Central Penn College - Inaugural Address

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Inaugural Address

Celebrating Our Future

Dr Karen M. Scolforo's Inaugural Address

Central Penn College traces its roots back to 1881; over the past 133 years our college has enjoyed a legacy of great leaders, all committed to career-focused education and student success.  I stand here today, on the shoulders of the eight presidents before me, to offer my own unique influence, nuance, and personality. 

As we celebrate our future today, to truly understand Central Penn College and its students, you must first appreciate its history and its profound family legacy.  In the 1970s, Bart and Jean Milano were very attentive to their students, providing structured guidance, while nurturing individual needs and setting high expectations, much in the ways parents do with their children. They built young people’s character and empowered them with a solid foundation for their careers. In addition to their business studies, students engaged in Charming Grooming courses; Bart Milano took students to dinner and taught them etiquette and the art of conversation. 

In 1980, Bart Milano passed the Presidential torch to his son, Todd Milano, who went on to serve as the leader of Central Penn College for the next 23 years. He transformed Central Penn from a business school to a bachelor’s and master’s degree-granting institution, all while maintaining the College’s supportive and personalized education.

While many of us believe that we are all connected within 6 degrees of separation—it is said to be a mathematical certainty—I often tease that Central Penn College connects us within just 2 degrees, for everyone I have met since my arrival in the area knows someone who graduated from Central Penn.  The history, the impact, the family connections are wide-reaching and profound. 

This is the Milano Family legacy.

With great respect for this legacy, I am honored to step into this new role, on behalf of those who have served before me.  I enthusiastically accept the charge:  the 9th President of Central Penn College.

In 2010 I conducted a research study.  My goal was to learn about a distinct cohort of women leaders in higher education:  the Catholic Sisters who have served as college presidents.  I was curious about the ways their gender and religion impacted their leadership efficacy.  I was amazed to consider that these women founded colleges and universities at a time when women and education seemed almost mismatched.  Women were expected to work in the home, to raise children, and to offer moral guidance to their husbands and their families.  Catholic Sisters challenged women to do more; to be more.  They believed that women were natural leaders; that their collaborative and nurturing approach encouraged and guided those in their charge.

As I met with my eleven participants, I began to notice a common thread in their leadership styles.  These women ran their colleges like families.  Their college communities became their kin.  And I related to them.

This idea of family, this concept of mutual concern and a holistic approach to learning, is rampant at our Central Penn College locations.  We celebrate a history of longevity, a track record of committed staff and faculty members, and a rich culture of student referrals.  We have Alvin Bock who has worked at Central Penn College for more than 30 years. Professor John DeLeo and Nancy Lockwood, who have served the College for nearly 25 years; Donna Booton, Steve Shoemaker and Professor Lynn Shuster, who have served more than 20 years; and the amazing additional group of 22 folks who have dedicated more than 10 years to Central Penn.  To the entire incredible Central Penn faculty and staff, thank you for your well wishes and confidence in me and thank you so dearly for your family connection to our college community, to our students.  They deserve your commitment and loyalty.

The faculty and staff of Central Penn College served four O’Neill children from 1972 through 1981, and four Zakutney [Zah-Coot-Nee] students from 1999-2006.  We celebrated Harolld Stahle Sr.’s 1924 graduation with a degree in accounting, followed by Harolld Stahle, Jr, a 1944 graduate. Central Penn’s alumni museum is named after Harolld Stahle Sr, by the way.  We have served multiple generations, such as Gene Roush, a 1978 computer information systems major, his daughter, Kristen Roush Heimback, a 2005 medical assistant and medical secretary graduate, and Gene’s granddaughter, Felicia Roush, all of whom were highlighted in our January 2009 PennDulum issue.  Sheila Herb Klinger, a 1982 medical assisting graduate, encouraged her daughter, Alyssa Klinger, to attend Central Penn College, where she graduated with a degree in business administration and marketing.  But it did not stop there. Alyssa’s aunt, Charlene Klinger Woodring, and her cousin, Alexis Snyder, also graduated from Central Penn College!  We are proud of Elrica Adams Finney, who attended our Lehigh Valley Center and graduated in 2013 with a degree in criminal justice administration. She raised her children as a single mother after her husband passed away.  Her sons, Eric Cousar and Ricky Cousar, also attended Central Penn College.  Eric graduated in 2013 with a degree in legal studies.  He graduated from the Widener Jurist Academy and now holds a legal research position in the Lehigh Valley area.  Ricky is currently studying criminal justice and we look forward to his graduation!  We are proud of Jacqueline Meyle Smith, a 2012 criminal justice administration graduate, recently deceased.  She was diagnosed with cancer during her studies, but continued to attend class despite her chemotherapy treatments; she was always prepared and always persisted.  She and her daughter, Courtney Smith, attended class together at our Lancaster Center, and Jacqueline’s straight As and commitment to lifelong learning served as an inspiration to her daughter and to our college community.

