Cor Mariae Dinner

Apr 27, 2014

  Since the Order of Cor Mariae pro Fide et Cultura was established in 1965 to honor faculty and administrators who have demonstrated distinguished vicennial service to Marywood, it has been a wonderful tradition to meet each year to pay tribute to our colleagues who reached significant milestones in their records of service. Over the years, I have had the pleasure of attending this wonderful annual event and have joined in applauding the outstanding individuals who have received well-deserved recognition and appreciation for their commitment to this institution. This evening brings an extra measure of pleasure, since I am now privileged to be part of expressing both Marywood’s thanks—and my own—to the exceptional educators who have given so much of their lives…of their varied and considerable talents and abilities…to advance the mission of Marywood University.

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{Cor Mariae Tributes, as read by Dr. Alan Levine; medals and tribute citations awarded by Sister Anne}

Estelle Campenni is the embodiment of WYSIWYG [pronounced ‘whizzywig’] – what you see is what you get. Low on pretense, high on candor, Estelle demonstrates authenticity in all she does. She exudes a passion for life and her enthusiasm is contagious. Estelle works hard and wants her students to do so, as well. There is a wooden sign on her door which reads, “No Sniveling.” This might suggest that she is not supportive of students, but the opposite is clearly true. Students consistently are in Estelle’s office. Indeed, the American Psychological Association accreditation site visitors recently remarked in their exit interviews that students cited Dr. Campenni as being a particularly supportive and encouraging faculty member.

Just as Estelle promotes quality education at Marywood, she has instilled the value of education in her two sons. Trevor is now a junior engineering major at Wilkes University and Evan is a high school senior planning to become a physician assistant. She also has worked tirelessly to improve the education of students in the Wyoming Area school district. First as a school board member, and now as the newly elected school board president, Estelle brings her focused, authentic, logical style to another arena. Again on the cutting edge, she leads that area’s first predominantly female school board and has welcomed the district’s first female superintendent.

Consistent with her self-description as an “introverted extrovert, or an extroverted introvert,” Estelle also makes time to focus on herself. Whether it is working in her garden, throwing clay on the pottery wheel, practicing yoga, or enjoying the latest live music, Estelle is passionate about her endeavors.

Marywood University is fortunate to have Estelle Campenni as a member of our community. We have enjoyed her humor, her enthusiasm, her camaraderie, and her work ethic. We are pleased, therefore, to honor her for her twenty years of distinguished service and welcome her into THE ORDER: COR MARIAE—PRO FIDE ET CULTURA.

Dr. Craig Johnson’s record of service to Marywood University can be demonstrated in numbers. Simple subtraction reveals 20 years since he joined the faculty in 1994. Multiplication of his three, four-year terms as department chair show 12 years in that position (at least, figured, as his colleagues have said, with a 95 percent degree of probability). More complex, however, will be calculating the number of students he has taught, and influenced, and helped to successful futures. That number surely approaches infinity. 

Probably the first research mathematician in the history of the department, Dr. Johnson led its transformation from almost exclusively teaching oriented to a program that excels in both teaching and research. As the longest-serving among new departmental faculty, he often refers to himself as the “tribal elder.” He is both a mentor to students and a role model to faculty. As Chair, he leads the department by setting an inspiring example in everything he does: teaching, research, service; never hesitating to share his experience and wisdom in guiding newer faculty to success.

Dr. Johnson has helped with Marywood’s High School Math Contest, coached every Northeast PA American Regions Math League team (ARML) since the first one—which he formed in 1998—and has served as a faculty advisor for spring break service trips. He has been involved in such community service projects as Big Brothers Big Sisters of America and Meals on Wheels.

At the core of everything he does is a desire to help others. The value of Dr. Johnson’s commitment to the University continues to grow exponentially with every young pre-college scholar introduced to and challenged by the intricacies of mathematics…with every well-trained student who graduates…with every life he touches through service. For 20 years, he has numbered among Marywood educators of whom the University may be so justly proud. We thank him and welcome him into THE ORDER: COR MARIAE PRO FIDE ET CULTURA.


