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You will

Believe! Angels are all around us

Summer 2015

INSIDE Barrett joins board Bog Turtle is back Surf’s up for AU students

Features 7 8 11


Faculty making a difference 

2 Alvernia University Magazine


You will believe Unthinkable Diamonds are forever

20 28 36

Alumni Class Notes

46 48

Alumni flashback 

Theo Anderson

On Campus

Freshman Laura Shuman takes advantage of the Bernardine Hall student lounge to catch up on her studies.

Three questions for the Pope The pope’s “voice” is distinctive and compelling. Both his substance and his style have energized women and men of all faiths …

Thomas F. Flynn President

When Pope Francis confirmed his plans to visit Philadelphia this September, I unleashed a joyful if silent Hallelujah! It’s been 36 years since we’ve had a papal presence in Pennsylvania, the last time occurring when St. Pope John Paul II visited the area in 1979. (I was a first-year faculty member, fresh out of graduate school, teaching in Maryland, and took my Freshman Seminar to his Mass on the Washington Mall!) It is especially wonderful that this visit is part of the World Meeting of Families, for which the Pope is planning to celebrate a public Mass for an estimated 1 million people on the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art. The city’s Archbishop Charles J. Chaput shared a sentiment felt by many when he predicted that Pope Francis’ “charisma, presence and voice will electrify the gathering.” I couldn’t agree more. The pope’s “voice” is distinctive and compelling. Both his substance and his style have energized women and men of all faiths as well as Catholics. His is an affirming voice of encouragement and Christ-like charity, with a compassionate heart that certainly echoes his papal patron saint, Francis of Assisi. This modern-day Francis has been an inspirational presence at a time when religion too often is (mis)used to divide, even polarize, rather than unify people of good will. People of all ages yearn to be near Pope Francis. Even reporters are captivated by him. He is a good interview. And so, I find myself wishing for more, hoping to learn more about his vision for the Church and his related perspective on critical social and global issues. I want to be on the Papal plane, part of the media entourage that gets to know our Pope up close and personal — unguarded and unvarnished. Recently I imagined myself with the opportunity for an exclusive conversation. If I had three questions, what would I ask him? Pope Francis, you’ve painted a poetic image of the Church as a “field hospital.” Why did you pick an image so vividly different from what most people would have expected? How do you see this image shaping the work of today’s Catholic hospitals, parishes, community organizations, even universities? I imagine our Holy Father might suggest the Church should not sit back and pronounce morality from on high, but must go out to help “heal society’s wounds” by engaging directly and honestly with those deserving solace and support. I wonder if he might envision a kind of MASH unit, a place of healing on the front lines, where the need is greatest and those in need are among the most vulnerable among us — wounded emotionally and spiritually, even if not physically: single mothers; social outcasts; children trapped in poverty; those battling the disease of addiction; those imprisoned, including on death row, especially those unjustly confined; those who feel alienated from the

4 Alvernia University Magazine

Church yet hunger for Christ. This idea of the Church as a “field hospital” speaks to the very nature of our Bernardine Sisters’ and our university’s Franciscan charism, dedicated to serving the underserved. It is why we established the Holleran Center and the O’Pake Institute, and regularly commit resources toward ambitious efforts like the South Reading Youth Initiative and the Reading Collegiate Scholars Program. It is why our students are leaders in community service, both in Reading and well beyond. It is why we feature academic degree programs in social work, in behavioral health (formerly addiction studies), in counseling, in nursing, occupational therapy and the healthcare sciences, and why we have launched a doctorate in physical therapy. It is why we share with other worthy organizations a deep commitment to our community’s well-being and are partnering with healthcare services to bring free medical aid into the poorest areas of our city. It is why we strive to prepare our graduates to be “engaged citizens … and ethical leaders with moral courage.” Your Holiness, your widely quoted comment — “who am I to judge?” — has stayed with me for quite some time. Can you say more about what you had in mind? I imagine Pope Francis would look intently at me and perhaps say, kindly but directly, well what do YOU think I meant? He might then remind me of biblical passages where Christ embraces Samaritans, lepers, public sinners, even as he chastises the Pharisees for preoccupation with “the law,” and instead preaches a counterculturally provocative, embracing and inclusive gospel. I think the Pope might say that Catholics, other believers and even Church leaders like himself should leave judgment to God. We might then focus more on being better people ourselves, embracing our brothers and sisters in love, and celebrating the diverse talents, contributions and spiritualties of those around us, including those with whom we differ, even those with whom we disagree profoundly on important matters. Finally, with a mischievous smile, I would ask: So, tell me, Holy Father, what should a kid from the streets of Boston, and president of an East Coast Catholic university, make of your comment that “our leaders should smell like sheep?” I suspect that in his answer I would see

top right: Franco Origlia, Getty images; left: Ed Kopicki

some of the well-known wit and humor of Jorge Mario Bergoglio as well as glimpsing the impact of his Argentinian background. Perhaps he might ask me if I recall the presence of humble shepherds at the nativity or the biblical image of God as the Good Shepherd. I suspect he might also note that today’s leaders should be “servant-leaders” — not imperial figures. He might cite someone like Bishop Sean O’Malley of my hometown in Boston (originally from Reading), who sold lavish archdiocesan properties and is living simply, not grandly. He might say that leaders should know well those whom they serve and ask if, at Alvernia, faculty and staff (and the deans and executives) really care about their students. He might ask me if Alvernia educates people of modest or limited means, not just the children of privilege and wealth. And I would be able to say that, at Alvernia, inspired by our Bernardine Franciscan Sisters, our students are first and foremost in all that we are and all that we do. And that, today in 2015, as in our earliest years, Alvernia is passionately committed to being a place of opportunity for deserving students of all ages, all faiths, all backgrounds. Perhaps, even without an interview, Pope Francis has already spurred my thinking, more than I realized. So now you know my questions. What would you ask?

Introducing Learning made easy

Peace and all good, Tom Flynn

Online certification & degree programs

On Campus AU HOSTS VISTAS The Corporation for National and Community Service and Pennsylvania Campus Compact named Alvernia to host two PACC*VISTA members for projects focused on college access and success, and nutritious food access and education. The PACC*VISTA program is geared to strengthen campus-community efforts to eradicate poverty, develop partnerships between campus and community organizations, and foster emerging leaders in the fields of community development and civic engagement.

Winters Receive Weitzman Award
 Two of the area’s most respected community members, Chester and RoseMarie Winters, were presented with the Rabbi Alan Weitzman Award in April. Lifelong residents of Berks County with a history of service to the community, the Winters have been extremely active in the region, serving more than 20 nonprofit organizations, including Alvernia, Saint Joseph’s Medical Center Foundation and the Children’s Home

Anchors away!

of Reading, among others. The award recognizes civic-mindedness, draws attention to the importance of civic engagement and encourages others to give of themselves through community service. It is given in honor of Rabbi Weitzman’s remarkable lifelong commitment to addressing the needs

Carnegie Foundation Recognizes Alvernia

the longtime Director of the Alvernia Seniors College.

Chester and RoseMarie Winters

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The Carnegie Foundation selected Alvernia as one of only 23 institutions in Pennsylvania and 361 across the nation to receive its newest Community Engagement Classification. Other schools receiving the national recognition included Duke, Emory, Villanova and Notre Dame universities. “We are proud to have our community and civic engagement programs once again recognized by the Carnegie Foundation as among the very best examples within higher education. Through the Holleran Center for Community Engagement and O’Pake Institute for Ethics, Leadership and Public Service, Alvernia continues to integrate community service and civic engagement throughout our university. These efforts ensure our students are well trained to make a positive difference in the world after they graduate,” said Alvernia University President Thomas F. Flynn. The Carnegie 10-year classification acknowledges a commitment to community engagement in higher education and reaffirms an institutional commitment to deepen the practice of service and to further strengthen bonds between campus and community. Carnegie labeled several of Alvernia’s endeavors as “excellent,” including alignment among campus mission, culture, leadership, resources and practices that support dynamic and noteworthy community engagement. The foundation also said that the university showed “exemplary institutionalized practices of community engagement.”

top center: Ron Saari; Top left: GoGreaterReading

of others, as well as his service as

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RIGHT: John Shetron

Building on its nationally recognized commitment to civic leadership, Alvernia is working to identify ways the organization can serve as a major community “anchor institution,” helping mobilize efforts to address challenges facing the area.

Building on its nationally recognized commitment to civic leadership, Alvernia is working to identify ways the organization can serve as a major community “anchor institution,” helping mobilize efforts to address challenges facing the area. Through the university’s O’Pake Institute for Ethics, Leadership and Public Service, the university aims to leverage its talent, purchasing power, facilities and investments to address community needs and organizational goals. The O’Pake Institute is also helping other local organizations committed to community revitalization. Dave Myers, the O’Pake Institute’s director, and key Alvernia faculty have been helping Reading Health explore its own role as an anchor institution and how it can further leverage its resources to add value to the Greater Reading community. “Institutions like Alvernia and Reading Health and other potential community partners are committed to contributing their expertise to improve the city’s economy and are focused on influencing success that reaches beyond the institutional walls and into the neighboring areas,” said Alvernia President Thomas F. Flynn. “We at Alvernia are ready to work closely with others in this worthy endeavor that is vital to the long term wellbeing of Reading and Berks County.”

No Place Like Home’s Best Colleges poll recently ranked Alvernia’s student residence halls sixth best in Pennsylvania, a testament to the university’s ongoing investments in residential facilities. Niche also ranked Alvernia’s campus as one of the 20 best in the Keystone state, affirming what many already know — that Alvernia is a great place to live and learn!

Barrett joins Board Alvernia’s Board of Trustees recently welcomed Paula Barrett as a new member. The department head for Reinsel Kuntz Lesher’s Business Consulting Services Group and Consulting Services Functional Leader, Barrett’s areas of expertise include assisting clients with the acquisition or sale of businesses and providing business planning services. She specializes in tax-exempt bond financing, including bond verifications and arbitrage rebate computations. Barrett has been the recipient of the Greater Reading Chamber of Commerce and Industry ATHENA Award, the Lehigh Valley Business Women of Influence Award and Pennsylvania’s Best 50 Women in in Business Award.

Run for a Brighter Future Runners of all ages came out in support of a worthy cause for the Brighter than the Sun 5K and Fun Run, held on Alvernia’s campus. Proceeds benefitted Alvernia’s Reading Collegiate Scholars Program launched last year in partnership with the Olivet Boys & Girls Club. Through the program, high school students living in Reading and active as Olivet members receive four years of “college readiness” support so they can set their sights on enrolling at, attending and graduating from the college of their choice.

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On Campus New online programs Alvernia Online continues to grow, adding in-demand, fully online programs for working professionals on the go. In addition to the programs currently being offered — an RN to BSN completion degree, MBA and a master’s certification in special education — new offerings available beginning this fall include bachelor’s degrees in healthcare science, business and behavioral health. Visit for more details.

MAC scholar athletes

Robert Waller, left, works with students at Bog Turtle Creek Farm.

Students Joshua Wollaston, Kaitlyn Yoh, and Katie Fitzharris received the Middle Atlantic Athletic Conference’s highest honor: the distinction of Scholar Athlete. Candidates are chosen on athletic and academic achievement with awards given to one outstanding conference senior from each men’s and women’s MAC-sponsored sport. Wollaston is an accounting major and standout midfielder for the men’s soccer team. Yoh is an athletic training major and member of the women’s basketball team. Fitzharris, a member of the women’s golf team, is a biology/pre-veterinarian major.

DPT Debut Alvernia’s Doctor of Physical Therapy program is welcoming its inaugural class this August. The program is attracting interest from prospective students seeking to develop as graduates who are prepared to assume leadership roles in addressing community-based health concerns. The program is offered in a traditional (4+3) and accelerated format (3+3) that allows Alvernia students who are admitted as undergraduate freshmen into one of four majors (biochemistry, biology, healthcare science or psychology) to begin the professional phase of the curriculum in their senior year. After achieving the necessary GPA and completing all requirements, these students are guaranteed admission and can expect to complete their undergraduate training and doctoral degrees within six years.

