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Alumnus Lawrence E. Cohen ’57 to be Honored With President’s Medal at Founders Gala 2018 

Wilkes University alumnus Lawrence E. Cohen ’57 will be awarded the President’s Medal at the 2018 Founder’s Gala on June 2. The President’s Medal is bestowed annually on an individual whose personal and professional life reflect the highest aspirations of Wilkes University.


Pictured, Lawrence Cohen. Photo courtesy Benco Dental

Cohen enjoyed a successful career at Benco Dental, a company started by his father in the 1930s. Cohen joined Benco in 1959, when the organization served a handful of dentists in Wilkes-Barre and Scranton. Over the next three decades, Benco grew into one of the largest dental distributors in the United States, with sales of more than $100 million. Since the ’90s, Cohen has worked closely with his sons to build Benco into the nation’s largest family-owned dental distributor, serving dentists from coast to coast. Cohen currently serves as Benco’s chairman and chief customer advocate.

Cohen graduated from Wilkes University with a bachelor’s degree in accounting. He went on to earn a master’s degree in management and finance from Columbia University. Cohen served on the University’s board of trustees for 14 years and was granted trustee emeritus status in 2008.

In announcing Cohen as the 2018 President’s Medal honoree, Wilkes president Patrick F. Leahy praised his personal commitment to the University. “The Cohens’ support of Wilkes University has been paramount to the success of our students. Because of Larry and Sally’s generosity, our students learn in a first-class, integrative facility bearing the Cohen name. Collaboration across disciplines is the future of science.  The Cohen Science Center puts Wilkes at the forefront of research and study.”

The Lawrence and Sally Cohen Science Center, a $35 million, 72,500-square-foot interdisciplinary science facility, was built in 2013. The science center was named in recognition of the couple’s $2.5 million gift in support of the project – one of the largest gifts in Wilkes history. It brings four floors of state-of-the-art laboratories together to encourage collaborative research and study.

The Founders Gala, established in 2014, has raised more than $1.5 million. Proceeds from the event support the First Generation Scholarship Fund, which provides scholarship funds to students who are the first in their family to pursue a four-year degree. For more information about sponsorships and attending the Founders Gala, please visit www.wilkes.edu/foundersgala or contact Margaret Steele, executive director of advancement and alumni relations at margaret.steele@wilkes.edu or (570) 408-4302.

Selections From the Sordoni Collection of American Illustration & Comic Art Featured In The Sordoni Art Gallery Through May 20

64. Futurist

Among the works featured in Selections from the Sordoni Collection of American Illustration and Comic Art is Maxfield Parrish’s A Dark Futurist, above, which graced the cover of Life magazine.

Illustrations and comic strip art from the late 19th century to the present provide a glimpse into popular culture in the spring exhibition in the Sordoni Art Gallery. Selections from the Sordoni Collection of American Illustration & Comic Art is featured through May 20. The exhibition, drawn from the private collection of Andrew J. Sordoni, III, features 135 original artworks by more than 100 artists, including “Golden Age” illustrators N.C. Wyeth, Maxfield Parrish and Frank Schoonover. Norman Rockwell and J.C. Leyendecker, both known for their mass-market magazine covers, are also represented.

43. Lancelot

N.C. Wyeth’s I am Sir Lancelot du Lake, King Ban’s son of Benwick, and knight of the Round Table, above, which illustrated a book about King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table.

The exhibition includes paintings and drawings that appeared on magazine covers, interior story illustrations, advertisements, book jackets, album covers, daily and Sunday comic strips, cartoons and movie cels. Notable comic strip artists on view include George Herriman (Krazy Kat), Harold Foster (Prince Valiant) and Charles Schulz (Peanuts) along with Wilkes-Barre native Ham Fisher (Joe Palooka). Cartoons that appeared in periodicals such as The New YorkerPlayboy and The National Lampoon by Buck Brown, John Caldwell and Charles Rodrigues are also represented. The exhibition was curated by Stanley Grand.

Wilkes Intensive English Program Earns Membership In Prestigious Consortium

Wilkes University’s intensive English program was granted membership to University and College Intensive English Programs (UCIEP), an independent consortium representing the highest professional standards for intensive English programs in the United States due to  professors’ commitment to ensuring their students receive the highest quality intensive English instruction.

The University is one of four Pennsylvania schools, including the University of Pennsylvania, Drexel University and the University of Pittsburgh, to receive this honor. It is also one of just 80 universities and colleges worldwide.

“This recognition reflects what we already know: Wilkes continues to evolve to a university of national prominence,” University President Patrick F. Leahy says.

The intensive English program was established in 2006 and is a 13-week program that immerses international students in the English language as well as American culture. Students are prepared to continue their academics at Wilkes or other American Universities by focusing on writing, listening, speaking, grammar, vocabulary and academic conversation. The program uses project-based learning to get the students active in the Wilkes community and help them develop an in-depth cultural awareness.

Wilkes continues to provide the opportunities of a large, research institution in the mentoring environment of a small, private college with this exclusive membership. Only 10 percent of the nation’s intensive English programs are UCIEP members and Wilkes is one of the smallest schools to earn a membership.

