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A place we call home “Alvernia’s commitment to service and civic engagement is deeply embedded in its heritage and mission.”

Thomas F. Flynn President

4 Alvernia University Magazine

When Helen and I moved to Reading nine years ago, it quickly became much more than a place where we worked. As it is for the many who live, work and learn here, Reading became our home and our community. And we have continued to enjoy and cherish many aspects of Berks County living. Alvernia considers Reading its home too. Since its founding by Sister Mary Zygmunta, the institution has been steadfastly committed to our community, especially by providing a range of educational opportunities and serving those most in need. Today, the legacy of our foundresses is alive and thriving. In fact, unlike most colleges and universities, we view community service and civic engagement not as tangential to our work in higher education but as essential to our mission. Far beyond preparing students of all ages for their vocations as well as their careers, we contribute to the quality of life in our community through partnerships with our local neighborhoods, K–12 schools, small and large businesses, health care institutions and a multitude of nonprofit organizations in the Greater Reading area. Through our well-established South Reading Youth Initiative, Alvernia READS and the new Reading Collegiate Scholars program, our students are working with innercity children from kindergarten through high school to help them envision a brighter future. And our students are responding, as you would expect, with enthusiasm. We now anticipate that as many as 400 students will take part in each of our four annual Days of Service — whether helping kids with special needs and older residents or cleaning up parks and trails in the area. According to a recent survey, Alvernia’s impact extends beyond graduation, with an impressive 76 percent of alumni remaining active in community service after graduation. So as our alumni population grows, the number of engaged citizens also expands, across the country but also right here in Reading. Beyond the volunteer service and civic partnerships for which Alvernia’s two centers of excellence — the Holleran Center for Community Engagement and O’Pake Institute for Ethics, Leadership and Public Service — are now well known, our faculty, administrators and students make significant contributions of professional expertise to many community organizations. This spring, an entire Federal Taxation class prepared returns for low-income elderly citizens as part of the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program. Alvernia’s wide-ranging professional community service is the special kind of contribution available only at a university. Early this year, the O’Pake Institute, in partnership with the Berks County Community Foundation, produced a research-based comprehensive report that documented — with hard data and the results of public opinion surveys — conclusions on topics such as population, education, health care, crime and the environment in Berks County. The report has sparked much conversation, which we hope will evolve into initiatives that have a

positive impact on the county’s quality of life. Participants tell us that campus programs like Leadership Berks, the Seniors College, the Carpenter Science Camp, the Common Heart and other interfaith events, our Arts and Culture Series and special activities like the Vatican II Lecture Series enhance the region’s intellectual, cultural and spiritual life. And we hope our new Bog Turtle Creek Farm at Alvernia’s Cumru-based Sports Park will create better community food access in a sustainable way. Alvernia’s commitment to service and civic engagement is deeply embedded in its heritage and mission. The success of this commitment has been well documented and widely praised by state and national organizations. In fact, Alvernia is one of only 53 private institutions in the country (including Duke, Georgetown and Emory universities) recognized by the Carnegie Foundation as national models for service and civic engagement. But we don’t help our community in order to receive recognition. We do what we do because civic engagement is essential to our students’ education and important to the lives of the people who live in Reading. We also do it because it is simply the right thing to do. At freshman orientation and again on graduation day, I tell our students that, both during and after their time at Alvernia, we expect them to do well and to do good. They might not understand what that means when they first arrive on campus, but from talking to our seniors it’s perfectly clear they understand and embrace this concept by the time they move on. They leave Alvernia ready — as our vision statement promises — to be “engaged citizens and ethical leaders with moral courage.” They say home is where the heart is, and for Alvernia, as for the Flynns, our heart remains in Reading. Peace and all good,

Thomas F. Flynn President

Alvernia Magazine Summer 2014  
Alvernia Magazine Summer 2014  

Alvernia Magazine Summer 2014