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Baseball, women’s tennis Championship Most Valuable Player Louis Marotta nailed down a five-out save as topseeded Alvernia won its second Commonwealth Conference Baseball Championship with a 6-1 victory over Widener University. Conference Player of the Year Ben Sawyer went 2-for-5 with two RBIs, and Joe Iacobellis’ pinch hit in the ninth drove in two runs. Ryan Sheekey earned the win (in relief going six innings allowing a run on seven hits,) and Marotta went 1.2 innings to earn his first save of the year. The win gave Alvernia a ticket to the NCAA Regional Tournament for the sixth time in the last seven years. The second-seeded Alvernia women’s tennis team defeated top-seeded Lebanon

Valley College 5-1 to claim its first ever Commonwealth Conference Women’s Tennis title. Less than a week after earning Conference Player of the Year honors, senior Julie Seidel added the Championship MVP title to her credits. She teamed with Jennifer Petrilla to win 9-7 at No. 1 doubles then earning a second point with a 6-1, 6-4 win at No. 1 singles. Cassandra Noray also earned a pair of points teaming with Becca Perkins to a 9-7 win at No. 2 doubles then taking the No. 4 singles match, 6-2, 6-1. Alyssa Boyd bounced back form an 8-6 defeat at No. 3 doubles to claim a convincing 6-0, 6-1 win at No. 5 singles. With the title, the Crusaders qualified for the NCAA Championships for the team’s first time.

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Bog Turtle is back!

Bog Turtle Creek Farm, that is. This in-

New SI program unveiled Students helping students is the key to an innovative peer-assisted academic support initiative designed to help Alvernia students with difficult courses. Called the Supplemental Instruction (SI) Program, the initiative uses student leaders to conduct informal study sessions each week for peers enrolled in the course. And while students are able to take advantage of formal one-on-one tutoring

being done at Bog Turtle Creek Farm) as

sessions in the university’s Learning

novative initiative is entering its second

a learning tool that can be implemented

Center, these study sessions offer

year of growing organic produce at the

in the future to fix social problems …”

an interactive peer-to-peer setting in

university’s Cumru-based Sports Park.

Produce grown at Bog Turtle Creek

The garden is a student-led response to

Farm is sold at the Penn Street Farm-

help address affordable healthy food op-

er’s Market in Reading. The market is

tions for low-income families.

open to the public and participates in

which students can compare notes, discuss readings and classwork, as well as study for tests.

Newman Scholar Named

“The farm responds to the societal is-

SNAP (the Supplemental Nutrition As-

sue of food security by growing produce

sistance Program), a federal nutrition

Campus Compact named Alvernia’s

and selling it in an area of Reading that

assistance effort that provides vouch-

Robert Waller, an accounting major

lacks adequate access to healthy food,”

ers to eligible, low-income individuals

from Center Moriches, N.Y., as a

explains Holleran Center for Community

and families to supplement their diets

Engagement volunteer and Newman

with (locally grown) produce. The pro-

across the country who have demon-

Scholar Robert Waller.

duce is also used in Alvernia’s Student

strated a significant commitment to

Center Cafeteria.

their community. Waller, a U.S. Army

“I see community service (like work

Newman Civic Fellow. The award recognizes promising student leaders

veteran formerly stationed in Iraq, has shown the depth of this commitment

claim conference crowns

through involvement in many servicerelated initiatives both on campus and in the Greater Reading community. He joins other past Alvernia recipients, including Jennifer Kingman, Brandi Loga and Kevin Shainline.

Curtain call Alvernia’s Theatre ensemble was invited

RIGHT: Jon King (2); Top, inset: Alicia Sprow

to present its production of “Low Level Panic” at the 47th annual Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival in Cleveland. Led by Professors Nathan Thomas and Brian Prather, the performance featured the talents of students Jaliza Cruz-Hererra, Katie Evans and Chiara Marone, who were well-prepared for the unique challenges of a regional performance. The production was one of eight from the region to be featured in

Ben Sawyer

Julie Seidel

this year’s festival.

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On Campus NEW MAJORS LAUNCH Alvernia is rolling out a pair of new academic majors this fall in high-growth fields that have strong employment opportunities. The business department has designed a new finance major to prepare students for opportunities in financial analysis, banking, insurance and investments. Also new is an innovative major in environmental biochemistry for students interested in careers within the burgeoning pharmaceutical, health science and environmental fields. The major includes a community and environmental sustainability component integrated throughout the curriculum.

Moore headlining Author, youth advocate, combat veteran and social entrepreneur Wes Moore is headlining this year’s First Year Seminar Lecture in the fall. The host of “Beyond Belief” on the Oprah Winfrey Network, Moore will discuss his New York Times and Wall Street Journal best-seller, “The Other Wes Moore.”

Reading youth initiative growing This spring, the South Reading Youth Initiative served an average of 50 first and second graders daily at the Millmont Elementary School located less than a mile from Alvernia’s Reading campus. With the help of university transportation, students from St. Peter’s Parochial School in downtown Reading were also able to participate in the program, receiving homework help as well as other educational enrichment activities from volunteers. Alvernia’s transcultural nursing class offered additional enrichment to SRYI students through presentations on different subjects such as nutrition, dental health, preventive health and health careers. “We’re creating a much more directed and substantial education intervention,” said Jay Worrall, director of the Holleran Center for Community Engagement. “We’re hoping to offer that to students from other places in South Reading, not just students at Millmont.” The South Reading Youth Initiative was created in 2006 to provide a positive environment for young people and promote continued education. “I think it’s what we had envisioned when we started,” said Jessica Umbenhauer, assistant director of the Holleran Center. “That students would find their purpose in life, and their time with us would somehow stick with them and make a difference.”

Designed specifically for Alvernia’s new students, the First Year Seminar promotes academic success, personal growth and community engagement.

Distributed Systems Services (DSS) and Alvernia have joined forces through the university’s Pathways Partnership. The program provides professional development and training for regional and national organizations like Penske Truck Leasing and Reading Health System. DSS President Jim Sweeney and his leadership team will work with Don Schalk, Alvernia’s director of business & corporate development, to develop strategic planning initiatives that will support revenue growth for the company. Recognized as one of the fastest-growing managed service providers in North America, DSS is headquartered in Wyomissing, Pa.

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Threepeaters Coach Mike Miller and the men’s basketball team earned another trip to the NCAA Division III Championship Tournament this season, fresh off their impressive three-peat Commonwealth Conference Championship performance and their fourth title win in the last five years. Miller also picked up his 200th career win, making him just the second men’s basketball coach at Alvernia to reach this milestone, placing him one spot behind Jack McCloskey for the school’s all-time win record.

left: jon king; Above: reading eagle

Good company

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Counseling Kudos Millmont Elementary School students Analise Viera, left, and her sister Genesis get help with homework from Alvernia’s Megan Whary.

Alvernia’s Behavioral Health program recently landed at No. 14 on the list of “Top 25 Small Colleges for a Counseling Degree.” The unique program, designed for individuals seeking expertise and employment in social service agencies supporting the areas of behavioral health, prepares students to enter into professions providing prevention, intervention and treatment in addiction, mental health and child welfare. The poll’s ranking methodology is based on size, accreditation, graduation, and retention rates and price.

Founders Day Speaker Alvernia will bring to a close its multi-year commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the Second Vatican Council during its annual Founders Day celebration on Sept. 17 with a presentation on “Theology of Baptism” from guest speaker Angela Carmella. A professor of law at Seton Hall University, Carmella is known for her intellectual focus on the intersection of law and religion, specifically the First Amendment’s religion clauses, religious land use and Catholic social thinking.

Surf’s up for AU students It’s not often you hear the cry of “surf’s up!” on a landlocked campus. But that’s exactly what’s happening at Alvernia this summer, thanks to the new Student Undergraduate Research Fellows (SURF) program that is debuting. Funded in part through a generous gift from Board Chair Joanne Judge and her husband Rick Oppenheimer, the initiative is designed to provide students with valuable, hands-on research experience in their major areas of study in collaboration with faculty scholars. “Many Alvernia students come to campus armed with the hearts of great scholars and minds of great researchers,” said Provost Shirley Williams. “The SURF program is giving them the fuel they need to act on their intellectual passions.” Research topics cut across an array of fields and include efforts such as Examining the Neuroprotective Effects of Glycyl-prolyglutamic Acid and Analyzing Benefits of Incorporating Playful Activities into Elderly Lifestyles. “It’s a wonderful opportunity,“ said Williams, “to expand collaborative student and faculty research, and increase opportunities for our students to get hands-on experience in realworld projects.”

Wolford honored Kate Wolford, president of The McKnight Foundation, a Minnesota-based foundation supporting a wide range of endeavors including the arts, education and energy, was awarded an honorary doctorate of humane letters degree at Alvernia’s May commencement ceremony. She was also the featured commencement speaker. More than 350 graduates walked across the stage at the Santander Arena to receive their hard-earned degrees during the ceremony that also featured student speaker Andrew Kaucher.

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Periscope Alvernia’s faculty making a difference

Peggy Bowen-Hartung, Ph.D., CTS

Bongrae Seok, Ph.D.

Neil Penny, Ed.D.

Associate Professor

Chair, Occupational

Caroline Fitzpatrick, Ph.D.

Chair, Psychology

of Philosophy


Associate Professor

Associate Professor

of Communication and

of Occupational Therapy


and Counseling Associate Professor of Criminal Justice

Dr. Bowen-Hartung copresented “The Death Penalty: Effective or Not?” with Alvernia criminal justice student Jonathneal Peña at the Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences Annual Meeting in Orlando, Fla. She also copresented “Victims: A Trek Through Juarez and the Sea” at the same event with Alvernia student Michael Syrylo.

Dr. Seok published a series of essays about Mindfulness Meditation and its philosophical and cognitive neuro-scientific implications in Buddhism and Culture — a South Korean Buddhist magazine. Dolores B. Bertoti, DPT Chair, Allied Health

Bongrae Seok

AND Human Services Professor of Physical Therapy

Kimberly J. Stoudt, Ed.D., LAT, ATC, EMT Athletic Training

Rosemarie Chinni, Ph.D. Chair, Science AND Mathematics Associate Professor of Chemistry/Forensic Science

Dr. Chinni coauthored “High Pressure Liquid Chromatography (HPLC) Determination of Additives in Various Drinks” with two students — Daniel Kwasniewski and Ryan Cupo — focusing on quantifying caffeine, riboflavin, niacinamide, D-pantothenic acid and pyridoxine•HCl in carbonated beverages, enhanced water and energy drinks using HPLC. It was published in the Journal of Undergraduate Chemistry Research, 2014.

Program Director Assistant Professor,

Dr. Penny published “An Investigation of Moral Distress Experienced by Occupational Therapists.” The Moral Distress Scale-Revised (MDSR-OHPa.) was distributed to a nationwide sample of occupational therapists. The results found that occupational therapists reported moderate levels of moral distress and that occupational therapists who were considering leaving their current position reported the highest levels of moral distress.

Assistant Professor of Biology

Drs. Fitzpatrick and Heinze co-led a group of Alvernia undergraduate students in a short-term study abroad and missionary experience exploring water filtration solutions for Los Tres Brazos — a poverty-stricken area of Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. Spencer S. Stober, Ed.D. Professor of Biology and Educational Leadership

Assistant Athletic Trainer

Drs. Bertoti and Stoudt presented their research titled “Student-Driven Learning: Utilization of a Capstone Project to Transition Students from Undergraduate Study to Professional Practice; the Role of Professors as Guideposts in Crossing That Bridge” at the International Conference on Education and New Developments, Madrid, Spain, June 2014. Adopting innovative instructional techniques guiding students as autonomous, collaborative learners fosters lifelong professional learning. Education compels educators not to “pour in” content but to literally “lead learners out,” engaging in active discovery, critical thinking and concrete knowledge application. Their research focused on capstone course processes resulting in student-driven learning.

Adam Heinze, Ph.D.

Adam Heinze, Ph.D. Assistant Professor of Biology

Ryan Lange, Ph.D. Assistant Professor of Communication

Rosemarie Chinni

Peter Rampson Assistant Professor of Graphic Arts

Erin Way, Ph.D. Assistant Professor of Psychology

Drs. Ryan Lange, Erin Way, Peter Rampson and Adam Heinze published “Write Club: The Formation of Junior Faculty in the Franciscan Intellectual Tradition” in the Journal of the Association of Franciscan Colleges and Universities.

