Wilkes

The Online Edition

On Campus – Spring 2020

Greg Cant Becomes Wilkes’ Seventh President in June – With A Head Start Thanks To Campus Visits 

Greg Cant was introduced as Wilkes’ seventh president at an event in the Sordoni Art Gallery in December 2019. Since that announcement, Cant has made getting to know the University community a priority. Although his official start date is June 15, 2020, he’s visited Wilkes several times in the last few months, attending some events and meeting with faculty, staff, students and friends of the University. 

He attended board of trustees and alumni association board meetings on March 6, and also met with faculty and was introduced to community leaders at a reception. On other occasions, he saw a play in the Darte Center and attended a Wilkes women’s and a men’s basketball game at Fairleigh Dickinson University in New Jersey. The game was a short drive on the Garden State Parkway from where Cant is completing his time as dean of the Feliciano School of Business at Montclair State University. He even made a quiet visit to the Wilkes campus – dressed in jeans and remaining incognito among other parents – when he accompanied his daughter Eliza to Scholars Day in February. She will be part of Wilkes’ first-year class in the fall. His wife, Angela, came with him for some of the visits, enjoying her own introduction to the campus community, including meeting with students. His son Jackson, a high school student, will be living on campus with them when they move to campus.

During a visit to campus in March, Greg Cant meets with members of the Alumni Association Board of Directors. Photo by Bridget Husted.

“My trips to campus were primarily designed to meet as many people as possible,” Cant explains. “Because it was a closed search, these opportunities with faculty, staff and students have been important as I continue to explore the environment and culture that makes Wilkes so special.  I was especially honored to meet our alumni, both on our board of trustees and in our greater community. Their success is the best endorsement for a Wilkes education. And their continued dedication to our University speaks volumes for the experience they had here.”

Cant’s appointment follows a national search that began in February 2019. A native of Australia, has 30 years of experience as an educator and administrator in the United States and abroad. He has served as the dean of the Feliciano School since July 2015. As dean, Cant provided strategic leadership for a business school of more than 3,700 students and 300 faculty and staff members. Under his leadership, the school developed and implemented over two dozen programs that enhanced enrollment and academic quality, leveraged interdisciplinary expertise and addressed critical market needs. During his tenure, the Feliciano School of Business experienced overall enrollment growth of nearly 50 percent, including a graduate population that grew by 115 percent. Prior to his role at Montclair State University, Cant was the dean of the Offutt School of Business at Concordia College in Minnesota. To learn more about Cant, please visit www.wilkes.edu/incomingpresident.

His encounters with members of the Wilkes family since accepting the job have confirmed his earliest impressions about the University. Discussing the reasons for his interest in coming to Wilkes, he says, “I was attracted to Wilkes not only because of its stellar reputation, but also because of the way it serves its students. Strong academic offerings, an emphasis on small classes and hands-on learning and a commitment to first-generation students are things I care about deeply.”

Cant frequently has spoken with interim President Paul Adams ’77 after campus closed due to the pandemic. He will be prepared to transition to his new role during a time like no other on campus. The Wilkes spirit during the quarantine has fueled his enthusiasm for joining the University in what will be a pivotal time in its history. 

“While we were still living in New Jersey, I was keenly observing our response to the pandemic and it has only reinforced my pride and passion for our amazing university,” he says. “There is an incredible culture at Wilkes, one that is entirely dedicated to the health and success of our students. I am honored to become part of a University that cares as deeply as Wilkes does. These are uncertain times and many difficulties lie ahead. That “Be Colonel” spirit is so important as we move into a new reality in higher education. One that will challenge all of us. I am eager to get to campus and get to work.” 

Presidential Installation Planned for October

As Wilkes magazine went to press, the installation of Greg Cant as the University’s seventh president is planned for the weekend of Oct. 16-18, 2020 to coincide with the Founders Gala. More details will be announced during the summer. 

Biology Professor William Terzaghi To Deliver O’Hop Lecture 

William Terzaghi, professor of biology, will deliver the 2020 O’Hop Final Word Lecture. His topic will be “Gene editing: How It Might Improve Human Health and Food Security.” Gene editing, while sometimes controversial, offers the potential for improving treatment of health conditions and improving crops to make them more resistant to disease and pests. Terzaghi’s lecture will describe technologies used for gene editing and will examine the pros and cons of gene editing for humans and in agriculture. He also will discuss how gene-editing technologies are used at Wilkes, and ways that they may be used in the future. Ethical dilemmas and the potential repercussions in the general population also will be addressed.