Paulette Posluszny Merchel has brought style, skill, craft, fidelity, graciousness, and a hundred other gifts of our community, ever since she arrived at Marywood as a student. The years between have been filled with accomplishment, and with challenge, but mostly with joy. After receiving her degree from Marywood, Paulette went on to earn her M.A. in Theatre Arts from the State University of New York (SUNY) at Binghamton, pursued her M.A./Ph.D. in comparative literature at SUNY Stony Brook; then earned her Ph.D. in Mass Media and Communication from Temple University. She continued her studies at SUNY Binghamton, the University of Texas at Austin, and Jagiellonian University, Krakow, Poland.

Paulette taught speech and dramatic arts at West Scranton High School for 20 years, but in 1992, she received an urgent appeal to come to Marywood as Assistant Professor in the Theatre Department. To add to excitement of her coming to Marywood, Paulette married her beloved Paul during her first year on the faculty. During her tenure at Marywood, Paulette produced 26 plays, directing nearly 30 of them, plus 11 plays in her favorite genre: children’s theatre. At Marywood, she served on a dozen committees, and was advisor to Marywood Players, Coordinator of Practicum, and Supervisor of the Speech program. She was the voice of Commencements, assisting the audience to appreciate the significance of the ceremony. In 2012, she received the Marywood Alumni Award of Excellence in Creative Arts and Management.

Paulette needed to leave Marywood in 2010 to care for her ailing husband, her parents, and a beloved uncle. She bore with strength and courage the loss of each of them within a single year. Then, last summer, Paulette received another urgent appeal to return to Marywood to serve as Associate Professor and Director of Theatre. Her generosity and loyalty moved her to meet Marywood’s need once more. Over the course of 20 years, Paulette Merchel has generously shared her talent, her leadership, and her friendship. We are pleased, therefore, to thank her and to welcome her into THE ORDER: COR MARIAE—PRO FIDE ET CULTURA.

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{Sister Anne presented the Years of Service and Retiree tributes, as follows.}

We have just paid tribute to three dedicated individuals—Dr. Estelle Campenni, Dr. Craig Johnson, and Dr.Paulette Merchel—and have inducted them into the order Cor Mariae pro Fide et Cultura for their distinguished vicennial service. We now have the pleasure of recognizing other colleagues who have previously joined the Cor Mariae ranks and have now reached personal milestones, still farther along on their paths of service. These exceptional educators have served Marywood for 25, 30, and even an amazing 40 years. It is not, however, for length of service alone that we salute them, but also for the exceptional accomplishments and extraordinary contributions—both to Marywood and to the larger community—that they have made along the way. Each individual, through his or her commitment to excellence and dedication to this university is an example of achievement in their varied and demanding fields.

Voltaire once wrote that “by appreciation, we make excellence in others our own property.”  So tonight, in our appropriate act of offering our sincere gratitude to our distinguished colleagues, we too may be enriched by their excellence.

I would also have to confess to a touch of pride and a little extra measure of pleasure in acknowledging one of our own this evening—Dr. Kathy Ruthkosky, who has served her beloved alma mater as a faculty member for a quarter of a century now. She received both a B.A. in elementary Education/Early Childhood Education and an M.S. in Early childhood Education from Marywood before adding her Ph.D. from Penn State University. Kathy operated her own day-care center before joining Marywood’s Education Department. Fortunately for Marywood, Kathy’s timing was perfect. She was here at the right moment to share her expertise and ability in designing the program for the Fricchione Day Care Center. 