Neil Penny

Dr. Stober and David Humphreys (Open University, U.K.) coedited a volume titled, “Transitions to Sustainability: Theoretical Debates for a Changing Planet,” published by Common Ground Publishing LLC, 2014. The book was recognized at a book launch and reception in the Copenhagen City Hall, Denmark, on Jan. 21, 2015. Vera Brancato, Ed.D., MSN, RN, CNE Professor of Nursing

Dr. Brancato earned the designation Certified Nurse Educator (CNE) after meeting strict eligibility criteria, and successfully completing a rigorous certification examination developed and administered by the National League for Nursing.

Notable Several Alvernia faculty members were recognized at the annual Honors Convocation this spring. • Nominated by students and alumni, Scott Ballantyne, Ed.D., PRSBA (associate professor of business) earned the Teaching Excellence Award for excellence and innovation in teaching among full-time faculty at Alvernia. • Carol Schwanger, MM (associate professor of music) received the Sister Mary Donatilla Award for long service to the university in teaching, advising, service and support as a full-time faculty member. • Receiving the Saint Bernardine Faculty Award for excellence in part-time teaching were behavioral health instructor Kathleen Noll and mathematics intructor Michael DeSantis (posthumously).

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During the summer of 2013, Jodi Radosh, associate professor of English and communication, was thriving, balancing her role as successful mom, wife and scholar. Her life was about to change, in the

in a blink

blink of an eye. ď ľ

Alvernia University Magazine



The journey begins Driving to the hospital was horrendous. Despite closed eyes and sunglasses, I thought I was going to be sick. The traffic, the honking, even the birds chirping outside — they were all driving me insane. What was happening to me? I realized

By Jodi Radosh something was very wrong and I was scared. After several medical evaluations and a string of tests including CT scans and MRIs, it was determined I had a bad concussion. My entire life came to a screeching halt. From that horrible day to the present, nothing would be the same. My symptoms continued. I was so fatigued, practically in bed all the time sleeping the days away. I had no energy and constant horrible migraines. Even with all the shades drawn, I was extremely sensitive to noise and light. I would suffer bad bouts of vertigo when trying to do the smallest activity like walking outside to get the mail. For any relief I had to stay isolated with little or no contact with people. I kept hoping all of this would go away, and I would

miraculously wake up fine. I wanted my life to return to normal. However, I was now unable to start my new semester at Alvernia. I could not drive a car, use a computer, look at my iPhone or even read a book. It was horrible and extremely depressing. Lee now had a huge burden placed upon him. He had to do everything from grocery shopping, preparing meals and helping the girls with homework to carpooling and doing the laundry. I was not capable of doing much of anything.

A diagnosis and plan It took nearly two months after my initial injury before I was strong enough to begin therapy at Bryn Mawr Rehabilitation Hospital in Malvern. Here the reasons for

previous page and this spread: Theo Anderson

uly 17, 2013, was a date I will never forget. It was in the middle of a summer heat wave. I was doing 18 things at once, including working on a summer research grant with a colleague in my department. A new refrigerator had just been delivered to my house. I was giving my old one a good thorough cleaning since it was going into the garage; I wasn’t even thinking as I stood up quickly. Then, it happened in a blink of an eye. BANG! I hit my head REALLY HARD — on the open top freezer door. My vision went black. I started seeing stars and felt sick. I was crying because it hurt so badly. My daughters called my husband, Lee, a family physician. He told me to ice the injury and stay still. The rest of the day it was just a headache. BANG!!! BANG!!! BANG!!! I felt like someone was smashing my head with a hammer, and it would not stop! I woke up the next morning in unbelievable pain. I could hardly get out of bed. I couldn’t stand up, let alone walk. The room was spinning. I felt like I just got off a roller coaster. The slightest bit of light was excruciating. I was disoriented; my whole body ached. I was tired and had no energy. The sound of any voice now seemed loud and irritating. The pounding in my head kept getting worse. I needed to walk so slowly and lean on my husband for support. I felt like a 90-year-old woman as he helped me into the car.

What should you do? Ever sustain a blow to your head from an accident or jolt that left you feeling light-headed? You may have a mild traumatic brain injury or concussion. What should you do? Here are helpful tips from Get prompt medical attention. If you think you may have a concussion, go see a doctor and tell him Jodi Radosh works with students in Alvernia’s media suite.

how you are feeling. Many people may have a headache or dizziness for a day or so and then recover fully, but a small number who sustain a concussion develop bleeding or a blood clot that can be life-threatening. Get the proper test. Depending on symptoms, age and severity of injury, you may need specialized testing. Here are some of the most common: A neurological test assesses motor and sensory skills, functioning of cranial nerves, hearing, speech, vision and balance. A CT scan provides X-ray images of the brain to help look for bleeding or swelling. An MRI provides detailed pictures of the brain using magnetic energy instead of radiation. Rest. Simple as it sounds, rest is the best treatment for a concussion. At least initially, rest means not reading, not listening to music and not watching TV. It means no texting, no email and no cell phone! Rest is cognitive as well as physical rest. If symptoms persist after you have gotten medical care, call your healthcare provider again. Be persistent, and find a provider who specializes in treating traumatic brain injury.

my disabilities were finally explained to me. When I hit my head, my brain was rattled and possibly shifted inside my skull. Damage was on a microscopic, cellular level. This affected my vestibular system, causing my eyes to have difficulty processing motion. In addition, my brain’s cells were having trouble producing energy, which is why I was very fatigued. I learned a concussion is really a traumatic brain injury (TBI) that can take a very long time to heal. Victims may look fine on the outside but can be completely incapacitated. It’s difficult to fathom because other injuries — like a broken arm — may only take weeks or months to heal. In the months after my concussion, I learned of others in Berks County suffering from traumatic brain injuries like mine. This was reassuring; many are aware of athletes with concussions, but others are afflicted as well. I was able to reach out to them and form a support group. Today, there are about seven of us, and we have become close friends. I am also trying to start a support group at the university. Many postconcussive students have come to me for assistance and advice. I feel very fortunate to have the support and understanding from the Alvernia community,

especially Dr. Flynn, Dr. Shirley Williams, Dr. Beth Aracena, Jay Worrall, the Holleran Center for Community Engagement, Beth DeMeo, my department chair and Human Resources. The administration, faculty, staff and students have all been so wonderful! I really appreciate their kindness!

Back to school After being away from teaching full time for more than a year, I was finally able to return to the classroom last fall on a part-time basis. But I still suffer some effects from the TBI. I carry earplugs and sunglasses at all times because I remain somewhat sensitive to light and noise. On occasion, I get fatigued and dizzy, and headaches are still an ongoing part of the condition. However, I am well on my way to recovery and can finally see the light at the end of the tunnel. I taught one course in the fall, and during the spring semester I taught two. I am even getting out with my family and can go to the mall for a bit. It seems I am now on a slow, steady road to recovery.

A new mission Life teaches us all many lessons; some are more painful Continued on page 50

Alvernia University Magazine


Now The future is

By Jon King

So no one would be surprised that the overachievers would have futures that are equally as bright as their pasts. In fact, their real legacy may be based not on what they achieved on the court during their years on campus, but off court as successful professionals in their fields of choice … medicine, law and business.

For years the trio terrorized league opponents, often playing the role of underdogs and comeback kids. And during the offseason, they “played” equally hard in the classroom, excelling academically as well as athletically.

There are many ways of describing the three talented seniors who led Coach Mike Miller’s Crusaders to their third consecutive Commonwealth Basketball Championship this spring. Committed, talented, fast, fearless.

The lawyer With preseason speculation centering on the loss of All-American forward Brian Parker and career assist leader Chris

s r e d a s u Cr

Davis, double-digit wins in ’14-’15 seemed to be in question. That certainly would have put an end to recent postseason success — Alvernia was 6-0 in Commonwealth Conference tournament games since joining the league for the 2009-10 season. “I thought the same thing,” said Harrison Deyo of the preseason prognostication. “Before the season started, people were asking, ‘how are you going to be this year?’ It’s the same answer all the time. If we can just make the playoffs and win a few games, you never know what can happen.” The Crusaders made it in on the final day of the regular season — with a big win over crosstown rival Albright — to finish third in a four-way tie for second. They survived a scare from Arcadia in the first-round game, then destroyed top-seeded

on H a r rDi seyo

Lycoming in the semifinal to set up a league championship rematch at nemesis Stevenson. Deyo was a major factor in Alvernia’s success all season and especially in the win streak down the home stretch, with strong scoring and consistent defense keying crucial victories. And now, with three rings to his


name, he is ready to move on without regret. “My body has taken the toll,” said the 6’6” center. “I want to continue my education. I graduated in May with a degree in criminal justice administration, and now I’m applying to law school.” Deyo has family in Texas and California, and has been looking at schools there. Of the three seniors — all of whom hailed from within an hour of campus and fly to another part of the country to continue pursuing his passions. “I’m leaning toward criminal law,” said Deyo. “I want to be in a courtroom somewhere defending people.” It makes total sense for a guy who spent the better part of the last four years defending Jack McCloskey Court.

18 Alvernia University Magazine

Kirby Turner

previous page and this spread: Theo Anderson

— he seems the most likely to spread his wings

Crusader s

The entrepreneur Lamont Clark was the insurance policy head coach Mike Miller cashed in on time and again to ensure his team’s success. It was Clark who lit a fire under his teammates with an impassioned halftime speech during the Commonwealth Championship at Stevenson this spring, with his Crusaders facing a 33-17 halftime deficit. Clark scored 14 of his teamhigh 22 points in the second half, and Alvernia walked off the floor with its third straight conference crown and fourth in the last five years. Ironically, the Lamont Clark known by most on campus is quite different from the red-faced maniac emblazoned with the number 21 jersey that ruled the hardwood. In the classroom, and on campus, Clark is demure and reserved. Yes, sir. No, sir. In his own words: quiet, shy and laid back. But inside the locker room, Clark became pure, unreserved

Lamon C l a r kt

motivation. “I’ve never seen anything like that in the history of the program,” said fellow senior Deyo of Clark’s impassioned plea during the Stevenson game. “It’s serious when he gets serious,” continued Deyo. “You’re so scared of the result that you change the behavior.” Clark, the college graduate, plans to continue to lead by example, and wants to cash in on his entrepreneurial spirit by opening his own business in a field he made famous as a player … the insurance industry. And if sport imitates life and past performance is any indicator of future success, then expect to find him somewhere within earshot of his home in Parkesburg, Pa., taking care of his own. It’s what he’s done for the last four years as a member of the men’s basketball program.

The doctor “The first MAC Championship I was pretty spoiled,” said Kirby Turner, the resilient member of the trio that graduated with three

the upper-tier schools.” He would really like to get into Vanderbilt. “That’s the game plan,”

Commonwealth titles and an ECAC Crown. “This year it was relief. We

continued Turner. “Hopefully by a year from this fall, I’ll be enrolling

came back again. I didn’t want to be the senior class that stopped it.”

at Vanderbilt.” If there’s anything he’s learned from his days as a

An Elizabethtown, Pa., native, Turner secured a spot on the 2015 Middle Atlantic Conference Academic Honor Roll with a 3.9 GPA in his major of biochemistry. But his aspirations include a much bolder vision — becoming a medical doctor. Turner plans to take a year off from school before shopping for a med school, hoping to first land a job at Lancaster Labs so he can get some relevant real-world experience. “I took my MCATs and did pretty well,” said Turner. “With my GPA

Crusader, it’s that his passion and hard work have led to the success he’s enjoyed. But it was success that almost never was. Turner had an offer on the table to be a preferred walk-on for baseball at Bucknell, but turned it down to pursue a passion for basketball at Alvernia. “I’m a pretty analytical guy,” admitted Turner. “Baseball is such a reactionary sport, and I like to think a lot. Basketball is more of a chess match. You have to be in the right position, and you have to

and some letters of recommendation, if I can get my test scores up

be thinking all the time. Baseball was just what I did when basketball

just a little bit, and with some job experience, I think I can get into

season was over. I’d grab my glove and hit in the open gym.”