Terzaghi joined the Wilkes biology department in 1995. He also co-directs the synthetic biology track in the University’s master’s degree program in bioengineering. A plant biologist, he is a member of the American Society of Plant Biologists and the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Terzaghi earned his doctorate from the University of Utah. He was the recipient of a National Science Foundation Postdoctoral Fellowship and completed post-doctoral work at the University of Pennsylvania and the Carnegie Institution of Washington. Terzaghi is widely published in research journals and is the recipient of numerous grants in support of his research, including funding from the National Science Foundation. He is a six-time winner of the outstanding faculty award at Wilkes and also has been recognized for innovative and interdisciplinary teaching.

The late Paul O’Hop established the Final Word Lecture to foster the exchange of ideas and dialogue among Wilkes faculty, staff and administrators and to showcase the talents and scholarly abilities at the University. O’Hop retired from Wilkes in 2001 after serving 16 years as vice president of business affairs and auxiliary enterprises. Recently the lecture has concluded the University’s research symposium. The date for the 2020 lecture has yet to be determined.

Rosenn Lecture With National Public Radio’s Terry Gross Scheduled for April 25, 2021 

Terry Gross, host of National Public Radio’s Fresh Air, will talk about her successful — and not so successful — interviews at Wilkes on April 25, 2021. Photo by Jessica Kourkounis.

The Max Rosenn Lecture in Law and Humanities with National Public Radio’s Terry Gross will now be held on April 25, 2021. The lecture was previously scheduled for April 19, 2020. The 2021 event will be held at 2:30 p.m. in the Dorothy Dickson Darte Center for the Performing Arts. Details about registering for the 2021 event will be released at a later date. The lecture is free and open to the public. 

The lecture, “All I Did Was Ask: An Afternoon With Terry Gross” will offer a behind-the-mic glimpse of her innovative and hugely popular public radio show, Fresh Air. Recounting stories of extremely successful interviews as well as relating entertaining tales of particularly disastrous interviews, Gross will share a side of herself that her listeners rarely get to see. 

Gross is National Public Radio’s award-winning host and co-executive producer of Fresh Air.  Gross, who has been host of Fresh Air since 1975, when it was broadcast only in greater Philadelphia, is not afraid to ask tough questions. But she sets an atmosphere in which her guests volunteer the answers rather than surrendering them. The San Francisco Chronicle calls the unique approach, “a remarkable blend of empathy and warmth, genuine curiosity and sharp intelligence.” Fresh Air is broadcast on nearly 600 stations and became the first non-drive-time show in public radio history to reach more than five million listeners a week. The broadcast went on to win The Peabody Award in 1994 for its “probing questions, revelatory interviews and unusual insight.”

Wilkes Introduces Emerging Leader Awards for High School Juniors

Wilkes University has launched the Colonel Emerging Leader Award, a new pre-scholarship granted to high school juniors who demonstrate high academic and leadership potential. Selected students will be guaranteed a minimum merit award of $10,000 per year at Wilkes if they enroll at the University after high school graduation. 

High school counselors may nominate up to four students from their schools to receive the awards. To qualify, students must have a minimum 3.25 grade-point average on a 4.0 scale or an 85 percent grade average and at least a 1000 SAT, 21 ACT or 900 PSAT score. If students have not yet taken the PSAT, SAT or ACT, they must demonstrate continual, active participation in two extracurricular programs, two community service projects, or a combination of both.

Esther B. Davidowitz To Receive President’s Medal At Founders Gala, Rescheduled On Oct. 17, 2020 

Esther B. Davidowitz will be honored with the President’s Medal at the Founders Gala on Oct. 17, 2020. Now in its seventh year, the Founders Gala celebrates the University’s legacy of educating first-generation college students. The gala will be held at 6 p.m. at the Westmoreland Club, 59 S. Franklin St. in Wilkes-Barre. The University announced in April 2020 that the gala, previously scheduled for June 6, would be postponed until fall. 

