Presidential Newsletters

October 31, 2006

Dear Faculty, Staff, and Student Leaders,

This letter is being written during a glorious fall weekend, much enhanced by an extra hour of sleep and the promise of Thanksgiving weekend, providing special time with family, opportunity for reflection on our blessings, and a precious break for preparing or grading papers and projects.

Alvernia was fortunate in September to be honored with several local community awards and accompanying press coverage. In October, Alvernia has continued to receive well deserved attention as we bestowed our annual alumni and civic leadership awards on prominent, newsworthy individuals and our faculty have been featured as part of the Berks Literary Festival.

The culmination of this visibility was yesterday’s prominent feature story on Sister Pacelli. The story includes comments and profiles of several students who demonstrate the importance of broad study beyond their majors and, of course, a memorable portrait of the teacher. Few stories in the Reading Eagle are given such extensive coverage, but then consider the subject!

Two of our athletic teams have enjoyed national recognition, as have some outstanding students.

This week, as our fall teams move toward conference (and hopefully NCAA) tournaments, the basketball seasons open with the second annual Maroon and Gold Night, complete with costumes. Our Women’s Field Hockey Team (#5 regionally) hosts a playoff game on Wednesday at 1:00, as does the Men’s Soccer Team (#8 regionally) on Thursday at 1:00.

Important Announcement on Campus Planning:  As announced earlier, November 6-10 is the second of our two Campus Planning weeks. Once again, I ask that no regular campus meetings be held, so that all of us can take maximum advantage of the numerous opportunities to participate in planning our future.

The sessions with Performa on the campus facilities master plan have already been announced—Open Campus Meetings on Tuesday (11/7) at 3:00 and on Wednesday (11/8) at 8:00 and 11. Special student sessions are scheduled on Tuesday at 5:30 and 7:00, and the campus–wide Advisory Committee will meet with our architects at both the beginning and end of the week. (The SPC will announce its schedule this week.)

September’s planning week was by any measure a great success. Many of you have also responded to the call for further written or on-line feedback in the last several weeks. Active involvement during next week is even more important. Our strategic and campus facilities plans have been revised and clarified and, as necessary, are becoming focused on top priorities. Feedback next week will help guide the last stage of major revisions. Both plans will be reviewed by the Board of Trustees in December and, following final revisions and campus feedback, will be finalized and then formally approved by the Board early in 2007.

New Leadership: Update on the Enrollment Management Searches

As reported last month, a pool of about twenty potential candidates were identified for the position of Vice President of Enrollment Management, and the initial list of candidates for the Dean/Director of Undergraduate Admissions has been developed.

The search committee has met to evaluate candidates and has identified several top candidates. Details on campus visits will be forthcoming from the search committee, but final candidates will tentatively visit campus the week of November 13-17. The Dean/Director search process is being timed so that finalists will be interviewed after the vice presidential search is concluded.  

Honors and Awards

October brings Alumni and Family Weekend (October 13-15), with one of the highlights being the Alumni Oktober Fest, featuring a rocker well known on campus, our own Ralph Thompson. This year we honored two educators, Valetta Eshbach ’68 and Wynton Butler ’03, with our Ellen Frei Gruber and Distinguished Alumni Awards. One of our earliest lay graduates, Valetta has taught mathematics for thirty-nine years and is currently on the Penn State (Berks) faculty. Holder of both a masters degree and a principal certificate from Alvernia, and now a member of our first cohort of doctoral students, Wynton is a former teacher-coach serving as the Principal of Reading High School. The recipients were presented by last year’s winners—Trustee Kathy Herbein ’95 and Coach Kevin Calabria ’03, with a former award winner, Dr. Marie Nowakowski ’61, one of our first graduates, presiding. The eloquence of our awardees’ testimonials concerning their Alvernia experience made it an inspiring day. 

At the inaugural Presidents Dinner, Alvernia honored Ron and Helen Smith with the Franciscan Award and the men and women of the Reading Police Department with the Pro Urbe Award. Both Ron, an Alvernia trustee, and Helen are active and “heroically Franciscan” servant-leaders in the Greater Reading community and widely recognized role models in the African-American community. Representatives of our local police, some of them Alvernia alumni, attended the dinner, with Chief Bill Heim accepting the award along with Mayor (and former trustee) Tom McMahon.  Among the many in attendance were members of our Criminal Justice faculty, representing one of our best recognized and most distinctive academic programs.

Members of the Business Department were understandably pleased (and relieved) by a very successful accreditation site visit by the ACBSP. A few additional steps remain in this process, but there is good reason for optimism. The prestigious American Chemical Society has selected Alvernia’s ACS Student Affiliates Chapter for Honorable Mention for the past year. Approximately 165 schools (out of 980 members) are recognized nationally. Elaine Schalck and Steve Campion were singled out for commendation for their mentoring.

Both are Men’s Soccer and Women’s Field Hockey Teams are enjoying fine seasons, including victories over regionally recognized opponents.  Megan Novogratz was featured recently on the main NCAA website as a national player of the week; she and fellow senior, Becky Macchione, have been invited to participate in the national Division III Senior All-Star Game. Alvernia is among only a handful of schools with two representatives.

Alvernia’s contributions to the Berks Literary Festival, under Sue Guay’s leadership, have been impressive, and members of our English faculty have been notable contributors. I was among those fortunate to hear Marc DiPaolo and Tom Bierowski read their prose and poetry. A first alumni dinner of the Communication/English/CIS Department featured several impressive graduates (and faculty). Larry Mazzeno provided advice and inspiration to aspiring writers (of all ages); ESPN staffer, Ryan Schiavo ’03, praised his former faculty and singled out Jodi Radosh as contributing to his extraordinary and rapid success; students and faculty alike expressed appreciation to Beth DeMeo for her leadership of the department.

The always-popular 3rd and Spuce Alumni Reception is this Thursday, beginning at 5:30. Faculty are popular attendees at this event, a reminder that when our graduates remember Alvernia, they think not about buildings but rather about staff, coaches, and especially faculty.

October is one of the busiest months for president’s meetings. I have represented Alvernia at gatherings of Pennsylvania colleges and universities; a national meeting of presidents and foundation executives in New York City; and a national leadership summit in Chicago celebrating the 20th Anniversary of Campus Compact, the major higher education organization promoting civic engagement and community service. A number of fellow presidents praised the magazine prepared by members of our Advancement staff, featuring the many events of last April’s inauguration festivities.  Significantly improved external publications and campus newsletters such as the Alvernia Almanac and the Crusader Chronicle are critical to building recognition for the contributions of our faculty and staff and especially our students and alumni.

A reminder that our theater program launches its fall production, beginning this weekend. Look forward to seeing as many of you as possible at next week’s planning sessions.

Cordially, Tom Flynn

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