You will

Believe! Theo Anderson

Angels are all around us

22 Alvernia University Magazine

Young George Bailey was balancing on the edge of a bridge, two toes away from a jump, when he had his first angelic encounter with Clarence Oddbody, AS2. “Hey, what’s an AS2?” wondered Bailey aloud. “Angel Second Class,” quipped Clarence. “I haven’t won my wings, yet. That’s why I’m called an Angel Second Class.” Wingless but lovable, Oddbody made his screen debut in Frank Capra’s “It’s a Wonderful Life,” leading a generation to ponder angels and their presence all around us … and leading Bailey to reconsider his fatal plunge. Nearly 70 years later, angelic interest has hit a fervor pitch. A 2011 Associated Press poll showed nearly eight in 10 Americans believe in angels. That belief is often linked to religion, with 88 percent of Christians, 95 percent of evangelical Christians and 94 percent of those who attend weekly religious services of any sort saying they believe in angels. But most nonChristians think angels exist too, as do more than four in 10 of those who never even attend religious services.

By Susan Shelly

None of this comes as a surprise to Frederick Mannella, Ph.D., who spoke on all things angelic to a riveted audience of Alvernians and area residents at the Reading-based McGlinn Conference Center of the Bernardine Franciscan Sisters earlier this year. The former parish minister and instructor at both St. Thomas University and Catholic University said God and angels are very much alive and working in the world. Mannella says angels are all around us, despite claims from skeptics who discount them because they can’t be seen or scientifically proven. We only need to be attentive to their presence to know they are there. “God’s providence is real. There’s an invisible world behind the scenes that’s really operative in our lives,” Mannella says. While angels are more prevalent in the Catholic tradition than in many other faiths, people of 

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23 21

any religion can touch the invisible world as they draw nearer to God, according to Mannella. In fact, many faithful believe angels are sent from God to help those in need. It is a commonly held belief that in times of turmoil, life-threatening situations or even death, God will send them if He desires and if we seek their intercession. Father Richard Brensinger ’86 is well acquainted with angels, both theologically and personally. An Alvernia alumnus who serves as Catholic chaplain for Kutztown University and Albright College, Fr. Brensinger recalled an experience of being saved from serious injury by his guardian angel after taking a tumble off a ladder. Sister Roberta Agnes McKelvie, assistant to the president for mission integration and education at Alvernia, also has had firsthand experience with her guardian angel. “I’ve had four or five experiences

22 Alvernia University Magazine

throughout my lifetime where I believe my guardian angel has protected me,” she said, noting that some were even lifesaving events. Some actually see and communicate with angels, like Lorna Byrne, whose book “Angels in My Hair” is an international best-seller. “I see angels every day and always have … I cannot remember a time when I have not seen angels,” she said in her book. “I see them as physically as I see my daughter sitting across the dinner table from me and I talk with them as I talk with other people, although I can also communicate with them without words.” Byrne says every person has a guardian angel, regardless of his or her religion, nationality or belief in God. “Your guardian angel is trying to help you. It is a gift from God and it never leaves you for one moment, from before your birth to after your death,” she said.

top left: Everett Collection; right: Theo Anderson

Hollywood has had its share of angelic superstars but none more endearing than Clarence Oddbody, angel second class (left). Portrayed by Henry Travers, Oddbody earned his wings by helping a despondent George Bailey, right, played by Jimmy Stewart, in the film classic “It’s a Wonderful Life,” released on Dec. 25, 1946.

“I see guardian angels as a light about three steps behind each person,” writes Byrne on her website “Sometimes, a guardian angel will open this light up for me and will show me a very beautiful, perfect human appearance. Although angels are neither male nor female, they will sometimes take on the appearance of a man or a woman. Sometimes, the guardian angels I am shown have wings, sometimes they don’t.”


n the beginning, there were... angels According to Catholic theology, angels are spiritual creatures superior to human beings and often commissioned by God for work on earth. Perhaps the most significant activity of good angels (yes, there are bad angels commonly known as demons) is to be agents of God’s particular providence for mankind. Thus, the Catholic Church teaches that everyone has a guardian angel, a notion that is grounded in Biblical accounts. (A 2013 Harris poll showed that slightly more than half of Americans believe they have been saved from harm by a guardian angel.) “I am a big believer in angels because I have experienced their good work firsthand in many life situations,” said Sister Christen Shukwit, who is not alone in giving her guardian angel a name. “Years ago, I named my guardian angel Carlotta Henrietta, Charlie Hank for short. It just came to me out of the blue … heaven sent.” Angels have been present since creation, and their presence in the Bible is frequent. It was an angel who brought Elijah bread and water while fleeing from Jezebel after his victory on Mt. Carmel

(1 Kings 19:5-6). An angel appeared to Joseph in a dream and instructed him to take Mary as his wife and name her baby Jesus (Matthew 1:20-21). It was an angel who instructed Philip where to go in his travels so that he could meet the Ethiopian eunuch and lead him to Christ (Acts 8:26). When Paul and his shipmates were caught in a horrible storm, an angel appeared to him, assured him that no life would be lost, and that he would live to stand trial before Caesar (Acts 27:23). Daniel Chapter 6 tells the story of how an angel shut the mouths of the lions when Daniel was thrown into their den. It was an angel — if not the Angel of the Lord, who joined Meshach, Shadrach and Abednego in the fiery furnace, rescuing them from the flames (Daniel 3). And it was Jesus himself who said, “See that you do not look down on one of these little ones. For I tell you that their angels in heaven always see the face of my Father in heaven,” (Matthew 18:10). (Jesus was no stranger to angelic help — they protected him in his infancy, served him in the desert and strengthened him during his agony in the garden.)


ngels in America Angels are no strangers to Americans and are more than a passing phenomenon. There are retail stores and websites devoted to them. They are the subjects of movies, art and television shows. Frequent best-selling books are written about them. More than 2 million copies of “Proof of Heaven: A Neurosurgeon’s Journey into the Afterlife” were sold after the novel, which describes in detail a beautiful guardian angel  Alvernia Professor Jerry Vigna believes people look to angels because of their discontentment with science and the secular.

Alvernia University Magazine


24 Alvernia University Magazine

valid form of proof, he argues. “Just because certain things cannot be empirically proven doesn’t mean that those things are not true,” said Gontis, who has done extensive extensive research on angels and often speaks about them. Dr. Gerald Vigna, associate professor of theology at Alvernia, suggested that people look to angels because they are not content with science and the secular. “Clearly, human beings want something more than what science can provide,” Vigna said. “It might help to remember that science concerns itself with what has happened, and how, but religion also asks ‘why’ and ‘who.’ Science might respond that asking ‘who’ is unnecessary, but the question of meaning — the why — is not in science’s arena.”


ngels for the unbeliever With increasing violence and ever-present threats globally, belief that angels are looking out for us can be extremely comforting. Angels become even more important, Father Brensinger said, to people who are not strongly connected to a faith tradition. “What I have seen is that many who are not regularly practicing their faith have turned to these spiritual beings as their connection with God,” Brensinger said. “These other-than-human creatures give a sense of peace to those who are missing that closeness with God. They (angels) are not judgmental, but rather comforting.” Eben Alexander, the neurosurgeon and author of “Proof of Heaven,” had no belief in heaven, God or the soul before a rare illness caused him to fall into a coma, in which he remained for seven days.

top right: Getty images; bottom right: Kutztown University

who the author claims to have encountered during a visit to heaven, was released in 2012. Websites contain thousands of similar stories posted by people from all walks of life and all religious backgrounds. A woman is saved from a fatal car accident without explanation. A man is pulled from harm’s way by an invisible presence. A young child recovers from a severe illness and recalls conversations with his angel. Maureen Sweeney-Kyle, of Lorain County, Ohio, has been receiving visions, apparitions and messages from angels, saints, Jesus and the Blessed Mother almost daily since 1985. She shares them on her website, as a means to call the world back to the Ten Commandments. Her visions include encounters with the angels Michael (“he came as all light except for his blue eyes”), Gabriel and Raphael, whom she described as having “large wings, dark hair and features and dressed in green.” So how is it that in a world of rapid scientific and technological advances, many Americans are fascinated with other-worldly beings that cannot be seen or proven to exist? How do angels not only remain relevant in 2015, but shape the beliefs and lives of so many science-age Americans? James F. Gontis, director of religious education for the Diocese of Harrisburg, has no problem reconciling his belief in angels with modern science. “You cannot find empirical evidence that angels exist, but there’s no scientific means of disproving them,” Gontis said. “If you believe in God and believe that God is all-powerful, why wouldn’t you believe that God has created angels?” Empirical evidence — information acquired by observation or experimentation — is not the only

During that time, he claims to have traveled with an angel on the wing of a butterfly, and to have conversed with the Creator. He was enveloped in peace and experienced the most profound love he’d ever encountered. He told his story after healing, and stands by what he experienced. He wrote of the angels, the light and of God. “Communicating with God is the most extraordinary experience imaginable, yet at the same time it’s the most natural one of all, because God is present in us at all times,” wrote the former atheist. “Omniscient, omnipotent, personal — and loving us without conditions. We are connected as One through our divine link with God.” Alexander’s sense of humans’ divine link to God is not unique, Sister Roberta said. Humans have a deep longing to be close to God, and angels can serve as a bridge between humans and the Creator. “If you believe humans are created by God and destined to return to God, then there is a gap between those things and our human lifespan,” Sister Roberta said. “One of the ways we can navigate that is by a belief in an angel who takes care of us while we’re here.” Although they are revered, guardian angels exist in the lowest of nine “choirs,” according to the Bible. The hierarchy of angels from lowest to highest is: angels, archangels, virtues, powers, principalities, dominations, thrones, cherubim and seraphim. Angels within these groups are very different from one another and serve various purposes. They often intervene or intercede on behalf of humans and some angels, such as the one in 2 Samuel 24:16 who “stretched out his hand upon Jerusalem to destroy it.” In an ironic act of role reversal, sometimes humans can help or care for angels, the example of George Bailey helping Clarence Oddbody earn his wings notwithstanding. In the book of Hebrews (13:2), it says: “Forget not to show love unto strangers: Continued on page 50

An angel by any name Only three angels have names known to us through Biblical accounts: the archangels Michael, Gabriel and Raphael. Their feast day in the Catholic Church is Sept. 29, although each is recognized by several faiths including Islam and Judaism. Gabriel is well known as the angel who announced prophecy to Daniel in the Old Testament, and foretold Mary she would be the mother of the Messiah. He also appeared to Zachariah and foretold the birth of John the Baptist. He is the patron of messengers, communications professionals, postal workers, clerics, diplomats and philatelists (stamp collectors). Michael is best known as the angelic leader of God’s army in triumph over the powers of hell. He is also viewed as a model for the virtues of the spiritual warrior and the angel of death, carrying deceased souls to heaven. He is especially invoked as a protector and

“What I have seen is that many who are not regularly practicing their faith have turned to these spiritual beings as their connection with God.” Fr. Richard Brensinger ’86

defender supreme. St. Michael is the patron of grocers, mariners, paratroopers, police and sickness. Raphael is well known as a healing angel. He appears only in the Biblical Book of Tobit where he makes himself known as “the angel Raphael, one of the seven, who stand before the Lord.” Raphael is a patron of travelers, the blind, happy meetings, nurses, physicians, medical workers, matchmakers, Christian marriage and Catholic studies. There is also a name for another angel; a fallen angel often known as Lucifer or Satan (from the Hebrew for “adversary”). He is best referred to as Beelzebub (“lord of the flies”).