Presently serving as the Director of Learning Outcomes Assessment and Accreditation, she works to ensure accreditation documents are accurate and complete. Additionally, Kathy works with faculty on analyzing data related to student achievement of learning outcomes. In this new role, she continues to blend and share both her creative and technical competence. She previously served as Chair of the Undergraduate Education Department and then administrator of the bi-level department. Her teaching ability brought her recognition as CASE Professor of the Year. Her leadership in the state affiliate of the National Association of Teacher Education also earned the title, “Guru of NCATE”…or sometimes “Queen of PDE.” On multiple campus committees and in support of community organizations, she is, as her original Cor Mariae citation noted, a “take charge” person with a wealth of ideas—and often an elbow poke to emphasize a point.

Kathy, thank you for the care, expertise and love for Marywood that you bring to all you are and do each day. Your impact touches the entire University and we are grateful.

For the past three decades, we have also delighted in the presence of Dr. Phyllis Black, Pioneer and Professor of Social Work—who has, in fact, been recognized as such by the NASW Social Work Pioneer Program—an initiative created to honor career social workers who have advanced and enriched the profession—improving social and human conditions. Such “Pioneers” are role models for future generations of social workers…their contributions reflected in every aspect of the field; they explore new territories and build outposts for human service on many frontiers. They pioneer through teaching, writing, research, advocacy. Phyllis Black does all this—and more. She has authored two books on the subject values and ethics. Her presentations and publications address issues of practice, research, and education in fields of hospice, rural populations, and genetics. Her colleagues honored her by establishing the Phyllis Black Social Work Legacy Award, now be presented annually to an outstanding MSW student in the Lehigh Valley program—the pioneering  program for which Phyllis herself was the “founding mother.”

No list of honors and accomplishments, can really give an accurate picture of Phyllis Black, the teacher legendary for her innovative—if unorthodox—techniques. She has been known to bring a squealing pig to a research symposium to illustrate the value of the “P” factor…juggle at student orientation to demonstrate the need to juggle responsibilities…and lead cheers at student gatherings. You might glimpse her rushing about, garbed in crash helmet, visiting classrooms—and racing students—on her scooter. As the rest of us can attest, they are not likely to catch up to her, though. We know. We have been trying for the past 30 years.

For 35 years, we have been blessed with the warm friendship and caring presence of Dr. Alice McDonnell, Professor of Public Administration, Health Services Administration, and Gerontology. Indeed, without her, there may not have been a program in Gerontology at Marywood University. She has been not only the program’s guiding light, but its expert teacher and strong voice. Her expertise is recognized on local and national levels. Her book on Health Service Administration, published last year, has been adapted as a textbook. Last month, she received a prestigious award from a national conference in Denver, in recognition of her leadership in the field. 

Associate Professor Alexander Dawoody fondly recalls Alice meeting him at the airport when he flew in for an interview back in 2008. As was typical, Alice was smartly dressed and coiffed, and driving her prized black Cadillac. He thought he was looking at a Pennsylvania version of Margaret Thatcher, Dr. Dawoody said. He came to know, he added, that while Alice, in fact—like the Iron Lady—is principled, sharp, determined, and articulate—she is also one of the kindest people he would ever know. This is something that all of us at Marywood already knew very well: Alice McDonnell is simply a wonderful human being. She cares about her students, the programs in her department, her secretary, colleagues, friends, children, grandchildren—virtually everyone and everything.

Alice, for 35 years of being Marywood’s own Iron Lady…dedicated and determined…compassionate and caring…tireless in your commitment to the excellence of the program  and those people it so thoughtfully serves, we sincerely thank you.

Tonight, we are pleased to recognize Annette Fisher, Information Literacy Librarian, for her 35 years of service to this institution. Annette has basically spent her entire adult life at Marywood. She came to campus as a student—and never really left—ultimately earning both bachelor’s and master’s degrees.

She’s been overheard saying that she is sure she’ll never have to go to Mohegan Sun or Atlantic City to experience a gambler’s thrill of suspense, because every time she puts in a search query and hits the enter key, it’s like pulling the handle of a slot machine. Her adeptness in managing the electronic intricacies of modern librarianship and knowledge of current affairs seems almost a contrast to her mastery of the most primitive of all arts—storytelling. Yet she excels in both. Annette is so attuned to her craft that she sees story potential almost everywhere. Bring up a topic  (especially one that is Marywood related) and Annette will respond by saying “Now, THERE IS a story behind that”…and she’ll go on to offer continuity, valuable insights, and a history to the topic—all seasoned with a lively sense of humor.

