The Wilkes campus was abuzz with activity on Thursday, Sept. 13, Friday, Sept. 14, and Saturday, Sept. 15 for the formal installation of Dr. Patrick Leahy as Wilkes’ sixth president.
Reflecting on the theme of “Looking Back with Pride, Looking Forward with Confidence,” the weekend’s festivities were arraigned by a steering committee co-chaired by Vice President of Student Affairs Dr. Paul Adams and Board of Trustees member Melanie Lumia.
Since the annual John Wilkes Society dinner, which honors Wilkes’ leadership donors, happened to fall around the time of the installation celebrations, it was worked into the events leading up to the installation on Thursday night at the Westmoreland Club on South Franklin Street in Wilkes-Barre.
On Friday afternoon, five faculty members representing each of Wilkes’ academic colleges presented research done in their fields. The research was part of Leahy’s interest in having a faculty presentation.
“Dr. Leahy knew from the beginning that he wanted to have some kind of academic or faculty presentation and so we built that in and it just worked out that we did that as part of Friday’s activities,” Adams explained.
The program started off with assistant professor of biology, physics and engineering Dr. Gregory Harms of the College of Science and Engineering presented his research on “Revelations Through Image Resolutions: Stimulated Emission Depletion Microscopy and Sheet Illumination Microscopy.”
Harms’s research focused on improving microscopy, or the ability to visualize something small, by making the effects of a stimulated emission depletion microscopy laser smaller so scientists could see sub-cellular structures of a tissue sample. The laser would do this by turning off the signal domain “lights” of the cell selectively.
Assistant professor of education Dr. Elizabeth Johnson of the School of Education presented her research on “The Role of Statistics in Educational Research.” Her presentation focused on her work dealing with rubric development for large-scale exams and math anxiety in teachers in grades kindergarten through 5.
Associate professor of history Dr. Diane Wenger of the College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences presented her research on “From Single Brother to Celebrated Snuff Maker: The Story Behind Demuth’s Tobacco Shop,” a case study on Demuth’s Tobacco Shop that was opened from circa 1770 to 2010 in Lancaster.
Associate professor of business administration Dr. Justin Matus of the Sidhu School of Business and Leadership presented his research on “An Analysis of Technology Enhanced Pedogogy and Learning: Student Response Systems (Clickers),” in which he and several alums of the school examined whether “clickers” in the classroom have an effect on students’ learning outcomes at the college level.
Associate professor of pharmacy practice Dr. Eric Wright of the Nesbitt College of Pharmacy and Nursing presented research on “Improving Health Through Patient Engagement,” in which he discussed research he is involved helping patients that were not taking their prescribed medications to be able to take them.
On Friday night, students, faculty, staff and alumni were invited for a celebration of the installation in the Henry Student Center ballroom, which included free food and drinks and a dance floor for attendees to enjoy themselves to with the music of local band Pop Rox.
Adams said the committee wanted to create a series of events that culminated in the installation. In particular, the committee wanted to have something for everyone on campus and it made sense to have the installation celebration on Friday night.
“We wanted to have a celebration for everybody at the campus, something that everybody could attend, something that everybody could enjoy, something that everyone would remember and so with a Saturday ceremony it just seemed to made sense that we would have a big campus party on Friday night,” Adams said.
The weekend of events highlighting the installation theme of “Looking Back With Pride, Looking Forward with Confidence” culminated on Saturday morning with Leahy’s formal installation at the F.M Kirby Center on Public Square in Wilkes-Barre.
The ceremony was kicked off with a procession of 200 people that included members of the Board of Trustees, faculty, administration, delegates, alumni and student representatives from 1946 to 2016 and four past presidents.
An original musical work entitled, “Noble Truths” written by associate professor of performing arts Dr. Steven Thomas with lyrics by associate professors of English Drs. Larry Kuhar and Mischelle Anthony was debuted by the University Chorus and the Robert Dale Chorale.
Speeches welcoming the new president were given by board member Virginia Sikes, Student Government president Kristofer Rivers, Matus, who is the chair of the Faculty Affairs Council, University College advising coordinator Gretchen Yeninas, Alumni Association president Thomas Ralston ’80, State Sen. John Yudichak of the 14th Senatorial District Wilkes-Barre Mayor Tom Leighton.
A musical selection of “Fanfare and Fantasy on Wilkes Our Alma Mater,” composed by associate professor of performing arts Dr. Philip Simon was performed by the Civic Band.
The keynote address was given by Rev. Scott Pilarz, president of Marquette University in Milwaukee, Wis. Pilarz had previously served as the president of the University of Scranton. Pilarz was also presented with an Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree.
Board Chair Jack Miller formally installed Leahy as President with the help of board members Melanie Lumia, the co-chair for the installation committee and Virginia Sikes, chair of the presidential search committee, by presenting Leahy with the charter of Wilkes, the seal and the presidential chain of office.
In his inaugural address, Leahy reflected on the installation theme and commented on the proud history and traditions at Wilkes while giving his outline for the future. And while he was reflective of his time at the University of Scranton, Leahy expressed to the crowd, “be forewarned Scranton, Wilkes is coming after you!”
Leahy plans to spend the year getting to know the University by getting to many individuals that make up Wilkes.
“My first year will be full of getting to know the university as well as possible, the best way to do that is to get to know as many individuals that are part of this community, the faculty members, the staff members and of course. The most constituents, the students,” Leahy said. “I’m going to spend much of the first year listening and developing relationships and enjoying the opportunity to get to know Wilkes University,” Leahy said.
Leahy said despite the demands of being president, he does hope to teach in the future.
“Despite the demands of the job of president, I think it’s important, the president in particular, to maintain some presence in the classroom,” Leahy said.
Leahy is also said he is planning on moving his office to Weckesser Hall to be more visible on campus, as well as some of the university vice presidents to be engaging on campus.
“My comings and goings will put in me in touch with the core constituents of the university, the faculty, the staff, the students,” Leahy said.
Overall, Leahy acknowledged that he is grateful to be chosen as president of Wilkes, stating;
“It’s a great privilege in my life to named and installed as the new president of Wilkes University, and I’m going to do everything I can to make sure that this university meets all of the ambitions that it has for itself.”