There are dozens of student family legacies at Central Penn College, something we proudly attribute to staff and faculty commitment to student success, as is evident in our most recent one-year graduate survey showing 87.8% of our graduates either employed in their chosen field or pursuing higher degrees.

As we shift into a new era of leadership at Central Penn College, you might wonder how things will change as we move toward our future.  It is certainly fair to expect, as with anything else in life, a certain degree of change, a reflection of my personal and professional values within our college community, and most profoundly, in our graduates.  Our values are evident in every aspect of our lives, and mine are easily identified in my children.  My commitment to education, individuality, innovation, creative problem-solving, and solid work ethic are epitomized in the successes of my family members.  My oldest daughter, Kate, graduated with her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Florida in Gainesville before earning a Dean’s fellowship at Quinnipiac University School of Law, where she just completed her second year of law school.  My daughter, Danielle, is a studio artist with a bachelor's degree in fine arts and English from the University of North Florida. Her artwork has been published in a variety of magazines, including Teen Ink, Blick, and, most recently, a six-page spread in AT Journeys magazine. My son, Joseph composed five movements for his senior jazz band performance at Bartram Trail High School, and he just completed his first year at Berklee College of Music in Boston.  Shannon, my oldest stepdaughter, is a performing artist who has certainly discovered her own voice.  She was bold enough to stay behind in Florida to complete her senior year of high school, and graduated last weekend (Congratulations, Shannon!); She was accepted to her first choice college, the University of Florida, Gainesville, where she will be studying mechanical engineering in the fall.  My youngest step children, Ryan, Lindsay, and Leo are finding their way in the world, and navigating with humility and respect. 

I am so fortunate to have a supportive and loving husband in Matthew Scolforo.  He balances me.  We recently held a fundraiser in our home, and a guest said to me, “Most of the presidents I meet are single.”  He talked about demands of the position and the potential impact on a family.  I think my response was something like, “ well, you haven’t met Matt.”  Perhaps it is because of his personal and professional confidence.  Or maybe it is his intense loyalty.  But I think, most of all, it is Matt’s desire to see those he loves succeed.  He is unselfish and supportive.  When life’s demands burden him, he asks, “what can I do to help you?”  For these things, I am truly grateful.

I am blessed to have my mother and one of my sisters here to celebrate today.  I am grateful to my parents for the solid foundation they provided me.  My mom is an incredible support system and I am in awe of her strength, especially in light of my father’s passing in 2006.  My sister, Kim, is an amazing woman and an incredible “big” sister. And Kim’s husband, Tom, has joined this group.  Kim and Tom will be married 32 years in August. The strong women in my family have a way of seeking out strong men. 

I am grateful to have my husband’s family here today, Leo, Jan, Annie, Mark and Liz Scolforo.  Thank you for making the trip for this special occasion.  I am so glad you are here to celebrate with us today.  And I am grateful for my personal friends who made this trip to offer support and well wishes.  I am so happy you are here.

Thank you all for being here. 

