruction.

Renovation and expansion of the popular BH lounge will soon be completed, creating contemporary space for informal learning and socialization. And some complimentary improvements of the main entrance will provide a more welcoming environment for our main academic building.  The outside work began in mid-summer but should still be completed by October 1.

Townhouses - A two-year project has begun to renovate Assisi and Sienna Hall Townhouses completely. New HVAC units will be installed, and all units will now feature complete kitchens. Living rooms, first floor bedrooms and bathrooms will also be refurbished with new paint, carpet and furniture. Next summer, second floor bedrooms and bathrooms will be refurbished.

New Signage – By mid-August, Alvernia will be easier to find!  A new grand entrance at Rt. 10 leading through Angelica Park will be completed, consistent with our Campus Master Plan, and anticipating the future main campus entrance through the Bernardine Franciscan Sister’s property to Francis Hall. A large directional sign will be added at the corner of Greenway Terrace and St. Bernardine Street, and a campus kiosk (with campus map and interactive video display) outside the Student Center will help orient visitors to the campus.

Cedar Hill – Good progress has been made on renovations to Cedar Hill Farm, the historic 15-acre property donated last year by Jerry and Carolyn Holleran. As you will recall, the property will be used as a university resource for conferences and retreats as well as the president’s residence. Work is almost complete to create appropriate handicap access and to address health, safety, and building code requirements necessary for the property to be used for institutional purposes. Look for the announcement of an opening all-university reception in early September.



Teaching, Scholarship and Service . . . the secular trinity of faculty responsibilities throughout American higher education. This spring four programs were launched to support and strengthen the faculty’s work as “teacher-scholars.” Funded both by a permanent allocation from the annual budget and campaign gifts from committed donors, such as Carole and Ray Neag, are the following opportunities: Faculty Excellence Summer Grants, Faculty Excellence Academic Year Grants, Carpenter Scholars, and the Neag Professorships. 

The following awards were recommended by the Development and Research Committee and approved by the Provost for Summer 2010. Unless otherwise noted, the project involves research and writing an article for publication.

•    Scott Ballantyne: Planning In Reverse (Book);
•    Beth Berrett: Planning In Reverse (Book);
•    Karen Cameron: Community Based Service Learning in Occupational Therapy through Collaboration with the Diocese of Allentown Catholic Social Services Agency (Teaching-Service Project)
•    Joseph Kremer: Negative Poisson’s Ration Liquid Crystal Polymers;
•    Elizabeth Matteo: Examining Student Perceptions’ of Individuals Diagnosed with Mental Illness;
•    Susan McDonald: Economically Distressed City (Reading, PA): A Qualitative Study of the Sociological and Psychological Impact in Community Members;
•    Kathleen Muzevich: Establishing Inter-rater Reliability on an Assessment Rubric for Emergent Writing of Kindergarten and First Grade Student;
•    Ana Ruiz: Long Term Impact of Multiple Undergraduate Service Options on Alumni;
•    David Silbey: The Third China War: America, Britain, and the Boxers, 1990 (Book);
•    Judith Warchal: Long Term Impact of Multiple Undergraduate Service Options on Alumni;
•    Mary Ellen Wells: Planning In Reverse (Book);
•    Donna Yarri: The Sopranos: Exploring Ethics in TV’s Most Infamous “Family.” (book)

Congratulations to one and all!



As customary, let me report on the quarterly meeting of our Board of Trustees.  Each year, trustees devote their June meeting to a two-day workshop on strategic issues. This year’s meeting focused on Alvernia’s Catholic Identity, with presentations by the President of the Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities ACCU), and on student life outside the classroom, featuring student and staff presenters. (Last June, the joint focus was on the Franciscan tradition and on academic life.) 

Trustees learned about the diverse traditions and contributions to Church and American Society of the over 225 Catholic institutions and also discussed the Papal document, Ex Corde Ecclesiae (“From the Heart of the Church”), which guides schools throughout the world. Following presentations on student leadership programs and learning outcomes, a panel of current and former student leaders fielded trustee questions on a wide range of topics. Students and alumni alike praised the significant recent improvements in residential life and student activities and identified competitive indoor recreation and athletic facilities as by far the highest future priority.

This June’s meeting coincided with the half-way point of Phase I (2007-2013) of our implementation of the strategic, campus facilities, and campaign plans, approved by the Board in Spring 2007.  Building on a review in March of the past three years, trustees turned to the next three years. I shared my initial thinking on “planning themes” for 2010-2013, and the Vice Presidents and I outlined a preliminary agenda. (This material will be shared with the campus community at August’s State of the University address.)

Besides some routine business, trustees also approved two new trustees, both of them alumni who embody important Board recruiting priorities: Chuck Barbera MBA ‘01 and George Rice ‘85, each of whom bring professional expertise in a field important to Alvernia (health care and criminal justice).  George also provides a trustee presence in the Washington and Orlando areas.


Much like the prior year, contingency budget planning served us well this past year. In anticipation of continued difficult financial times, the 2009-10 budget was crafted using limited new revenues. Strong enrollment in both the fall and spring semesters has allowed actual performance to exceed budgeted expectations.

Likewise, our budget panning for 2010-11 has remained conservative including our lowest comprehensive increase in more than a decade. We again have contingency plans in place should we experience a shortfall in revenue.

Despite this cautious approach, we’re pleased that we were able to preserve funding for numerous new faculty positions. As a result, we look forward to welcoming several new faulty members to the Alvernia family this summer. Fall enrollment performance (both UG & Grad/CS) will be the next important indicator of the adequacy of our budget assumptions and planning.