“He took my hand and told me that he trusted me enough to take control of the rest of his family’s legacy … right then, I simply knew that I’d found my calling.”

farm. “He brought me the proceeds of the sale,” recalls Hagy. “He took my hand and told me that he trusted me enough to take control of the rest of his family’s legacy. The experience was extremely humbling, and right then, I simply knew that I’d found my calling.” Since that day, Hagy has been recognized for making a mark on her clients and her profession. As a vice president with Morgan Stanley Wealth Management based in Lancaster, Pa., she looks forward to occasions to share ideas and grow professionally — such as Barron’s Top Women Advisors Summit in Palm Beach, Fla., — a conference for financial advisors that she has now been invited to attend twice. Hosted by Barron’s magazine, the summit

is designed to promote best practices and generate new ideas across the industry. “This is the premier event of the year where the nation’s top women financial advisors gather for an exclusive chance to share ideas, grow professionally and network among our peers,” says Hagy. From this year’s conference, Hagy discovered one message that really resonated with her — to be authentic. “All too often, we find ourselves trying to be what other people want us to be,” Hagy notes. “My advice to clients, friends, parents, children and siblings is to never lose sight of who you are and where you came from. Never deviate from that.” In fact, authenticity is an idea that she’s proud to have built her professional success around. It’s something she attributes to growing up in what she describes as a Continued on page 50

Theo Anderson (2)


hortly after Lori Hagy ‘95 first became a wealth advisor, one of her clients asked to meet with her because he had just sold his family’s

Lori Hagy

By Karen L. Miller 26 Alvernia University Magazine

authentic c







LEFT: Theo Anderson; right: associated press


Immaculée Ilibagiza knows more than most about genocide and man’s ability to do the unthinkable to his brothers. The bestselling author and Rwandan holocaust survivor shared her shocking story at Alvernia this spring.

“… people are not evil. People do evil things.” 

Alvernia University Magazine



hat’s how Jan Egeland, former United Nations humanitarian chief and now head of the Norwegian Refugee Council, describes the war and genocide occurring in Syria. Syria’s government, led by President Bashar al-Assad, has targeted Sunnis, even as the Islamic State has launched an ethnic cleansing campaign against non-Arab and non-Sunni Muslims in northern Iraq. The world is “not even close to grasping the magnitude” of the humanitarian crisis in Syria, a top aid official said ahead of the fourth anniversary of the peaceful protests that marked the start of the devastating conflict. “We may live with the aftermath of the Syrian conflict for generations,” Egeland told the Thomson Reuters Foundation. Statistics are staggering, and grim: 200,000 dead, 3.9 million refugees created, 7.6 million displaced within Syria alone, according to the United Nations. Figures from UNICEF indicate 14 million children have been affected by the Syrian conflict, with millions more ensnared in places cut off from aid due to fighting. It’s a terrible tale that is eerily familiar, having been played out again and again over the last 25 years and beyond. ■ Twenty years ago, when Hutu tribesmen viciously attacked their Tutsi neighbors with machetes and more in Rwanda, the world witnessed epic atrocities rooted in ethnic or religious differences. ■D  uring the Kosovo War from 1998 to 1999, Serb leader Slobodan Milosevic waged a brutal campaign against the region’s ethnic Albanians, resulting in the massacre of thousands and the mass exodus of hundreds of thousands more.

By Lini S. Kadaba

■ Since 2003 and continuing to this day, hundreds of thousands of Darfuri men, women and children have faced mass slaughter at the hands of the Sudanese government. Despite the heinousness of these acts, Immaculée Ilibagiza would say that those

who did the killing, raping and maiming of the victims of such atrocities are essentially good people. Yes, good people, who have gone horribly astray. “The main thing to understand is that people are not evil. People do evil things,” the 45-year-old motivational speaker and author originally from Rwanda says during an interview. A few days earlier, Ilibagiza spoke to a captivated crowd in Alvernia University’s Bernardine Lecture Hall and delivered a moving, inspirational message to more than 200 in attendance. “Even me,” she says. “I hurt people with my words and actions. Then later, I wish I hadn’t done this. If I can change, if today I can be angry and tomorrow say I should have said it better, if I can change, then the others can change too. Who am I to say my sin is smaller, theirs is bigger and they cannot change? “We are made of the same material,” she adds in English laced with the cadence of her native land. “We have the same soul.” Ilibagiza, perhaps more than most, has thought long and hard about genocide and man’s ability to do the unthinkable. She is a Tutsi survivor of Rwanda’s three-month holocaust in 1994, when Hutu killed 800,000 Tutsi, often neighbors and friends. In a matter of weeks, when she was 24 years old, she lost her mother, father, two of her three brothers, many extended family members and countless friends, a story she chronicled with writer Steve Erwin in her moving 2006 book “Left to Tell.” Alvernia’s Director of Campus Ministry Kelly Caddy says her office sponsored Ilibagiza’s appearance because of the unifying message she offers. “We forget about the human dignity God created each of us to have and acknowledge in one another,” she says. “We’re people. There are people behind each of those atrocities.” Ilibagiza’s talk brought that message home to Jessica Newcomer, a senior political science and communication major from Dillsburg, Pa. “It’s so easy to distance ourselves from these tragedies when we study them or hear about them on the news,” she says. “Listening to Immaculée made it personal.

Theo Anderson

“…biggest humanitarian crisis in a generation.”

Events like the Rwandan genocide happen to real people, people with families and dreams and ambition. “I also loved her message about forgiveness,” Newcomer adds. “Forgiveness, like hate, spreads, and if we promote forgiveness, it can triumph over hate. If we want to heal our world, we have to learn to forgive.” Ilibagiza, a devout Catholic, says she survived the genocide because of a faith in God that during the horror grew stronger by the day. In that way, she uncovered a way to let go of anger and move forward through forgiveness and ultimately hope. A Hutu pastor hid her and seven other Tutsi women in a 4-foot-by-3-foot bathroom at his house for 91 terrifying days. In that prison-like space, Ilibagiza says she found freedom. At first she spent the hours and days plotting plans for revenge against the Hutus who killed her family members and friends.

“All that consumed me to the point where my head was aching, my body was aching, my stomach was aching,” she says. “But the thing is, the angrier I was, the more of a prisoner I was.” Through unrelenting prayer, she says she grew closer to God and her heart opened to another possibility. “Forgiveness was a key to freedom,” says Ilibagiza, who now makes her home in New York City with her husband and two children. “It was like somebody opened the door. … Instead of hating them and wanting them to die and their families to die, why cannot I see them as people who are doing evil but capable of change? You hating them does not change one thing.” Certainly, Rwanda as a country has changed through reconciliation as its once ethnic rift, as raw as an open wound, has healed. “Rwanda has made astonishing strides,” says Victoria C. Williams, 

Ilibagiza, above during her appearance at Alvernia, says that getting past genocide begins with forgiveness. “It’s not about punishing people,” she says, “but about getting to the truth of what happened …”

Alvernia University Magazine


tour of the bathroom that was her safe haven. “It is amazing in Rwanda,” Ilibagiza says. For those who experienced the country before, during and after the genocide, “things have changed 150 percent.” Before, even though Hutu and Tutsi lived side by side, they carried identity cards that listed tribal affiliations. At Ilibagiza’s school during roll call, the Hutu teacher would force students to identify themselves by tribe, an experience that she found humiliating. Even without the cards, Tutsi were singled out because of physical features: Like Ilibagiza, many are very tall and have narrow noses. Tutsi often faced discrimination. Most of the government posts and seats at the best schools and colleges were reserved for Hutu. Distrust and resentment, on both sides, was simmering just under the surface — and exploded in 1994. To understand an inkling of how that could happen, consider the country’s history. “You can’t understand contemporary

Theo Anderson (2)

Alvernia Occupational Therapy major Elizabeth Blosky poses for a candid photo with Ilibagiza during her visit to campus.

an associate professor of political science at Alvernia who also directs the Honors Program. She points, in particular, to its Gacaca court, lower tribunals at the community level that helped reconciliation throughout the country. While the world has not learned how to prevent genocide since the evils of 1994 — consider the mass acts of brutality occurring today in Syria — Rwanda has provided a model for dealing with the aftermath, Williams says. It begins with forgiveness. “It’s not about punishing people,” she says, “but about getting to the truth of what happened — and getting to the point where you’re reconciling the past with a more promising future.” Since the genocide, Ilibagiza has returned often to the lush, rolling green hills of Rwanda, leading what she calls pilgrimages. The groups visit Rwandan families, genocide memorials and local leaders to learn about the progress of the country. She even gives a

32 Alvernia University Magazine

Africa without understanding the historical relationship of the colonies,” says Williams, who teaches the honors class “Africa: Colonialism to Independence” that covers events from 1865 to 1965. She attended Ilibagiza’s talk with Newcomer and other students in the class. In Rwanda, Tutsi and Hutu coexisted. When the Belgian colonizers arrived, they favored the Tutsi, supposedly because of their more European features. Tutsi gained control of the country. As landowners, they lorded over the often poorer Hutu. But between 1959 and 1962, the majority of Hutu people rebelled and overthrew the Tutsi government, and that led to poor treatment of Tutsi in return. In 1990, a mostly Tutsi rebel group based in Uganda invaded northern Rwanda. The ensuing civil war only increased tensions and led to a propaganda war against Tutsi. On April 6, 1994, a plane carrying the Hutu Rwandan president was shot down. Then the genocide began. In “Left to Tell,” Ilibagiza writes about the early days in the bathroom hideaway. She could hear bands of Hutus chanting, “Kill them, kill them, kill them all; kill them big and kill them small! … Let none escape!” She goes on to say that the whooping, crazed mob was not made up of government soldiers or militiamen who had threatened her family. “No, these were my neighbors, people I’d grown up and gone to school with — some had even been to our house for dinner,” she wrote. But despite that, Ilibagiza — and ultimately Rwanda — found a way out. In 2007, she won the Mahatma Gandhi International Award for Reconciliation and Peace. In Rwanda, identification by tribe is now forbidden. The government, rather than favoring one tribe over another, is more evenly mixed. “People have tried to let go, to forgive,” she says. For Caddy, that message resonates. “The people who are able to find it in their hearts to forgive, that’s a way of gifting someone who has wronged you,” she says. “It’s a way to help them find a path of redemption. … Forgiveness is about the vulnerability of the moment, when you can accept the mystery that I am not perfect and you are not perfect.”

Soon after the genocide stopped, Ilibagiza met the man responsible for killing her mother and one of her brothers. At the prison, the once successful Hutu businessman whose children had played with Ilibagiza was dragged in front of her. He was a shell of a man. “I forgive you,” Ilibagiza said to him to the shock of the prison warden. “I wanted to free him,” she says. “I saw him as a child who is lost. I felt me offering this forgiveness can just let him know, `Don’t think about the past but what you

can do now.’” Ilibagiza, clearly, is a voice of hope and, ultimately, peace, and perhaps offers a way to break a cycle of hate that seems, for now, to have no end. “How can we get together and see the best in people?” Williams asks. “If we all chose that path, the world would be a better place. It’s a powerful message that we don’t hear enough today.”

Alvernia’s Director of Campus Ministry Kelly Caddy, left, shares a lighter moment with Immaculée Ilibagiza. “We forget about the human dignity God created each of us to have and acknowledge in one another,” Caddy says.

Lini S. Kadaba, a journalist based in Newtown Square, Pa., is a frequent contributor to Alvernia Magazine.