The highlight of the event will be the presentation of the President’s Medal to Davidowitz, who is a resident of Kingston, Pa. The President’s Medal is bestowed annually on an individual whose personal and professional life reflect the highest aspirations of Wilkes University. It’s an appropriate recognition for a woman who has been a dedicated leader and supporter of Wilkes for nearly 50 years

“Few people have preserved the history of Wilkes University in the detail and eloquence of Essy Davidowitz”

Interim President Paul S. Adams ’77 MS ’82

Davidowitz was a member of the University board of trustees from 1973 through 2006 when she received emerita status. During her tenure on the board, she served as treasurer and secretary, and was the chair of the academic program committee and executive board. Davidowitz has been a close advisor and friend to each of the University’s presidents and co-edited the writings of Wilkes’ founding president, Eugene S. Farley, in “Essays of an Educator.” 

Her decision to contribute her time and leadership to Wilkes grew out of her earliest experiences with the institution. “I made a meaningful choice.  When I reflect on life it is important to have goals and I believe those goals must be meaningful,” Davidowitz says. “I had the opportunity to work with Dr. Farley and wanted to carry on his legacy and dreams for Wilkes and our students.”

“Few people have preserved the history of Wilkes University in the detail and eloquence of Essy Davidowitz. She has been a force in our evolution, seeing us through one of the most formative moments in our history when Wilkes College became Wilkes University in 1990,” said interim President Paul S. Adams ’77 MS. “As former chair of our academic affairs committee of the board of trustees, Essy had a guiding hand in the academic development of the University. She has always been an advocate for the educational advancement of our students, especially those who are the first in their family to earn a degree. It is our honor to award her with the President’s Medal.” 

A prominent figure in the Wyoming Valley, Davidowitz received numerous accolades for her professional, civic and community efforts. She was awarded the Distinguished Community Service Award by the Greater Wilkes-Barre Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith and was the recipient of the Hannah G. Solomon Award from the National Council of Jewish Women. Davidowitz and her family have also been recognized by the borough of Kingston, Temple Israel and Generation2Generation for their work in the community. Davidowitz is a graduate of Wyoming Seminary, Kingston, Pa., and Simmons College, Boston, Mass. 

To become a sponsor of the Founders Gala or to reserve tickets, please visit www.wilkes.edu/foundersgala.

Biology Major Emily Russavage Receives NSF Research Fellowship 

Emily Russavage ’20 has received a prestigious National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship. Russavage, of Dunmore, Pa., earned a bachelor of science degree in biology in December 2019. The fellowship, which is awarded to early-career scientists, includes a three-year annual stipend of $34,000 and an annual $12,000 allowance for tuition and fees that is paid to the graduate institution. Russavage will use the fellowship to enter a doctoral program in entomology at Texas A&M University in fall 2020. While there, she will study pests, their predators and their effect on crops. The Graduate Research Fellowships are the oldest graduate fellowships of their kind. The National Science Foundation notes that the program “has a long history of selecting recipients who achieve high levels of success in their future academic and professional careers.”

Russavage is only the second Wilkes student to apply and receive the research fellowship while she was an undergraduate. Biology alumna Leila Hadj-Chikh’97 also was awarded the fellowship as an undergraduate. Two other Wilkes biology alumni, Andrew Bartlow ’10 and Rachel Curtis-Robles ’10, each received the graduate research fellowship when they were already enrolled in their doctoral programs. Bartlow received his doctorate from the University of Utah and now a Director’s Post-Doctoral Research Fellow at Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico. Curtis-Robles earned her doctorate at Texas A&M and is now an epidemiologist in San Mateo, Calif. 

Russavage’s selection for the fellowship reflects the significant research experience she accrued while she was a Wilkes student. Such opportunities are a hallmark of a Wilkes education. Her senior research project with Ned Fetcher, coordinator of Wilkes Institute for the Environment, studied the effects of climate change on arctic plants. As a member of the research team of Jeff Stratford, associate professor of biology, she studied the reproductive success of the wood thrush, which is one of the most rapidly declining bird species in Pennsylvania. She and Stratford also have co-authored a paper examining differences in the predatory habits of birds in rural, suburban and urban environments using clay caterpillars. The paper has been submitted for publication to the journal Urban Ecosystems

Wilkes Earns Grant, Takes Lead With It’s On Us Initiative

Wilkes University received a $30,000 “It’s On Us” grant from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Wilkes was one of 36 colleges and universities to receive funding, which will be used to raise awareness about sexual and intimate-partner violence. This is the second time Wilkes has received the award.

