Over the weekend of Feb. 11-12, Vice President for Advancement Chip Edmonds and I traveled to Los Angeles to attend an event for the Campaign for a Greater Lycoming, hosted at the studio of Lycoming graduate and Oscar winner Tom Woodruff ’80 and his spouse Tami ’81. On Saturday morning, I also had the privilege of talking with over 100 students, parents and mentors associated with MOSTe, an LA-based access organization with whom we partner to recruit talented students from Los Angeles.
Although we were almost 3,000 miles from Williamsport, we attracted 25 people to the campaign event. Chip and I had the opportunity to show the campaign video and discuss the campaign priorities in the same room where “Oscar” sits. We made the case for the collective strength of the Lycoming Fund, academic initiatives to create a 21st-century liberal arts education, scholarships to fuel a new generation of Warriors, and the Gateway Project as a compelling transformation of the campus.
An artist's rendering of part of the Gateway project
The alumni in attendance spanned the decades from the 1960’s through 2015. Some moved out to California more than 40 years ago and others are more recent transplants. Holding this event at Tom’s Amalgamated Dynamics Incorporated character effects studio was a special treat. Tom’s firm has been one of the major character effects talents in the business for more than three decades; his work has garnered numerous accolades and awards including the Academy Award for “Death Becomes Her,” and multiple Academy Award nominations for “Starship Troopers” and “Alien.” He has also acted in the costumes of creatures designed at the studio, portraying characters in such movies as “Monster Squad,” “Pumpkinhead,” “Leviathan” and many others. And the evening included an opportunity to tour the studio to view and learn more about this extraordinary body of work.
Among the group I met was Caitlin DeAngelo ’13, who is studying for a Ph.D. in chemistry at the University of Southern California. Caitlin shared that Dr. Holly Bendorf had an enormous impact on her and that the research Caitlin did with Holly has been foundational to Caitlin’s success as a graduate student — yet another testimony to the power of enhanced academic experiences and the mentoring skills of the Lycoming faculty.
Athletic Director and Head Football Coach Mike Clark also stopped by the event. That morning Mike had attended the California Showcase where he joined coaches from other eastern-based national liberal arts colleges in scouting and recruiting student athletes from California. The California Showcase is a one day, non profit event presented by Coach Terry Donahue (Head Coach, UCLA, 1976 – 1995) and the National Football Foundation for high school seniors to display their skills to Division II, III and NAIA football programs.
My experience at MOSTe was truly inspiring and complementary to the one at Woodruff’s studio. I am the first college president invited to speak at a MOSTe event. The mission of MOSTe (Motivating Our Students Through Experience) is to “empower girls from underserved neighborhoods of Los Angeles County to become the next generation of college-educated women.” So my audience included students from 7th through 12th grade and the topic of the workshop was the “growth mindset.” I shared the story of a current student “Alec” to illustrate how the Lycoming culture encourages students to expand horizons and grow. Every student can write a personal narrative: “I am Lycoming.”
During the question and answer period, one young woman raised her hand and stated that she wanted to make a comment. A ninth grader, she proceeded to thank me because Lycoming’s financial aid package was going to make it possible for her older sister to realize her dream of attending college. For me, this comment closed the loop from the previous evening where I had made the case for endowed and current use scholarship gifts. Funded scholarships do enable dreams to be realized.
As I reflect on the weekend, I feel that it offers further affirmation of the national relevance of Lycoming College. On this single weekend in LA
- 25 alumni were hosted by an Oscar-winning graduate of our theatre program;
- our football coach joined other top eastern colleges in recruiting athletes from California at an event sponsored by the National Football Foundation and legendary UCLA coach Terry Donahue;
- Lycoming was recognized as a leader in national access work when I was introduced as the first college president to speak at an event hosted by MOSTe;
- we learned that a graduate is a star in the chemistry department at the University of Southern California.
We are not only daring to dream; we are daring to do on the national stage!