She is devoted to her family: her husband of 30 years, Herb, and her four children—who grew up running around the campus—and while in high school, excelled (no surprise!) in oratory and debate. Today, three of them have degrees in the hard sciences, including a son pursuing his Ph.D. and a daughter in Med School. Annette, with you, we have watched and shared your pride and joy in the growth of your family…and are delighted that you have all been part of our Marywood family for the past 35 years.

For an incredible 40 years now, Dr. Lee Harrison has—in the terminology of her field—nourished her students, fed her own scholarly curiosity through research, and set forth a rich and varied menu of exciting programs and possibilities in the study of nutrition and dietetics. Her expertise has unquestionably been a key ingredient in the growth of her department.

She obtained funding from the American Dietetic Association to create an online dietetic internship and from Blue Cross to develop an experimental residential program to treat obesity. She continues to make a major contribution to the Doctoral Program in Human Development, co-teaching one of the Interdisciplinary courses and representing the Health Promotion specialty on the Executive Committee for the program. She is actively involved in professional organizations and on faculty committees, where she is known for giving—again, in the terminology of her field—the straight scoop.

She is a world traveler who pursues an interest in—as one might guess—ethnic and cultural food habits…a passion that should keep her at Marywood for another ten years, Dr. Alan Levine reasons, because there are at least that many countries with cuisines and wines that she wants to visit as professor/chaperone for the students in her Chemistry of Wine and Cheese course. The main reason for her record-breaking accumulation of frequent flyer miles, however, is that she has been forced to commute to Portland, Oregon, just to see her husband who is an engineer there...which is surely a measure of her devotion to Marywood. Lee, for 40 years of such peerless dedication, we truly toast you.

Now, we have come to the part of the program that is often difficult for me, and, I’m sure, for all of you; it is the time when we must bid a fond farewell to some of our beloved colleagues who have expressed their intent to retire. While we certainly rejoice that they will be able to enjoy this new chapter in their lives, we can’t help but feel bittersweet about their decisions, because we will miss their daily company, wisdom, humor, and friendship.

So, as I begin these tributes, let’s approach each with the purposeful intent that this isn’t an ending; rather, it is the beginning of something wonderful for these individuals who mean so much to the Marywood community.

Our first retiree only recently told me of his plans to retire, so this may come as a surprise to some of you…but he is a gentleman who has certainly contributed greatly to Marywood’s growth and progress over the past two decades. 

Dr. Raymond P. Heath became Vice President for Student Affairs on August 5, 1996. He arrived at Marywood at a time when the institution itself was undergoing major, historic changes, but his wealth of experience, attained at institutions such as La Salle University, Ohio Wesleyan University, and Ohio State University, prepared him well to lead our Student Life area into the future. Barely a year into his first year of service, Marywood transitioned from a college to a university. That was the first of many significant advancements—most of which were driven and shaped by Student Life.

During his 18 years of service, Dr. Heath has overseen remarkable growth in this area, and, under his leadership, a number of facilities in Student Life corridor of campus have either been built from the ground up or undergone tremendous transformations. Marywood’s resident population grew to the largest in its history, with more than 1,000 students residing on campus. Local, national, and international service endeavors have grown to include more than 71,000 hours of service each year. When Dr. Heath arrived at Marywood in 1996, our men’s varsity athletics program was in its very early years, and our women’s varsity athletics program featured just a few traditional women’s sports—we had a total of nine varsity teams. Now, including the latest additions of men’s and women’s outdoor track and field, which will begin this fall, we have more than doubled that total, and Marywood now features an incredible 19 varsity athletic programs.