As with 2008-2009, sensitivity to our students’ finances and conservative budget planning served us well for 2009-2010. In anticipation of continued difficult financial times, especially an expected state cut in student financial aid, we kept tuition and other increases minimal and set aside additional funds for financial aid so as to limit the hardship for our students and their families. We set very modest enrollment revenue targets and also limited new expenditures and eliminated administrative/staff positions.  Favorable undergraduate enrollment in both the fall and spring semesters and improvement in both enrollment and revenue by the School of Graduate and Continuing Studies during winter and spring were welcome developments. Along with careful monitoring of expenditures in key areas, these enrollment results enabled us to exceed budget goals, even as we absorbed a mid-year state funding cut of over $300,000.

Continued attention to the needs of our students and similar caution concerning national economic trends have guided budget planning for 2010-11. Recall that the Board approved the lowest comprehensive increase in more than a decade. We again carefully limited new expenses and continued have contingency plans in place. Still, in addition to the salary increase, the budget includes funding for 8 faculty hires. 

Fall enrollment projections, as of early July, are very encouraging. The University Life and Enrollment staffs have teamed to make this summer’s Connections Days a great success. If current projections for new and returning students are realized, we appear headed for a record overall enrollment. And of course, our Enrollment team is well underway with efforts to recruit the entering class of fall 2011, knowing they can count on the contributions of many faculty and staff across the University. 


As mentioned above, the first John Updike Society Biennial Conference promises to be an exciting event. Noted author Ann Beattie and nationally recognized painter Lincoln Perry will serve as the keynote speakers. The conference’s keynote presentation and two panels (one each involving Updike’s family members and classmates from Shillington High School) will be open to the public. Society members attending the conference will also be treated to a multitude of academic sessions and area tours related to Updike’s life and literature, placing Alvernia on the map to noted Updike scholars. Brad Drexler, Ginny Hand, and Gene Mitchell have joined Sue Guay on the organizing committee with Updike Society founding members for this event.

Alvernia will celebrate the extraordinary contributions of Women Religious to the ministry of Catholic higher education throughout the 2010-2011 academic year. During the year, we will recognize the accomplishments, vision and courage of Woman Religious, joining with the Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities in extending our gratitude for their efforts. In particular, we celebrate the work of the Bernardine Franciscan Sisters whose distinguished legacy is so fundamental to our formation and development.  
Beginning this celebration will be Third Annual Founder’s Day Lecture on September 16 at 4:00 p.m. It will be dedicated to Sr. Pacelli and will feature noted theologian and historian Sister Patricia Byrne, CSJ.  (Special Note: plan to attend a celebration of Sr. Pacelli’s life during Homecoming Weekend on Saturday, Oct. 9 at 4 p.m., in Francis Hall.)



This year’s Rabbi Alan Weitzman Award was presented to a dedicated community leader, Rev. Luther H. Routte, the Associate Pastor of Robeson Evangelical Lutheran Church in Plowville. He has dedicated his life to fighting racism and other forms of injustice and to fostering inter-faith dialog and understanding. Luther continues to be a familiar presence at inter-faith services on campus.

More than 326 people participated in three University Days of Service during 2009-2010, donating 774 hours on those days to the community. The Holleran Center for Community Engagement and the Office of Campus Ministry have already begun planning for the next day of service held during the new student orientation on Friday, Aug. 20. Over 200 community partners have been invited to host incoming Alvernia students at their non-profit organizations for this service activity.

Service was an important component of another successful Spring Fling, led by student leaders and Student Activities. In collaboration with the Student Government Association and Campus Ministry, the Alvernia Helping Haiti project raised nearly $10,000, including proceeds from the BJ Novak comedy show.

The Holleran Center for Community Engagement conducted its fifth annual Creativity Camp this summer, led by Mike Nerino. This year’s digital media theme was called “Pod Squad: Going for the Goal,” with participants using digital media and various hi-tech tools to create podcasts and blogs. The participants experimented with mixing boards, recording tools and video production equipment. All activities were flavored with a World Cup soccer theme and participants reported on game statistics and predictions for the Cup win.

Beginning in the fall of 2010, the Holleran Center will begin a “Scholars in Service to Pennsylvania" program with Philadelphia Higher Education Network for Neighborhood Development. The pilot group, consisting of five Alvernia students, will spend 300 hours in the community during the 2010-2011 academic year and will receive an AmeriCorps Education Award of $1,100 after they have completed their term of service. Students will be working with the South Reading Youth Initiative and Olivet’s Boys & Girls Club.



Here are highlights of key events opening the new academic year:  

The first of several campus-wide events is our annual Mission Day, Monday, August 16th, at the Bernardine Franciscan Conference Center, beginning at 8 a.m., hosted by the Franciscan Learning Community. Consistent with our year-long celebration of Women Religious, the theme is “The Bernardine Legacy: Passion and Promise.”

The annual State of the University Day, Tuesday, August 17, begins at 8:00 a.m. with breakfast in the student dining room and the program in the PEC. All faculty and staff are encouraged to attend both events.

The New Student Convocation (Thursday, August 19th at 1:30 p.m.) begins Orientation; the Mass of the Holy Spirit (Monday, August 23th at 11:15 a.m.) marks the end of Orientation and the beginning of the academic year. As with the baccalaureate liturgy, faculty and administrators are asked to join the academic procession for both events and invited to participate in the liturgy in whatever way they are comfortable.  For the first time this year, we will follow an adjusted class schedule on the day of our opening Mass, which will allow all faculty, staff, and students to attend and to enjoy festive luncheon after Mass before classes resume.          

Enjoy the summer. Keep cool. I look forward to seeing you all at our campus-wide August events.

Peace and All Good,    Tom Flynn

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