For two years, the University was assessed on setting and achieving high-academic standards, providing a comprehensive process for language teaching and learning, actively promoting the highest professional standards, and adequately preparing students for success at the university or college level, both in terms of English proficiency, and academic and cultural orientation.

“Our goal is to provide the highest quality English instruction, which shows in our student success rates and the way they perform during and after the program,” Kimberly Niezgoda, director of the Intensive English Program, says.

Wilkes Nursing Students Honored by Red Cross


Nursing students Peter Sidari, left, and Amber Ankudovich were honored by the American Red Cross of Northeast Pennsylvania for aiding a bicyclist struck by a car. Photo courtesy American Red Cross

Wilkes University nursing students Peter Sidari and Amber Ankudovich were awarded the Medical Emergency Services Award by the American Red Cross of Northeast Pennsylvania for aiding a bicyclist hit by a car last year. The two students were honored at the 2018 Celebration of Heroes event in March 2018. The event recognizes trained heroes and good Samaritans who were nominated by their peers and the community.

Sidari and Ankudovich were driving to a local hospital for clinical assignments in April 2017 when they came upon a bicyclist who was struck by a car near the Market Street Bridge in Wilkes-Barre. They began chest compressions until a registered nurse and the Wilkes-Barre paramedics arrived. The Medical Emergency Services Award recognizes their efforts in representing the values of the American Red Cross.

Professor Andrew Wilczak Brings Real-World Partnerships To Classroom


Andrew Willczak, associate professor of sociology, has brought his students to Hanover Area High School to help prepare students for college. Photo by Knot Just Any Day

Andrew Wilczak, associate professor of sociology, goes beyond the textbook, involving his students in real-world experiences that enhance their education. During the spring 2018 semester, Wilczak partnered with Michelle Zapotoski, a guidance counselor at Hanover Area Junior/Senior High School in Wilkes-Barre on a mentoring project to prepare high school students for the realities of college life.

Wilczak and a team of his students visited the high school to offer advice about the transition to college. Although they covered some traditional topics – like how to choose a major – the program addressed issues that are sometimes overlooked. They included managing time, dealing with homesickness, anxiety and depression, and staying healthy. The program is the first of its kind for the school.

“Over the years, I have heard about some students switching colleges or dropping out of college,” Zapotoski says. “I can’t help but wonder if there is more we can be doing to help prepare our youngsters for what lies ahead. The transition from high school to college is the focus and what that first year is really like is the focus of the program.”

Legendary Athlete, Author and Activist Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Delivers Rosenn Lecture on Sept. 30


Photo by Dan Winters

Basketball Hall of Fame center, New York Times-bestselling author and Presidential Medal of Freedom recipient Kareem Abdul-Jabbar delivered the Max Rosenn Lecture in Law and Humanities on Sunday, Sept. 30. He will speak at 2 p.m. in the McHale Athletic Center in the University Center on Main. The lecture, “Becoming Kareem,” will be a moderated discussion between Wilkes President Patrick F. Leahy and Abdul-Jabbar.  Their conversation will explore issues such as political activism in sports, race relations, and facing life’s struggles with positivity. The event will end with a book signing. Admission is free but advanced registration is recommended. Registration will open June 1. To register, go to www.wilkes.edu/kareem.

Research, Travel and Service Highlight Spring Break Experiences

Spring break offers students more than a vacation from classes.  Colonels roll up their sleeves or put on their hiking boots and experience international and stateside community service trips, research opportunities and outdoor adventures. These experiences give students the opportunity to develop their leadership, teamwork and critical thinking skills.


Students in professor Sid Halsor’s Geology of Hawaii class and members of the GeoExplorer Club spent spring break exploring the volcanic features at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. Photo courtesy Sid Halsor.

Students enrolled in geology Professor Sid Halsor’s Geology of Hawaii class Students spent several days in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park exploring the spectacular volcanic features associated with Kilauea volcano, the most active volcano on earth and in continuous eruption since 1983. The trip was coordinated with the GeoExplorer Club and Bobby Karimi, assistant professor of geology.  Highlights included a tour and presentation by U.S. Geological Survey geoscientist at the Hawaii Volcano Observatory, close-up observations of active lava flow on the volcanic field, and night-time view of the vivid red glow over the Kilauea summit crater where lava fountaining was occurring.

Other spring break opportunities included community service Alternative Spring Break trips to Costa Rica and the Dominican Republic and a Wilkes Adventure Education trip to San Francisco that also included coastal stops in California and Oregon.


Costa Rica_coffee

Students examine coffee beans on an Alternative Spring Break trip to Costa Rica.


More On The Web

“Some people tell me I’m an overachiever.” That statement launches a short-form documentary about Wilkes University senior Gabrielle Spagnola. The 60-second video goes on to chronicle Spagnola’s Wilkes experience – three majors (biology, neuroscience and history), three minors and travel abroad. The documentary is the first of six planned short videos capturing the journeys of Wilkes students. Catch Spagnola’s piece and several others at www.wilkes.edu/6in60