Dear Pitt-Johnstown Community:
I am pleased to share with you our fourth Community Report. The Community Report is a summation of initiatives, events and accomplishments of interest to the entire Pitt-Johnstown family. The achievements and momentum captured in this report are another reminder of the talent, energy and resourcefulness of our Pitt-Johnstown family, just a few more reasons why this is such a great place to learn, work and have a little fun!
As the pendulum has swung from the first orientation event last summer to a graduation in May, another academic year entered record books. Book ends in a manner of speaking, orientation and graduation give cause to reflect on a year well spent doing the most meaningful work, transforming our world through the liberating and enlightening power of higher education.
In that regard, the elation was palpable on May 3 as another commencement event unfolded before thousands of proud faculty, parents, relatives, friends and well-wishers. In a heartwarming ceremony, about 400 students participated in our 36th annual Commencement ceremony. In addition to remarks by our honored guest Mr. Marty Radovanic, of WJAC, and the former Student Senate President, Angela Mazur, this year’s ceremony included a powerful and touching call to conscience by graduating senior Steven Kotecki. Many thanks to everyone who joined us in welcoming our graduates into the Academy of learned persons, as well as into the larger family of Pitt-Johnstown alumni. I was, indeed, honored to have been a part of this most splendid and joyful day. To all of our graduates, I wish great success as they pursue their dreams and make a difference in the real world.
The academic year that recently ended also caps a period of intense planning for the future of Pitt-Johnstown. In the last year, we completed a robust and broadly inclusive planning process that reviewed the efficacy of our institutional endeavors, examined challenges and explored new opportunities for the future. Extensive discussions involving internal and external constituencies, including our supporters, friends and alumni in the external community, culminated in a shared vision for the future. In both formal and informal settings, we discussed how to best position the institution for the future, focusing on issues such as enhancing educational quality, developing responsive programs, strengthening the living-learning environment, connecting with our communities, and ensuring that our students are better prepared for the real world of the 21st century. In the process, we embraced change and all its growing pains, recognizing that we could not afford inertia or complacency going forward. Through collaborative task forces, involving participants across the institution, we forged a vision for the future that is embraced in our New Dimension of Excellence Strategic Plan for Real-World Readiness. While the road will be long, and at times difficult, the plan provides a solid glide path, specifying matters we must attend to urgently, and targets to keep in sight if we are to do right by our legacy and serve all our constituents.
People around us are taking notice of the great things you are doing. Indeed, I have heard many favorable comments about the happenings around here. Best kept secret, no more! I was Mountain Cat Proud and brimming with satisfaction as a small sliver of our fine faculty were lauded in the Tribune Democrat for their accomplishments, typifying the many pinnacles of excellence around here. In what I am told was the first of its kind “Celebrating Faculty Excellence Gala” (May 1), we took a moment to pay respect, to pause to recognize and fete faculty for various achievements in FY’08. The gala was a capstone to just another year in the life of faculty, where the miracle of creating productive citizens out of young men and women appears routine. What I have sometimes referred to as the Citizen Factory is thriving at Pitt-Johnstown. But there is nothing routine about the alchemy involved in transforming students’ lives, preparing them for productive careers and rewarding lives of meaning and consequence in their respective communities. As the academic year ends, I am honored to take this opportunity to express heartfelt thanks to our fine faculty and staff who make this wondrous enterprise possible.
Our students’ accomplishments in the classroom were also complemented this year with stellar successes in the arena of athletic competition. From time to time, a student stands out, typifying the many of values and virtues entailed in a liberally grounded education. Last year, I had the opportunity to spend a lot of time with various students from all walks of life at events including an evening with our President’s Scholars and members of the student leadership council. My encounters with all of our students leave me hopeful about the future. One such exceptional student, evincing great maturity and depth far beyond his years, was the aforementioned Steven Kotecki. During his graduation speech, Steven shared an inspiring story about his experience growing up in the Ivory Coast in West Africa where his American parents worked as missionaries. The audience was spellbound, the room appeared to stand still in a deafening silence; several onlookers were in tears. By placing himself on the line, whether on the frontline at the request of country or in the villages of Africa out of a sense of moral and humanitarian obligation, Steven Kotecki reminded everyone to walk the walk. It was a fitting way to end the academic year.
