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Looking Back, Looking Forward

Wilkes President Patrick F. Leahy Reflects On Seven Years Leading the University

By Vicki Mayk MFA ’13


Ask Wilkes President Patrick F. Leahy how he would like to be remembered at the University and a wry smile crosses his face.

“It’s a humbling to think that people would remember me at all,” Leahy quips.

His self-effacing comment doesn’t accurately reflect the many accomplishments during his seven-year tenure as president. When Leahy announced that he will leave Wilkes at the end of July 2019 to become president of Monmouth University, a private University on the north Jersey shore, it offered a chance for faculty, staff and alumni to note the many milestones at Wilkes under his leadership.

The timeline on these pages highlights, year by year, achievements reached during the Leahy presidency. They include more than $100 million in campus improvements, the establishment of an honors program, the introduction of 25 new academic majors, the launch of a $1 million faculty research and scholarship fund and the start of Wilkes’ first Ph.D. program in the Passan School of Nursing, Wilkes’ fifth terminal degree. Perhaps the most significant moment came in January 2019, when Wilkes achieved doctoral university status, placing it among the nation’s most prestigious institutions.

Wilkes magazine sat down with Leahy to reflect on his years leading Wilkes.  In the following question-and-answer session, he talks about his fondest memories.

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Campus Life Captured on Social Media for 24 Hours at Wilkes


In the Ballroom of the Henry Student Center, students gather to play bingo – a prelude to Casino Night, one of the year’s biggest campus events taking place the next day. Upstairs at Henry’s Food Court, others grab food at Late Night, so named in students’ unique shorthand to refer to the time from 7:30 to 11 p.m. when they can get a snack to fuel a midnight study session.

Crossing West South Street in front of the student center, a pair of students enters the Fenner Quadrangle. Crossing in front of the John Wilkes statue, one of them turns, raises her phone and snaps a picture of the statue silhouetted against the night sky. Over its shoulder, the brightly lit student center sends out welcoming light through the eyes of all of its windows. The picture becomes one of dozens that students, faculty and staff snap in a 24-hour period and post to social media, capturing campus life.

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Game Changers

Athletics Hall of Fame Inductees Reflect on Their Experience as Student Athletes

Being a student athlete defines the Wilkes experience for generations of University alumni. This year’s The 2018 inductees to the Athletics Hall of Fame reflect on their most memorable moments and the lessons learned on the playing field that they’ve applied to life after Wilkes.

Members of the Wilkes 2018 Hall of Fame class at the inductee ceremony are picture from left, Carrie Chipego Singer ’98, Kyle Follweiler ’08, Ed Burke ’70, Nadine Taylor Prutzma ’07, MS ’13, Ted Sokolowski ’72 and Jor Folek ’88.
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Gateway to the Future Campaign

Ralston Athletic Complex Project Will Enhance Experience of Student Athletes

An artist’s rendering shows Bruggeworth Field at the Ralston Athletic Complex. It will include a baseball field and a multi-purpose field that will be used by five sports.

The Gateway to the Future Campaign continues its goal of enhancing Wilkes University “brick by brick” with a project launching this summer at the Ralston Athletic Complex.

A multi-use field is planned that will transform the experience of student athletes with improved playing fields that will allow better scheduling of games and practices. It also will provide playing surfaces that will be better able to withstand the kind of weather that often accompanies a soggy spring in northeastern Pennsylvania.

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Ruth McDermott-Levy ’82 Studies Health Care for a Changing Planet

By Koren Wetmore

Ruth McDermott Levy
Ruth McDermott-Levy ’82’s research on health care and the environment often takes her outdoors. She is pictured on the Belmont Plateau near Philadelphia, not far from where she teaches at Villanova University. Photo by Dan Z. Johnson

Ruth McDermott-Levy ’82 arrived in Finland in summer 2018 during the third heatwave in what would become the nation’s hottest year on record. Finland’s average temperatures have already rose 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial temperatures — exceeding the 1.5 degree Celsius maximum set by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and double that of the rest of the globe.

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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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