Indeed, Dr. Heath has worked tirelessly to ensure our students’ well-being and to enhance their “home away from home” experience at Marywood. His expertise has been recognized by his peers, and, just last month, he was honored with the 2014 Scott Goodnight Award for Outstanding Performance by the National Association of Student Personnel Administrators (NASPA). This organization also honored him in 2008 as a “Pillar of the Profession.” Ray, your singular focus has always been to ensure that Marywood’s student life experience is welcoming and fulfilling. We are deeply grateful for the rich legacy you have shaped for our students—past, present, and future. We thank you and wish you the best in the years ahead.

Tonight, we also are saying farewell to a gentleman whose record of service has spanned nearly four decades. For 38 years now, Marywood students have been indebted to Stanley Skrutski, who has specialized in guiding them through the confusion and complexities of multiple financial aid programs. Stanley’s expertise was legendary. He has worked diligently to insure that Marywood was always in compliance. A good steward of institutional resources, he carefully monitored the discount rate, which certainly kept Mr. Garvey happy. Always the quintessential, trusted professional, Stanley was accountable for something in the neighborhood of 60 million dollars annually, but he knew where every penny was and should be.

Stanley has always been keenly conscious of the needs of Marywood students—present and future. He would not only go the figurative “extra mile” to help current Marywood students through the intricacies of scholarships and financial aid, he would go the literal “extra mile,” often traveling to high schools to present financial aid information. The one number Stanley could never be sure of was just how many students and parents—probably thousands—over the years, he helped navigate the tangled world of financial aid effortlessly—all without a hair out of place and immaculately dressed.

Stanley also is a talented musician, who is active in his parish and served as St. Thomas Aquinas Church in Archbald as organist for many years. It is rumored he enjoys good steak…along with a “warm Italian welcome” at one of his favorite dining spots—the Ben-Mar in Carbondale. Stanley, it’s true that we will miss your impeccable service and faultless friendship—but we wish for you all good things in the years to come—and a juicy steak at the Ben Mar…and we promise you a warm welcome when you return to visit us here.  

Let me set the stage for a moment. A teacher walks into the classroom. “Hello,” she says. “I am Dr. Doris Chechotka-McQuade…but I don’t expect you to remember all that or even spell it, so you can just call me Doris.” For more than 18 years, “just Doris” has been enriching, enlightening, entertaining, and delighting SSW students. Unfortunately, this year, we must bid a farewell to “just Doris,” who has been our colleague and friend. It is impossible to calculate the enormous impact she has had on her students over the course of those years. Anyone who knows her, personally or professionally, has benefited from her support, wisdom, and expertise. She has left her mark not only onto the profession as a whole, or on social work education, but on the community and systems with which she has interacted. A friend, colleague, and former student sums it up: “Firm yet fair, passionate, yet humble; Doris moved through this world with an optimism and vigor that can inspire the uninspired, motivate the unmotivated, and give anyone’s dark cloud a silver lining.” 

Doris is, indeed, a woman for all seasons—advocate, mentor, educator, caring social worker, role model, inter-professional collaboration pioneer, gerontology and policy guru, and haiku writer. She could put a class instantly at ease with her infectious laugh and sparkling personality—but it then it would quickly became obvious the she was exceptionally skilled, knowledgeable, and intelligent—and she shared this masterfully, while remaining approachable, friendly, funny, and above all, human. 

Doris, it won’t seem the same without your famous smiley faces and your bubbling laugh floating down the hallway…but we wish you days filled with sunshine and more laughter, and abundant occasion to keep using those smiley stickers.  

We must also reluctantly bit farewell to Dr. John Lemoncelli—after his more than quarter century of service to Marywood, as teacher, mentor, scholar, colleague, and passionately caring professional counselor and psychologist.  His tenure has been characterized by a gentle humanity that was infused into all he did—with balance, perspective, and sincerity—all of which he unfailingly brought to any discussion. He has been recognized as a leading authority on the issue of professional ethics and served as a member of the Ethics Committee of the Pennsylvania Psychological Association. He has been a treasured friend to his colleagues. Sister Gail Cabral, in describing John once said, “I would most want to note his caring, thoughtful, good-humored insights and concern for each of us. He keeps up-to-date on research, and thus is able to bring new knowledge to the practical concerns of practitioners.”

