The Online Edition

Giving Back — Winter 2016

Little Things Make the Difference for Alumni Volunteer Jason Marie ’00


Jason Marie ’00 and his wife, Jill Ronkowski Marie ’00, and their children Ben and Courtney visit campus together each year.

When Wilkes graduates truly find joy in volunteering, mentoring and guiding others at their alma mater, their enthusiasm shows. That’s the case with dedicated volunteer Jason Marie ’00. He works with the Wilkes alumni-student mentoring program, speaks in classes on campus and attends events with his family.

“Being involved is not about making huge changes. Just try it, take it one semester at a time, and you’ll get some individual victories for yourself and for Wilkes students. If everyone gets involved and could do something small, that would be a huge change,” says Marie. “The little things do make a difference.”

He does all of this to enhance students’ educational careers in the environmental engineering program without expecting anything in return. “A big reason I do what I do is because of my mentors. All throughout my life, my true mentors have not asked for much in return. I don’t want recognition; I am just looking forward to seeing what my mentees do in the future and how they pay it forward to others,” says Marie.

Marie’s Wilkes experience not only gave him a great education and mentorship, but also was the place where he met his wife, Jill Ronkowski Marie ’00. The couple now have two children, Ben and Courtney.

Read about Jason’s involvement with Wilkes in the following Q&A.

Describe your Wilkes experience as a student.

From an academic standpoint, I chose Wilkes because of the small classroom sizes and how the professors were very involved with students. It was a great fit for me and my learning style.

I also got really lucky with my group of friends. We developed lifelong friendships that still stand to this day.

Was there a faculty member, staff member or alumnus who was very influential during your time at Wilkes?
Dr. Thomas Walski was the person who convinced me that Wilkes would be a good fit. He stopped being a full-time faculty member shortly after I came to Wilkes, but he is still involved with the program in different ways. Dr. Prahlad Murthy was my advisor and he took so much extra time with his students and advisees. He always made the time to go above and beyond what was expected….He had such a big influence on my life, and now we stay in touch on a regular basis, even regarding family things, not just Wilkes.

What was your career path after graduation?
I went to Drexel University for my master’s degree. I was the fourth or fifth environmental engineering Wilkes graduate to work with the same Drexel professor on a research assistantship. The alumni who came before me paved the way to make that happen. After Drexel, that connection helped me to get my first job in Phoenix, Ariz. After seven years in Arizona, Jill and I wanted to start our family in Pennsylvania, so I took a job with Hatch Mott MacDonald in Philadelphia, Pa., where I work now.

When did you begin to become involved with current students as an alumnus?
I stayed active with the (Wilkes) faculty when I was at Drexel and working in Arizona to provide them with professional updates. I would try to do whatever they asked of me, whether it was reviewing senior projects and student reports or assisting with recruitment efforts. After moving back to Pennsylvania, I wanted to become more involved….In the fall of 2012, Jill and I were senior project advisors. I became involved with mentoring in 2013 and I’ve been a mentor since then.

What kinds of programs are you currently involved with?
I’m involved with the student-alumni mentoring program. Anytime a professor asks me to speak with classes, I try to make the time to give students professional career tips. This year, I was on campus to attend a luncheon and help with the ABET accreditation process. I’ve also assisted with planning engineering alumni events and planning for students to take tours in different facilities. Whenever Wilkes engineering students are presenting at a conference near me, I do my best to try to seek them out to introduce myself.

What is your favorite way to interact with students?
I love having a personal interaction with students. One-on-one or a small group is a great way to engage students because you can connect with them to begin to build a personal and professional relationship.

Why do you return to campus as a family for events like Homecoming?
Because Wilkes is so important to Jill and me, we feel that our children should understand where their parents met and that college is a fun place. Coming to Wilkes becomes an annual trip that our children look forward to.

Why is it important for alumni to give back in whatever way possible?
If Wilkes was important to you for your career and helped to shape who you are, why wouldn’t you want to have that same influence to touch someone else’s life? Staying involved with your alma mater can help in so many ways. You can help the next generation learn and grow from your experiences, but you can also connect with some of your fellow classmates or even other alumni who can become part of your network. Alumni can do as much or as little as they like. Your role can be as small as making a phone call to a student or you can take on a slightly bigger role of talking to professors to see how you can help current students…. One volunteer opportunity during a semester or during a school year can make all the difference in someone’s life.

Jason Marie ’00, Maple Glen, Pa.

Married to Jill Ronkowski Marie ’00

Bachelor of Science, environmental engineering, Wilkes

Master of Science, Drexel Univeresity  

Career: Associate, Hatch Mott MacDonald in Philadelphia