Alvernia University Magazine


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Ratings game

photos: Discovery Communications

For one Alvernia graduate, getting America to tune into TLC shows, and tune out the competition, is a daily reality show. How do you make a TV show a smash hit that trends hot and heavy on Twitter? The answer can often be found in the marketing mix: commercials hinting at a major plot twist in the next episode, billboards teasing an exciting season, consumer promotions that drive rabid fans into a frenzy for a must-win prize. “It’s really about reaching your audience, cutting through the clutter and showing them why they want to watch this,” explains Emily Rabadi ’12, a project manager on TLC’s marketing strategy team. Rabadi should know. She is determined to convince you and the rest of America to tune into the next episode of TLC shows like “My Big Fat American Gypsy Wedding.” Among her latest projects is managing a major national promotion for fans of “Long Island Medium” to win a reading with the show’s star, psychic medium Theresa Caputo. But the former Alvernian standout didn’t always have her sights set on network television. In fact, at first Rabadi thought she would become a magazine writer. Before finishing high school, she even interned at a local magazine near her home in the Maryland suburbs of Washington, D.C. At Alvernia, she saw an opportunity to bloom as a person, develop important skills she would need to launch her career and build close relationships with faculty. One of her mentors became Dr. Jodi Radosh, associate professor of English and communication, whose background included a successful stint in TV news. “She was one of those students who I could tell, from day one, was going to do well,” Radosh says of her former advisee. “She was so excited to be in class and wanted to soak up as much as she could.” When Rabadi saw the world of print journalism turning

upside down, she decided to reinvent her dream. She stepped out of her comfort zone in a broadcasting class with Radosh and found she loved the atmosphere of BCTV’s Reading studio. Marketing was a great way to combine that love with her writing skills. By the time Rabadi collected her degree in communication, she had landed internships for the E! Network in London and the National Geographic Channel in Washington. “I’d always had my foot in the real world, and it was hard for me not to at college,” she says. In London, she found another mentor, Rubi Chavez Horst, who directed marketing for Europe, Africa and the Middle East for NBC Universal, parent company of E!. Horst says Rabadi had an international viewpoint and understood why certain shows were more successful in different countries. “She asked lots of questions, and she was very curious about why everything was the way it was,” says Horst, now executive director of marketing for NBC/Universal International Television. Rabadi started working for TLC’s parent company, Discovery Communications, in 2013. One bonus is that her offices are in the Washington suburb of Silver Spring, Md., not far from Potomac, where she attended high school. She understands that several of TLC’s subjects come with their share of controversy. But viewers don’t have to agree with what they see, Rabadi says, and that’s okay. TV is a platform to share all kinds of stories, she says. “We really are a no-judgment zone because you see all different walks of life on our network,” she says. And America would have it no other way! By Rebecca VanderMeulen

Alvernia University Magazine



By Karen L. Miller

After 20 years in the business of baseball, Kevin Sklenarik is proof ‌

are forever Alvernia University Magazine


Most Little Leaguers dream of graduating from the local sandlot to the big city stadium. They fantasize about crashing into the Green Monster, rounding bases at Wrigley and crushing it at Candlestick. But then reality sets in. They settle for watching the great American pastime on their jumbo flat screens, and stealing second base from the comfort of an overstuffed couch. Kevin Sklenarik wasn’t one to settle. While the former Crusader all-star didn’t quite make it to The Show (his heart was set on starting as shortstop for the New York Yankees), he’s likely had a bigger impact on the sport, albeit from a very different vantage point — as a front-office executive for the jewel of MLB’s minor league system, the Reading Fightin Phils. In December, the Alvernia ’96 grad was named Executive Director of Baseball Operations and Merchandise, adding to the other responsibilities he has had in his 20-year career with

the highly acclaimed minor league team. In his role, Sklenarik oversees the Reading team’s merchandise and team store. He also works directly with the Philadelphia Phillies organization to handle travel and logistical plans when players are called up to the majors from the Fightin Phils. Last season, while playing golf with Fightin Phils catcher Logan Moore, he got a call announcing teammate Aaron Altherr was being pulled up to the big leagues. He said Moore was surprised and happy to hear the news. “When you go to the big leagues,” Sklenarik said, “it is the opportunity of a lifetime.” Sklenarik also arranges travel for the Reading team, which journeys by bus as far west as Akron, Ohio, and as far north as Portland, Maine. And while working for the Philadelphia Phillies organization is a dream come true, he is the first to say that it’s not all popcorn, peanuts and Cracker Jacks. Between April and August, the schedule is “pretty much 24/7 every week, always on call,”

previous page and this spread: Theo Anderson

Sklenarik at FirstEnergy Stadium, home of the Fightin Phils.

Sklenarik was promoted to executive director of baseball operations and merchandise for the Fightin Phils last spring. Below, Sklenarik spends a moment in the clubhouse before the season begins.

Sklenarik said. “The rest of the year is pretty busy too,” he said. But it does have perks — like the time A Rod came to town in 2013. “When we found out he was rehabbing, we were looking at the schedule, kidding around and saying that we might get the chance for Alex Rodriguez to play here,” said Sklenarik, explaining the Florida State League and AAA were on an all-star break at the time. “We were the only team playing at the time. Sure enough we got a call from one of the Yankees strength coaches who told us that Alex was

going to be in Reading for a few days. “It was a neat experience to get to meet him. My son got to be the batboy that day and see how A Rod goes about his business. Whether you like him or not, he’s still Alex Rodriguez.” Sklenarik credited his wife, Georgeiann (Sheaman), a ’95 Alvernia alumna and teacher at Royersford’s Spring-Ford School District, with being the rock holding the family together. They are the parents of Nicholas, 15, and Abigail, 11. “I’m fortunate,” Sklenarik said. “A lot of people get up to go to work. I get up and go to work I enjoy.” But Sklenarik notes that he sometimes spends more time with his co-workers than he does his own family during the season. “Whatever you want to do in life, put your heart and soul into it. You have to enjoy it, and you have to like it. I don’t look at it as work. I look at it as something I really enjoy. Just don’t let my bosses know that.” At 42, Sklenarik reflected about what it takes to work in minor league baseball: “I tell young kids to do sports internships to get a feel for what it is like. It’s not all glory. It’s hard work and long hours. I didn’t start out as an executive director. I started at the bottom and worked up. I’m proud of the last 20 years.” During games, Sklenarik says it’s all business. “No two games are ever the same. When the game starts, I make sure I’m around the players and see if they need anything. I look over the team store and make sure everything’s okay. “During games we do promotions on the field, like using the T-shirt slingshot or the sumo wrestlers (a crowd favorite). Every game offers great entertainment for the fans. We never stop trying to impress the crowd.” At Alvernia, he got direction from Beth DeMeo, chair of the English and communication department, who shepherded the green horn communication major. “My courses at Alvernia provided me with an important foundation and afforded me the opportunity to get a foot in the door,” said Sklenarik, who started as a college senior at the Phils farm team. “My sports internship through Alvernia was the beginning of my career. You’ll make mistakes. Just don’t make them again. You’ll learn from them and be better because of it.”

Alvernia University Magazine


Kyle Covington ’15 has his sights set on conquering the financial world after he graduates next fall.

40 Alvernia University Magazine

Theo Anderson (2)


ut a pair of dark shades on Kyle Covington ‘15 and he is practically a ringer for Joel Goodsen, the budding if misguided entrepreneur made famous by a then young Tom Cruise in the film “Risky Business.” While the well-spoken Covington would cringe at the comparison and blush at the thought of sliding across the hallway in his skivvies (the oftreplayed scene from the movie), the go-getter in him knows the similarity is spot on. A self-starter who is into “everything business,” Covington hails from West Grove, Pa., and is majoring in accounting and business management at Alvernia. He loves his field of study and its entrepreneurial spirit. But he especially likes understanding what makes complicated business operations tick and entertains visions of greatness in his future. “Being chief operations officer at Delta Airlines would be great, because there are so many puzzle pieces that are constantly shifting and moving,” imagines Covington out loud. “I want to be able to figure out the puzzle.” Which is why after working for Giant Foods for three years, he arranged to take a sophomore year summer internship at the organization. “It was a great opportunity, because food stores are big (logistical) operations. I was able to tailor my experience to get a clear picture of the whole organization.” Though he’s interested in logistics and operations, his focus is now clearly on finance and banking, something that will get honed in the real world this summer through an extremely competitive internship at Wells Fargo in commercial banking. “It will allow me to combine my

No More Risky

Business operational knowledge with my financial background.” Never one to sit still, Covington will also be studying in the nation’s capitol this fall, thanks to Alvernia’s Washington Center program. “I’ll be focusing on risk management and governmental compliance, with an emphasis on international trade and global business,” he said. “I plan on interning at a governmental organization like the treasury department or the international trade commission.” After graduation, Covington is happy to go wherever the job calls — even into the global marketplace. Since he wasn’t able to fit a semester-long study abroad trip into his ambitious plans, Covington jumped at the chance to be a two-week Alvernia ambassador to China over last summer, networking with other schools and learning about the global marketplace. And when he returned, he brought back ideas to share with the Business Advisory Council, on which he is an active member. “Things in business are going international, so we need to teach people how

to compete and interact globally,” he explained. In addition to serving on the council, Covington is an active member of the Institute for Management Accountants, the Society for Human Resource Management, Delta Mu Delta and Phi Beta Lambda — for which he currently serves as president. “Through these organizations, I go to a lot of professional networking meetings where we talk about current issues that will be important after graduation,” he says. Last year, Covington placed third in a marketing competition for the Phi Beta Lambda state conference, and he hopes to compete in a different area when the competition comes around again next year. An honors student and Peer Mentor (who works with the freshmen honor class), Covington has even had a hand in sustainability efforts at Alvernia. He was part of an effort to bring Continued on page 50

Alvernia University Magazine


Profiles in courage

Living a

New Normal By Elizabeth Shimer-Bowers 42 Alvernia University Magazine


t age 14, Ryan Weber went through something usually only experienced by people four times his age, an event that has left him wise beyond his years. “I remember waking up with severe head pain. I went into my parents’ room and collapsed,” Ryan says. “I didn’t know it at the time, but I was in the middle of a massive stroke.” A few days later, as their son lay unconscious, Weber’s parents learned he had aplastic anemia, a rare and serious condition in which the body fails to produce enough new blood cells, increasing risk for uncontrolled bleeding. In Weber’s case, bleeding caused a hemorrhagic stroke that left him with permanent vision problems, partial paralysis on his left side and epilepsy. Although Weber and his parents had some clues he was sick, such as recurring illnesses and bruises, they certainly weren’t prepared for what was to come. It was a stubborn blood blister on his lip that finally sent them to the doctor. As he underwent additional tests and prepared for a possible diagnosis of leukemia, Weber had the stroke. Weber remembers the first few weeks in the hospital as being the worst, as he grappled with the transition from an athletic, happy-go-lucky 14-year-old to fighting for his life. “The sensation of being on a ventilator is something I will never forget,” he says.

Doctors had to remove part of Weber’s skull to relieve the brain swelling, and he spent months in the hospital and in rehab. He missed all of eighth grade. At first, Weber says he was mad at the world. Feeling like a mere shadow of his old self, he self-isolated. “The most awkward time was when I finally got back to high school. I was so nervous and afraid the other kids would mock me.” His only friends at school became the faculty members. Looking back, he realizes he was only hurting himself. So when the Temple, Pa., native started college at Alvernia, Weber made a fresh start. “I thought, these kids don’t know what I was like before the stroke. This is me now, and I need to get over what happened and move forward.” Once Weber embraced his new normal, others accepted him as well. “I opened up to my classmates and made friends. I’m no longer hesitant to speak up in class,” he says. In addition to accepting himself, Weber has learned to be more optimistic. “Your outlook on life is truly your biggest asset,” he says. “When the stroke first happened, I was miserable, and I felt sorry for myself. It was only when I made it a point to look on the bright side and get in a good mood that things got a lot easier for me.” Another part of making things easier has meant preparing himself to live with disabilities while simultaneously

studying for a career with a major in communication. Although he started out in 2012 as a secondary education major and soon made the Dean’s list, Weber shifted academic gears. He now entertains visions of being a professional journalist, and has had several pieces published, including a personal account about overcoming his health challenges. He knows his life will never be like others his age, but he’s ready. “With the help of a 24-hour driving service and maybe a seizure dog, I hope to be able to commute to a job and live on my own,” he says. As he continues to adapt, Weber gets by in part by laughing. He watches old comedies and tries to find humor in situations that may otherwise frustrate him. “My father taught me the power of laughter, and he encouraged me to watch the movie ‘Patch Adams,’” he says. Patch Adams tells the true story of a medical doctor who often donned clown attire to cheer up patients and believed laughter, joy and creativity were integral parts of the healing process. In Weber’s case, laughter has indeed been healing. “I am in remission with my anemia, and I’ve learned to do everything pretty well with one arm. Weber says laughter has truly been the best medicine. “It is the philosophy I try to follow in life to keep a positive attitude, and I recommend it to everyone.”