John Lemoncelli’s passionate concern has been for victims of abuse. He developed insightful metaphors in his own publications, dedicated to throwing light on the issue of abuse and seeking aid for survivors. He authored two books: A Mind of Its Own: Healing the Mind and Heart of the Parasite of Childhood Abuse, and Healing from Childhood Abuse: Understanding the Effect, Taking Control to Recover. As a teacher, he consistently earned near perfect student evaluations. (For John, a “bad semester” was one in which his course ratings dipped below 4.9 on a 5-point scale.) In one evaluation a student wrote, “The excellence of his teaching and counseling have blessed many men and women...I am honored to know him and share this journey.”

John, we are likewise honored to have known you, and honored to have shared in your journey over the years. We will sure miss your wise advice and loyal friendship…but we hope your journey, which now takes you in a new direction, will take you into many happy and rewarding years ahead.  

I have postponed this final goodbye as long as I could, but I’ve reached the moment of truth.  I really cannot imagine Marywood without Sister Margaret Gannon, IHM. For more than 45 years, Sister Margaret has given her life to this University. Just trying to hit the highlights makes a lengthy list. Yet, Sister Margaret is such a dear, familiar friend to so many that it is hard to say anything about her that we don’t already know. She has served as Chair of the Social Sciences Department and as Undergraduate Dean. Social issues have always been the great passion of her caring heart, and she has been a strong advocate for peace, justice, and diversity. She is a teacher, crusader, mentor, selfless friend. She is the Founder and former Director of The Theresa Maxis Center for Justice and Peace, as well as the founder of Marywood’s Women’s Studies Minor. She taught courses in developing world studies, including issues of hunger, peace, and women’s history. She encourages students to develop global perspectives, especially by organizing their participation in study abroad experiences and joining them for these experiences. She serves locally on multiple community boards and internationally on the board of the African Sisters Educational Collaborative.

Her colleague and friend, Dr. Kathleen Munley, has put it most beautifully, writing: “Reasons for honoring Sister Margaret are simply obvious: her unqualified dedication to academic integrity and high standards; her total commitment to this University…and to Marywood’s mission …her selfless support for and work on behalf of all underprivileged and forgotten souls of this word….her boundless energy and cheer, all packaged in a dynamic individual. There is no on quite like her.” Kathleen is correct. There IS NO ONE quite like Sister Margaret Gannon. Thank you, Margaret, for the passion that has characterized your extraordinary service. Godspeed. You cannot be replaced. But we can—and will—keep you always in our prayers. 

We congratulate each of our retiring colleagues on their outstanding careers, we thank them for their dedicated service and loyal friendship, and we want each of them to know that they are always a part of our community—may we cross paths again, soon and often.

On Wednesday, at our annual Years of Service reception, we will honor others in the campus community who have served Marywood well and faithfully in various positions: Ann Hopkins O’Neill, Edwina Rozelle, Marianne Dobrzyn, Marie Griffin, Debra Muchal, Nicole Malloy, Patricia Durkan, Janice Richardson, Timothy Clauss and Mary Jo Conserette will receive the Sister Theresa Maxis award for 20 years of service. 

In addition, we will honor: Vince Gatto, George Graham, and George Curran, for 25 years of service; Gerald Moskalczak, Robert Lorenzetti, Stanley Grezenda, and Patricia Thomas for 30 years or service.

I hope that you will all join us in recognizing the dedicated employees of the University.

To all of you whose milestones we celebrate tonight—and to all distinguished members of the order Cor Mariae pro Fide et Cultura—I offer my thanks for your continuing contributions to the excellence of Marywood University. 

I add my prayer that as you have blessed this University with your faithful service, so may you be blessed in all your endeavors.