Our hardworking staff continues to inspire me with their dedication and loyalty. Recently, Ms. Theresa Messina Horner director of the Office of Disability Services, was named the recipient of the 2008 Chancellor’s Affirmative Action Award. One of the high points this academic year was the President’s staff recognition awards in December. At that event, I recognized two of our finest, Ms. Jeanine Lawn and Ms. Marilyn Alberter, for outstanding service to Pitt-Johnstown and the community. In that same event, I was humbled and honored to recognize Mr. Tom Dupnock for 40 years of service. Tom came to the University as a Manager’s Assistant in the Bookstore in July, 1967. During another event at the Physical Plant, I had the opportunity to meet Ralph Owens, shop steward, who has served as a member of the cleaning staff for more than 35 years. People like Tom and Ralph embody the loyalty and dedication to service that make this place so special. Everyday, I try to be a president that is worthy of serving such dedicated staff, faculty and students.
Our external community is noticing, too. Alumni are becoming more involved in the affairs of their alma mater. In particular, alumni enthusiasm and attendance have been impressive at our local events, as well as during our visits to Pittsburgh and Washington, D.C. We are looking forward to an even more robust homecoming celebration this year. Throughout the area, people are commenting on our unusually positive stream of publicity, whether it has been on the front pages or on editorials and/or during the evening news. Folks were pleasantly surprised to see our Blue and Gold colors flying during the grand Showcase for Commerce in May. As I sometimes joke, Johnstown is our last name and we are proud to be at, in, and of Johnstown.
Earlier this month, we received great reason to celebrate as Governor Edward G. Rendell presented us with $4 million to support our efforts to develop our nursing and health sciences programs and related facilities. This funding makes it possible for Pitt-Johnstown to build upon our existing capacity and expertise in allied health care programs and nursing to develop and intensify cooperative partnerships with local health care providers. We are very grateful for Governor Rendell’s support and we are deeply appreciative of his commitment to the people of Cambria County and our health care needs. The generosity of the Commonwealth will help ensure that our hopes for improved health sciences education and quality health care are realized. We are very thankful for the strong support of Representative Edward Wojnaroski and Senator John Wozniak, all of our state legislators, and Congressman John P. Murtha. We also owe a debt of gratitude to our friends and supporters in the community, particularly the members of the Greater Johnstown Regional Partnership, the Pitt-Johnstown Advisory Board, and our County Commissioners P.J. Stevens, William Harris, and Milan Gjurich. Finally, it is necessary to note that our nursing/health sciences initiative is a component of the University of Pittsburgh’s commitment to enhance educational services and programs throughout western Pennsylvania, including through expanded health education. We are most appreciative of the leadership and support of the larger University of Pittsburgh.
What a year! It has been as exhilarating as it has been challenging. But it ends with the same joy that I experienced on the first day. Today, our vision going forward is clear: When it comes to preparing students for the real world of the 21st century, Pitt-Johnstown will be a leading college at the forefront of public and private baccalaureate colleges in the Northeast. Our charge is clear: we will adapt, make needed changes and redouble our efforts to sustain and enhance our relative competitiveness in a very challenging environment. Despite our prime position in the Laurel Highlands, we are not content; we continue to remain mindful of the fact that those who merely rest on their laurels will be quickly outshined by those who burnish theirs.
At the end of this academic year, I look back with amazement, marveling at so much that was accomplished through our collective efforts. One thing stands out clearly in my mind’s eye: you, yes you, every single member of the Pitt-Johnstown family, whose dedication, participation and contribution makes our story comes alive. So, it is with much appreciation and Mountain Cat pride that I share another Community Report, telling the story of our accomplishments over the last quarter, revealing how all efforts are intricately connected and focused on our primary purpose: providing a high quality educational experience that prepares students for personal and professional success in a rapidly changing world. As I have stated before, no single volume can capture the essence of all our accomplishments nor can it capture the ethos that animates this place. Yet, a report such as this continues to serve a useful reminder that our daily efforts in the service of our students and the Academy are part of something bigger, something anchored to a greater meaning and purpose. Each activity and every task, however small, is a tremendous contribution to the whole. This report like the three before it reinforces my profound sense of appreciation for each individual contribution to our collective success. I thank you for your service this year, for every single word and deed that made a positive difference to the lives of our students and community.
To view the complete Community Report, please click here.