An initiative of Gov. Tom Wolf, “It’s On Us PA” is a statewide campaign that invites everyone to play a role in ending sexual assault. The grant will be used to establish and continue programs that educate and train students, faculty and staff on identifying, responding to and reporting sexual violence.

The University also took a leadership role teaming up with the national It’s On Us organization to host the first stop on the organization’s first-ever national training tour. It’s On Us started as a federal initiative created in 2014 dedicated to the prevention of college sexual assault through consent education, bystander intervention, and survivor support. It’s On Us is now housed at Civic Nation, a 501c3 nonprofit organization. The organization encourages universities to create student chapters. According to the It’s On Us website, there are 250 registered campus chapters in the 2019-2020 school year.

The one-day event held at Wilkes in February focused on college students training their peers in sexual assault prevention, utilizing It’s On Us’ three core education pillars: sexual assault awareness and consent, bystander intervention, and survivor support. About 120 students from colleges and universities in the region attended. The national organization worked with Wilkes’ new student chapter of It’s On Us to coordinate the training tour event. Wilkes’ student chapter was created in spring 2019 by students Lindsay Becker and Ashley Baker, both criminology majors. Andrew Wilczak, assistant professor of criminology, serves as faculty advisor. 

“Year of the Vote” Celebrates 100th Anniversary of Women’s Voting Rights 

The Sordoni Art Gallery is marking the 100-year anniversary of women receiving the right to vote in 2020 through a series of events called “Year of the Vote: Gender, Politics & Power.” The year-long celebration includes thematic lectures delivered by Wilkes professors, discussion groups called “EqualiTEAs,” podcasts and open mic nights.

Each month is centered around a specific theme. Previous themes include an Introduction to the Year of the Vote in January, and Black History Month in February. Although the series was interrupted by the closing of the University for the pandemic, it is expected to continue some time this year. Upcoming themes will include art, education, sports and politics. 

A podcast, titled “In the Kisser” is also released at the end of every month and is available for streaming on wilkes.edu/yearofthevote. The podcast is produced by Kristen Rock of the Communication Studies Department. 

Wilkes faculty who have collaborated on the project include Heather Sincavage, assistant professor and director of the Sordoni Art Gallery; Mia Briceno, associate professor of communication studies; Helen Davis, associate professor of English; Maria Grandinetti, associate professor of nursing; Andreea Maierean, assistant professor of political science; Jennifer Thomas and Ellen Newell, both associate professors of psychology; and Lisa Reynolds, assistant professor of integrative media.

For a complete listing of events, visit wilkes.edu/yearofthevote. 

Wilkes Appoints Fulbright Program Advisor 

Gina Zanolini Morrison, professor of global cultures, has been appointed Fulbright Program advisor for Wilkes University. The advisor serves as the formal link between between Wilkes and Fulbright. Run by the U.S. Department of State Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, the Fulbright Program is the flagship international educational exchange program sponsored by the U.S. government and is designed to build lasting connections between the people of the United States and the people of other countries.

Although the Fulbright Program recalled its grantees due to the pandemic, the organization is proceeding with reviewing applications for the 2021-2022 academic year. Undergraduate students and recent graduates apply to the U.S. Student Program. Two types of grants are available under the student program:  the English Teaching Assistance awards, which pairs U.S. students with classroom teachers in another country, and research and study awards for those seeking to do specific research or study in other countries. The program expects to award about 2,100 student grants in 2021-2022.

Since its inception in 1946, the Fulbright Program has given more than 380,000 students, scholars, teachers, artists, professionals, and scientists the opportunity to study, teach and conduct research, exchange ideas, and contribute to finding solutions to shared international concerns. Fulbright alumni have achieved distinction in many fields, including 59 who have been awarded the Nobel Prize, 82 who have received Pulitzer Prizes, and 37 who have served as a head of state or government.