At Central Penn, family surrounds you. This doesn’t necessarily translate to a student’s blood family like the Zakutney siblings, but it definitely translates to our faculty members who are totally devoted to their students. Like Professor Harve Tannenbaum. Earlier this year, he overheard a very distraught student, nearly in tears, telling me in the hallway about not having a way to the train station. He walked up to us and asked her, “When do you need to be there?” He made it happen, without a second thought. I think of Associate Dean Dave Baker, who is also the head coach of our men’s basketball team. He is a father figure to many of his players, so much so that they have no problem telling each other three simple words: I love you. Another example is Dr. Barbara Maroney, our dean of graduate and professional studies, who has more than 25 years of experience teaching and advising adult students. Countless students have come to her for personal advice, especially when going through life crises. A picture of graduate Quanisa Lewis is in her office with a note that thanks her for her patience, kindness and support. It says, “Here’s something to remember me by, because I know I won’t forget you.” Family surrounds you at Central Penn.

As you look around you today, and take in the beauty of the Central Penn College campus, you should know that a very special group of people made all of this possible.  They have worked incredibly hard over the past several months to plan, to provide, and to implement.  Thank you to the Inauguration Committee for all of the work that went into this day—a special day for Central Penn College.

Thank you to the Central Penn board of directors, who lead us with dedication and passion, and for Central Penn graduates Bill Kobel and Carl Heininger who take giving back to their alma mater to the next level by serving on our board.

When speaking about Central Penn as a family, a group of individuals immediately comes to the forefront of my mind … our alumni. Graduates like Scott Shatzer who take care of their own through scholarship assistance. The same can be said about 1973 graduate Karen Hepler, here with us today, who is an Arboretum Society member of our Education Foundation. She is sponsoring scholarships so that other students can receive the wonderful education that she received. Other alumni give back by sharing their knowledge. For instance, Dr. Ann Bieber, our delegate today from Lehigh Carbon Community College, is a 1977 Central Penn alumna and has taught several courses with us.

As we move toward the future of Central Penn College, and advance our mission and goals of career-focused education, hands-on student experiences, internships, and successful employment, we look to our community partners for guidance in curriculum development and relevant programs of study, experiential learning opportunities, and graduates who hit the ground running.  Thank you to platform party speaker Dr. Ski.  You have been and will continue to be an invaluable partner in the academic community. Thank you to community members Karen and Bill Gladstone who give out a scholarship every year to a deserving student. The year they not only supported Kayonna Gross’s education, but also came to commencement to see her walk across the stage, is so touching. Thank you to all of our many community partners who are here with us today.  You are helping us to prepare our graduates to meet your needs and those of our greater community.

Just as our faculty has been doing for years as they guide and support our students, I have opened my heart and my office to our students at Central Penn College.  I am committed to increasing diversity to help us all expand our own perspectives and to appreciate the value of differences.  I encourage open dialogue and face-to-face relations.  I believe that we should use technology, know technology, but not become consumed by technology. 

We are committed to our residential students and we are committed to the holistic education of all of our students.  Our new project, The Underground, which you have already heard about, will offer a 250-seat theater, a fitness center, a professional dance studio, a game room, a writing and learning center, and a designated space for our student government officials.  Our students will gain exposure to the arts, have an opportunity to expand perspectives, and to develop the soft skills to help them succeed in life.  We are creating a family environment in which all of our students, whether residential, commuter, or online, might engage and connect with each other and with our staff and faculty members.  Furthermore, we are committed to reconnecting with our alumni, and bringing them home.  Next year we will develop an alumni office on campus, a fall Homecoming event, and opportunities for alumni connections through PennDulum magazine, spotlights on success, and additional venues for reconnection.  We anticipate expanded athletics programs and clubs, a debate team and opportunities for a wide range of campus performances.  We will see our additional locations in Lancaster and Lehigh Valley grow as they offer additional programs and expand hours of operation. 

Today it is most important to recognize that regardless of new buildings popping up on our campus, or new online platforms, or new student support services, what we must all recognize that is that Central Penn College will continue to prepare its graduates for the real world.  We recognize that we have a responsibility, as educators, to prepare our students, and ultimately, our graduates, to be accountable, responsible, and committed, to their careers, to their communities, and to their environment.  We will encourage innovation and creative problem-solving, respect for individual differences, a solid work ethic, servant leadership, and face-to-face communication.  We will invite referrals and metaphorically wrap our arms around our students to ensure their success.  So, the next time someone asks what you know about Central Penn College, feel free to let them know:  Our family is strong.