Theo Anderson

“This is me now, and I need to get over what happened and move forward.” Ryan Weber

Alvernia University Magazine


By Kristin Boyd Long before sunup, well before students start streaming into lecture halls and wet labs on Alvernia’s bucolic campus, Professor Leon Neiman starts his first job. In the still of the morning, he pulls on his worn John Deere hat and plain clothes, as he calls them, and heads outside. With sunbeams breaking across the horizon, the 40-year veteran of the classroom makes sure everything is in order at his family’s farm in nearby Fleetwood. “Remember the ‘Green Acres’ TV show? That’s what I always dreamed of having,” he says, chuckling. “I love farming. The ability to be able to put seeds in the ground and watch something grow, or the ability to help birth a newborn calf, is amazing. You can see your accomplishments every morning. It’s a neat way of seeing the world.” When he’s not tilling the soil or harvesting hay, he can be found on Alvernia’s main campus teaching human anatomy or at the Reading Hospital School of Health Sciences teaching physiology classes to nursing students enrolled in the Alvernia RN to BSN completion program there. However, it wasn’t all that long ago that Neiman worked three jobs to save money for a down payment on his farm to bale hay and grow grains until his heart’s content. Winter months are like mini-vacations since his farm tasks lighten. However, days become longer as warm weather returns and he again adds beef cows to the farm, he says. He’s also harvesting honey (from his bees,) experimenting with a vineyard and maintaining a large garden. His entire family has helped out on the farm at one time or another, including his wife, Linda, and four children: Jennifer, a high school chemistry teacher; Michael, who works in financial services; Jill, who is completing her M.D., Ph.D. residency program; and David, a recent Alvernia grad who landed an accounting job at Herbein + Company, Inc. “Farming is a good life, but it’s a tough life,” he says. “They (my kids) learned responsibility and hard work.” On campus, Neiman enjoys watching the seeds of his real-world lessons take root with students. For him, that means skipping long lectures in favor of open discussions. Rather than relying on a textbook, he prefers to show students real brain tissue of zoology specimens or a fresh pig heart during his biology courses. “I’ve taught courses in the biological curriculum for over 40 years, including stints at Reading Area Community College and Kutztown University,” Neiman said. “It’s always been important to find ways to engage students in lessons that aren’t limited to textbooks or lectures, especially in the biological sciences. “I like giving a realistic view of science,” says Neiman, who joined the Alvernia faculty in 2011. “I want to help students build careers in the science fields and give them a good foundation.” His research work helps him do just that. “My research and pedagogical interest are

44 Alvernia University Magazine

Above, Leon Neiman on the farm with Emily Lytle, Alvernia’s Sustainable Food Access VISTA member.

actually very similar. I am trying to develop techniques that would improve processing information from shortterm to long-term memory in the classroom setting,” he said. His earlier research dealt with small-fish feeding behaviors and determining whether the feeding was opportunistic or selective. His new passion, he says, is working hands-on at Alvernia’s student-led Bog Turtle Creek Farm, where he feels right at home. There, he’s able to use plots of land — and all that sprouts from them — to instill the university’s service learning mission, engage students and provide healthy produce for Reading families who lack access to affordable fresh vegetables. This year, volunteers are planting new crops like cilantro, peppers and tomatoes to appeal to the customer base, he says. “We also hope to provide opportunities for students to design and conduct biological research related to agriculture and sustainability gardening. “Some people don’t realize what goes into their food. If you can help people understand sustainability and (the importance of) fresh vegetables, it has such value,” he says. “It’s about education. Once you do that, they’ll want much more because they’ll know they have options. It’s encouraging to be a part of that.”

Teaching with


right: Theo Anderson; left: Alicia Sprow

A farmer’s

Biology professor Leon Neiman’s teaching roots run deep, four decades worth, but his passion for planting seeds doesn’t stop with ideas germinated by students in his classroom.

Deanna (Wetherhold) Reuben ’79 has been successful in her dual career as a professional singer and real estate agent. She is now embarking on a new adventure as the owner and creator of DLR Cosmetics.

Sr. Mary Carlanita Jones ’62 passed

Valetta (Painter) Eshbach ’68 was inducted into the Muhlenberg School District Hall of Fame. Valetta was a high school math teacher for 29 years, served as math department chair and adviser to Students Against Drunk Driving, Youth-to-Youth and commencement. She also taught at Penn State Berks for 16 years.

Dr. Patricia (Werner) Savage ’71

received a lifetime achievement award from LeadingAge PA for service to seniors and received the Wise Woman award for encouraging women in leadership.

Franklin J. Spohn ’78 passed away on March 17, 2015.

46 Alvernia University Magazine

position in the Virtual Critical Care Center of Carolinas Health System in Charlotte, NC.

Dr. Benjamin Schlechter ’82 has started a new division of his practice called the Spring Ridge Hand Center, in the Spring Ridge Plastic Surgery building. Dr. Schlechter wants to begin a process of educating both family physicians and the general public about the hand center.

Lauren Kurek ’11 and Scott Francik ’11 were married on Oct. 17, 2014.

Darlene (Bieber) Rusk ’84 passed away on Nov. 8, 2014.

William L. Minnich Jr. ’86 passed away on Nov. 14, 2014.

Jeff Smith ’86 was reelected President of the Board of Directors for Habitat for Humanity Berks County.

Kyle Levengood ’08 was promoted to manager in the accounting and auditing department at Herbein + Company, Inc.

Deidre (Beiler) Bowers ’87 passed away on Nov. 3, 2014.

Stanley Niedrowski ’89 passed away on Jan. 17, 2015.

Lori (McIntosh) DiGuardi ’90 completed her Master of Science of Organizational and Strategic Leadership degree at Neumann University, Aston, Pa.

researched and worked on a book to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Wyomissing Police Department. The book includes photographs, statistics on calls for service, arrests, traffic citations, accidents and other incidents, as well as information on each officer hired, awards won, promotions and other tidbits about the police department.


fellow Bernardine Franciscan Sisters, celebrated 120 years of service to God and man with their annual fundraiser in February. During the event, Sr. Clare shared her story of becoming a nun with the Reading Eagle.

Thomas Endy ’93



away on Oct. 29, 2014.

Sr. Clare Chabot, OSF ’68, and her

Bryan Otruba ’08, M’13, above with his wife Camille (Cloutier) Otruba ’09, lost his battle with leukemia on Feb. 5.

Liz Symons, R.N. ’79 has accepted a


Alumni Class Notes

Scott Carl Sr. ’93 is the vice president of water & wastewater services for SSM Group, Inc. He will direct the water and wastewater services for the firm, including all aspects of water and wastewater engineering services, municipality and authority representation, water and wastewater treatment operations, treatment plant design, construction phase engineering and regulatory compliance assistance.

Lori (Reedy) Hagy ’94, ’95, associate

vice president for Morgan Stanley, was one of approximately 550 financial advisors who were selected by their firms to attend the ninth annual Barron’s Top Women Advisors Summit, hosted by Barron’s magazine to promote best practices in the industry and the value of advice to the investing public. The invitation-only conference was held at The Breakers in Palm Beach, Fla., Dec. 3-5. This exclusive conference is designed to promote best practices and generate new ideas across the industry.

Amy Schoch ’95 Jonathan Encarnacion M’01 was selected to serve a three-year term on the Mid-Atlantic Regional Health Equity Council.

relocated to Nashville to work for the Nashville Sounds — the Triple-A affiliate of the Oakland A’s — as director of guest services.

Holly (Sibley) Lamont ’96, M’01 passed away on Nov. 7, 2014. She is survived by her husband, Greg, and children, Colin, Amelia and Calvin.

Shannon (Scott) Wechsler ’96 was featured in the Reading Eagle for turning her love of roller skating into an exercise routine. Shannon was excited to learn how much roller skating could positively impact her overall health.

Kevin Bieber ’99 has been promoted to Senior Vice President for National Penn Bancshares, Inc., where he is responsible for developing and maintaining commercial relationships throughout National Penn’s central region and agricultural lending in Berks County.

Deana (Camilli) Barcz ’00 was a speaker at a Greater Reading Chamber of Commerce & Industry’s Women2Women luncheon, where she gave advice on managing time and the importance of planning.

Jose Medina ’00 was named Bethlehem Catholic’s girls basketball coach.

Carol Aulenbach ’01 retired from Carpenter Technology Corp., in January 2015. She handled the marketing communications planning and execution for the Specialty Alloys Operations division.

Michael Hinkle ’04 was


been selected to serve a three-year term on the Mid-Atlantic Regional Health Equity Council. The organization is dedicated to ending health disparities in Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia and West Virginia.

hired as the Court Fiscal Investigator for Cumberland County, Pa., where he will be working on ways to collect criminal payments and restitution fees owed by offenders.

Zak Keifer ’04 is engaged to Julie Henry.

Anne DouglasMinnich ’04 passed away on Jan. 21, 2015.

Sr. Dativa Mukebita ’05 is returning

Conor Delaney ’07 started Good Life Advisors, an advisorowned company with LPL Financial this past year to complement their services company. His company has grown from a two-person operation to over 20 offices in 18 states and over a billion dollars in assets. It has also created 11 full-time jobs in Berks County, and over 60 jobs throughout the United States.

seeing multiple firm audit engagements. He works primarily within the dairy, food, employee benefit plans and manufacturing industries throughout several states.

Bryan Otruba ’08, M’13 — who married Camille (Cloutier) Otruba ’09 in Sacred

Oct. 22, 2014.

Heart Chapel in 2010 — lost his battle with leukemia on Feb. 5, 2015. Active in Campus Ministry, Bryan participated in an alternative break trip to the Dominican Republic as a student, and later became one of the first candidates in the Bernardine Franciscan Sisters’ Volunteers in Mission program, for which he served three months at the sisters’ school in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic.

Benjamin Reifsnyder ’07 and Nicole

Mallory (Bressler) Sweitzer ’08 and

Humphreys were married on Sept. 6, 2014, at Bear Creek Mountain Resort.

her husband, Brad, welcomed baby Karter into the world on Jan. 25, 2015. Karter weighed 7 pounds, 12 ounces, and was 20 1/4 inches long.

Patrice DiCarne ’07 passed away on

Nicole Kantor ’08

to her home country of Tanzania to take care of elderly people. Sr. Dativa shared that elderly in Tanzania do not have nursing homes or any type of health insurance, so families take care of the elderly. She will also be teaching young people to care for the elderly, as well as teaching them skills like sewing, gardening and crafts.

was featured in the Reading Eagle about her daily battle with psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis. She is also a spokeswoman for the National Psoriasis Foundation. Nicole wants people to know what the condition is and the symptoms and problems it can cause for people that have it.

Steve Rowe ’05 and Jamie Rowe welcomed their second child, Jacob William, on June 30, 2014.

to manager in the accounting and auditing department at Herbein + Company, Inc. Kyle will be responsible for over-

Kyle Levengood ’08 has been promoted

Danelle (Kressirer) Matlack M’09 recently became a first-time author, releasing her children’s book “Alfie the Allergic Alligator Goes to School.” The book, inspired by her son who lives with multiple life-threatening food allergies, is about food allergy awareness and acceptance.

Alison Clark ’10, M’13 was featured in the Reading Eagle’s “In Our Schools” section for

Ashley Becker ’12 her work as an English teacher at Governor Mifflin High School.

is engaged to Michael Wertz.

Kayla Oliver ’10

and Matthew Gore were married on Nov. 1, 2014.

was married on Feb. 14, 2015, to Chad Kressler, in Alvernia’s Francis Hall Chapel.

Stacey Sears ’10 and Ryan Babula were married on July 12, 2014, at The Inn at Leola Village, Lancaster County, Pa.

Richard Dabney ’11, M’14 passed away on Jan. 18, 2015.

Courtney Fretz M’11 and Kevin Noll were married on May 24, 2014, at Bally Spring Inn. A reception at Bally Spring Inn was followed by a bus tour of Europe. The couple will reside in Bloomsburg.


Jonathan Encarnacion M’01 has

featured in the Reading Eagle’s “In Our Schools” section for her work as an English language acquisition resource teacher at 10th & Green Elementary in the Reading School District.

Alberta Green ’11

became a Certified Psychiatric Rehabilitation Practitioner on June 30, 2014. She currently works for the Northeast Community Center.

Michelle Jensen ’11 and Nathan Piotrowski were married on Dec. 13, 2014.

Lauren Kurek ’11 and Scott Francik ’11 were married on Oct. 17, 2014, in Alvernia’s campus at Sacred Heart Convent.

