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On The Edge of Knowledge

Wilkes Research Culture Puts Students At Its Center

By Vicki Mayk MFA ’13


Junior environmental engineering majors Scott Heffelfinger and Jillian Weston collect water samples from North Lake in Sweet Valley, Pa., to measure nitrate and phosphate levels. Photo by Knot Just Any Day

When Amanda Schall ’17 graduated from Wilkes, she received a present from Jeff Stratford, associate professor of biology.

It was a machete engraved with the Wilkes logo, Schall’s name and the words “Stratford Lab Legends.” The memento commemorated the four years she spent as a student researcher in his lab. Stratford, who is an ornithologist, is assisted by students as he studies environmental impacts on bird populations, food webs and other ecology-related topics.

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A Dream Realized

Ambitious Projects Transform Campus


At the start of the fall 2018 semester, students returned to a dramatically different Wilkes campus. Pictured here, the Fenner Quadrangle has been transformed with an expanded gateway linking it to South Main Street, new walkways and meeting places. All photos by Earl & Sedor Photographic unless otherwise noted.

The bulldozers and earth movers arrived on campus two days after the May commencement ceremony. They left the Fenner Quadrangle less than a week before first-year students arrived on campus for fall semester. In between their arrival and departure, a series of projects created a green oasis in the center of campus, planted new trees, built walkways and put the finishing touches on a renovation to Stark Learning Center. These campus enhancements, completed during summer and early fall 2018, have achieved Wilkes’ goal of creating a traditional residential campus within the City of Wilkes-Barre. Part of a $100 million plan, the completed projects include an expanded gateway linking the southern part of campus to the Fenner Quadrangle. Other recently completed projects created new green space and a companion gateway at the south entrance to the Henry Student Center. These pages offer a look at a campus transformed.

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Safeguarding Safety

Samantha Sonnett ’04 Works for the New York Police Department’s Counterterrorism Division

By Koren Wetmore


Samantha Sonnett ’04 rides a radiation detection boat in New York harbor – one of the tools she uses in work detecting chemical hazards. Photo by Dan Z. Johnson

Samantha Sonnett ’04 recalls the moment that changed the course of her education and career: It was Sept. 11, 2001, during a public speaking class at Wilkes. Her instructor switched on a television and Sonnett watched in horror as the Twin Towers fell.

“It angered me so much,” she says. “Right after 9/11, I decided to focus my career on ensuring that something like that doesn’t happen again.”

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Gateway to the Future

Wilkes Launches Public Phase of $55 Million Fundraising Campaign

Left, University Trustee Jason Griggs ’90 addresses attendees at the launch of the Gateway to the Future Campaign on Homecoming weekend. Center, Wilkes President Patrick F. Leahy shares his vision for making Wilkes one of the finest small universities in the nation. Right, Wilkes vocalists sing the alma mater at the campaign kickoff. Photos by Knot Just Any Day.

Homecoming Weekend 2018 – often a time to remember the past — kicked off with a celebration of Wilkes University’s future. Alumni, faculty, staff and students gathered for the Gateway to the Future Campaign Kick-Off Celebration.  The event, held in the in the McHale Athletic Center, launched the public phase of the $55 million fundraising campaign that will help to transform the University. The kickoff highlighted the development goals for the upcoming years for Wilkes, brick by brick, opportunity by opportunity and student by student.

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Animal Advocate

Attorney Garry S. Taroli ’76 Works Tirelessly For Animal Rights

By Andrew Seder


Garry S. Taroli ’76 confers with Big Mama, one of the dogs whose cases he has defended for the Luzerne County SPCA. Photo by Earl and Sedor Photographic

The curtain has come down on the world’s largest circus. Sea World has stopped breeding orcas in captivity and states have cracked down on puppy mills. There are laws stipulating how long dogs can be kept outside in extreme weather. Garry S. Taroli ’76 has applauded the decisions, seeing each as a victory, not just for animals, but for humans, too.

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Coming Attractions


Campus Projects Are Transforming Wilkes

Wilkes is in the midst of a $100 million campus enhancement plan that will help the University achieve a decades-long dream of building a traditional, residential campus fully integrated into the City of Wilkes-Barre. These unprecedented investments will create a cohesive look and feel on campus, while improving safety and alleviating traffic congestion. Here is a look at some of the projects that will take place over the next two years. Continue reading

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Global Innovator

Bob Bruggeworth ’83 Finds Success Managing and Motivating in High-Tech Industry

By Kelly Clisham ’12 MFA ’16

If you’ve sent a text from your phone, read a book on your tablet, used Wi-Fi on your laptop or even turned on the TV with a remote control, Bob Bruggeworth ’83 has had an impact on your life. He’s president and chief executive officer of Qorvo, a communications chipmaker headquartered in Greensboro, N.C.


Qorvo’s headquarters in Greensboro, N.C., is home base for Bob Bruggeworth ’83, who travels the globe as the firm’s president and chief executive officer. All photos in this story are by Todd Bowman.

While Qorvo may not be a household name, it specializes in RF, or radio frequency, solutions, manufacturing amplifiers, switches and filters that connect individuals, households and businesses all over the globe. “We’re in a great market that’s growing by double digits, being fueled by the consumers’ insatiable demand for data, which means you need more of the parts we make,” says Bruggeworth. “If you name a phone, we’re probably in it – or any of your access points.”

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