Jessica Slavin ’12

Douglas Weaver ’12 is engaged to Hilary Ohlinger.

Gregory Creswell M’13 was named Director for Environmental Health and Safety for Cambridge-Lee Industries, LLC. Gregory will be responsible for the corporate management of environmental, health and safety policies, programs, systems and processes, including workers compensation management and security.

Ashley Dautrich M’13 and Shawn Cieniewicz were married on Oct. 11, 2014, in Trudy’s Garden at the Reading Museum.

Timothy Kershner ’13 and Sarah Harris were married on Aug. 23, 2014.

James Michaud M’14 and Lauren DeMoss were married on July 4, 2014 at the Farm at Eagles Ridge, Lancaster, Pa. A reception at the Farm at Eagles Ridge was followed by a wedding trip to Riviera Maya, Mexico.

Alumni Class Notes

Kelly (Yountz) Wendler ’05 was

Sara West ’14 married Joshua Hoffert on Aug. 31, 2014. Alvernia University Magazine



Do you remember?

Nearly 40 years ago, Alvernia students learned that 18 people really didn’t fit into the Bernardine Hall elevator. Help us put some names to these fun faces! Visit alvernia-alumni. and tell us where you were in 1976. Have great Alvernia flashback pictures to share? Visit blog and click “Submit Your Photos!”

48 Alvernia University Magazine

Mark Your Calendar!

Change a student’s life today

July 11

Each year, gifts to the Alvernia Fund change the lives of students as they mature into the next generation of Alvernia graduates. Your gift provides for student scholarships, community service initiatives, alternative break trips, student and faculty research, and other life-changing experiences that go beyond the classroom. Please make your gift today online at or by contacting Mark Piekarski, director of annual giving, at 610-790-1901 or On behalf of the students whose lives are changed by your generosity, thank you for your gift!

Alvernia Day at Knoebels

Knoebels Amusement Resort in Elysburg, Pa.

June 26 Alumni Night at the Reading Fightin Phils

August 2 Alumni Day at the Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs

August 20 Freshmen Move-in Day

September 17 Founders Day Lecture: Angela Carmella

October 6 Lit Fest Author: Lisa Scottoline

October 16-17 Homecoming & Family Weekend

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Authentic | Continued from page 27 “humble” household with extremely hardworking, entrepreneurial parents. “I watched and learned through their numerous failures and successes,” Hagy says. “I learned that success is not always about the end result, but it is a culmination of the experiences on the journey. “I know that my ability to listen and understand where clients have been and where they are headed is ultimately a result of my varied, sometimes difficult, childhood experiences. I’m thankful for all of these lessons as they helped me become strong, steadfast, honest, compassionate and driven.” A testament to Hagy’s determination hangs framed on her wall — a college degree that

she earned as an adult student. Hagy juggled a full-time job as a controller for a local company, a part-time job handling the paperwork from her husband’s plumbing business and classes at Alvernia. As a wife and mother, she also cared for her two young sons. Yet she graduated magna cum laude in 1995 with a double major in accounting and finance. “My personal and academic experiences have influenced the importance of careful planning, and living life fully and with meaning every day,” she says. “Organization and discipline were the only way I survived the six years it took me to complete my degree. I learned that the value of purpose is to share these values with my clients.”

President Thomas F. Flynn, Ph.D. Publisher and Editor in Chief Brad Drexler Creative Director Steve Thomas Contributing Editor Carey Manzolillo ’06, M’07 Contributing Writers Elizabeth Shimer Bowers; Kristin Boyd; Dr. Thomas F. Flynn; Kevin Gray; Lini Kadaba; Jon King; Carey Manzolillo ’06, M’07; Karen L. Miller; Laurie Muschick; Amy Music; Jodi Radosh; Susan Shelly; Rebecca VanderMeulen Contributing Photographers Theo Anderson; Jon King; John Shetron; Alicia Sprow Alvernia Magazine is a publication of Alvernia University. Copyright 2015. All rights reserved. Correspondence should be addressed to 540 Upland Avenue, Reading, PA 19611, or email:

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IN A BLINK | Continued from page 15 than others. For me, from my experience with TBI, I realized I now have a new mission. I want to be an advocate for traumatic brain injuries. I hope that my experience will be helpful to others in understanding concussion-related issues. It has even become a research interest of mine. My physical therapist and I have discussed working together on a project to help promote concussion education. A concussion can unexpectedly happen to anyone in the blink of an eye, whether an athlete or even a college professor. I don’t think people realize how debilitating and devastating these injuries can be. Throughout this entire ordeal, I learned not to take the little things for granted. I am happy to have my life returning and especially to be back on campus.

BELIEVE | Continued from page 25 for thereby some have entertained angels without knowing it.” Lorna Byrne says angels rely on human help often to accomplish good. “As adults, we have to be aware that when a thought comes into our heads to do something for someone, even a stranger, we need to just go and do it. We are the angels’ messengers and at times it can be hard for the angels to deliver messages or give signs …” Whether you believe or do not believe in the winged seraphim, it appears that, to many Americans in the 21st century, they are as real and important as they were in the ancient days of the Bible. And that, according to Gontis, is not surprising. “Faith and reason can’t be in contradiction, because they both come from God,” Gontis said. “The God that creates the laws of science also gives us the faith to see beyond science. You see, it all hangs together. One teaching so easily leads to another, because they all come from God.”

Risky business | Continued from page 41 special water bottle fountains to construction projects on campus, and is proud of his work to get recycling bins in all areas of the O’Pake Center. Once his work with that project was completed, he handed it over to the Environmental Club and turned his attention elsewhere — like tax preparation for senior citizens at Berks Encore, as part of a class taught by Dr. Mary Ellen Wells. “That was a great way for me to give back to the community,” says Covington. “Alvernia’s commitment to community service was one of the reasons I picked the university, and the Berks Encore tax project was a way for me to do it with something I do best. It was revolutionary for me because I didn’t see community service as something like that — something that wasn’t cleaning up a park or roadside.” Though he originally considered attending Bucknell and Lehigh Universities, Covington immediately found his home at Alvernia during his first visit and never looked back. “I was really impressed by how welcoming everyone was,” he explained. And he certainly models the university’s “do well and do good” mantra. As President Flynn would say, students like Covington are “why we do what we do.”

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Physical Therapy Turn your passion into practice with a Doctor of Physical Therapy degree from Alvernia University. Our program will prepare you for today’s complex healthcare environment.


Following the

Evidence A forensic scientist turned teacher discovers a path to happiness. By Karen L. Miller

When Freddie Haumesser ’09 was named a prestigious Woodrow Wilson Teaching Fellow, she didn’t expect to be the one learning lessons she would never forget. One of the things you learn about working in forensic science is that dead people don’t talk back, but what they leave behind does. It’s a lesson “Freddie” (Cope) Haumesser ’09 was well versed in as a forensic scientist at the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation. As a member of the state’s official crime lab she regularly used cutting-edge technology to process bodily fluids and analyze DNA evidence to solve law enforcement cases and bring criminals to justice. While that role kept Haumesser humming along in a field that was challenging, it didn’t address the yearnings she had years earlier when she was a budding young college co-ed on Alvernia’s campus. “ … some people don’t “I always want to work in high-need wanted to be a teacher, but my family schools, but the impact pushed me to you can have on students pursue science because is life changing.” teaching doesn’t usually Freddie Haumesser ’09 pay as well,” she said. “In my heart, I always wanted to be more involved with the community and young people.” Understanding her work with forensic evidence was never going to provide that, she put the process in motion to become a switch hitter, swapping time-tested expertise in forensic science for a vision to teach young people in the classroom. To help make her dream come true, she applied for a Woodrow Wilson Ohio Teaching Fellowship. The highly competitive fellowship seeks to attract talented, committed individuals with backgrounds in the STEM fields — science, technology, engineering and mathematics — into teaching at high-need Ohio secondary schools. It proved to be a wise move. Haumesser became one of 79 candidates to win the prestigious fellowship and a $30,000 stipend to help her complete a master’s degree program and earn a teaching license. No novice to the college environment, she already had three degrees in hand: an associates degree in general studies from Reading Area Community

College, a bachelor’s degree in chemistry/ forensic science from Alvernia (where Dr. Rosemarie Chinni, chair of the mathematics and science department, mentored her) and a master’s degree in forensic science from Arcadia University in Glenside, Pa. Thanks to the Woodrow Wilson Fellowship, she is on her way to earn a second master’s degree, this time in secondary education from the University of Akron. As part of the Wilson Fellowship, she is participating in a yearlong experience teaching eighth-grade mathematics in an urban environment. It’s an experience that is already paying the type of dividends that Haumesser had hoped, recalling a recent conversation she had with a student. “Mrs. H.,” asked one of her students, “Can we stay and do more math problems?” For an eighth-grade student to want to do math over chatting in the hall was nothing short of amazing to Haumesser, 29. “That’s what the fellowship taught us; how to engage the student,” Haumesser said. Haumesser, who also previously worked as a chemist at Lancaster Labs, Lancaster, Pa., is applying for a job at a high-needs school to complete her degree requirement. She loves teaching math, but is qualified to teach chemistry and forensics, sometimes offered as an elective, she said. In addition, she is being trained in subjects important to her students and their lives, such as diversity and discrimination. When the former Fredericka Cope first went to Ohio, she knew no one. She signed up for a Habitat for Humanity event, an activity that drew on her Alvernia community service experience, where she met her future husband, Greg Haumesser. Together, they have a son, Cole. If she and her young family hadn’t settled in Brunswick, Ohio, the Reading School District would be exactly the kind of school she would hope to teach in. “The influence I have with eighth-grade students is amazing,” Haumesser said. “The thing is some people don’t want to work in high-need schools, but the impact you can have on students is life changing.” And while her current “subjects” do talk back (a clear contrast to her previous job), for this forensic scientist turned teacher, they are words to live for!

Alvernia University Magazine


Sweet feet 54 Alvernia University Magazine

Heather Wanner has knocked down one school record after another in several different events this spring, thanks to a multifaceted training program.

When she straps on her running shoes, Heather Wanner feels powerful. Unstoppable. Confident. She has what some call “sweet feet,” and she believes they will do well by her wherever they take her. And so far, those amazing feet have led her to accomplish some astonishing feats, taking the 19-year-old sophomore to the NCAA Indoor Track and Field Championship last March in WinstonSalem, N.C., where she finished 10th in the nation. She missed winning by just two-tenths of a second. Wanner loves the idea of bringing national attention to Alvernia, showing others they could attend the small school and succeed as she has. The fast-moving athlete knocked down one school record after another in several different events last spring, including 60 and 200 meter indoor and 100 and 200 meter outdoor dashes. Along the way, Wanner improved her personal best practically on a weekly basis. All this comes from a young athlete who only began running track as a sophomore at nearby Fleetwood High School. She followed in the footsteps of her aunt, Tina Rathje, who ran on the same Fleetwood track and encouraged her to try out. Her coach, Eric J. Bennett, is glad she did. “Heather is very fast, and she’s a great person,” said Bennett, who coached at Elizabethtown College and the

University of Rochester before Alvernia. “I look at more than the athlete. I look at the whole person and she’s pretty well balanced. She spends a lot of time with her family who are nearby and she does things on and off campus, like helping put together dinner for the Ronald McDonald House. She really does live Alvernia’s mission.” Bennett added that Wanner worked hard to get to nationals and had never before won county or college races, until now. “I think what drives me most is my family, my friends, my team, my love of Alvernia and getting the name of our school out there,” she said. Wanner, who switched majors from occupational therapy to healthcare science, was always fleet on her feet. Part of her process includes surrounding herself with other track athletes. Her roommate, Alicia Lesneski and Wanner’s boyfriend, Seth Bellott, are on Alvernia’s track team, too. “When I was little, it was nice to be faster than a lot of other people,” she said. “It was definitely an advantage in tag. I was not caught as easily as others.” And at Alvernia, Wanner is still not easily caught. “One thing that helps me to do well is to believe in myself,” Wanner said. “I tell myself: ‘Don’t be intimidated or nervous. Don’t worry about other people.’ I do the best I can do.” And so far, Wanner’s best is pretty darn good! — By Karen L. Miller

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