Nurturing compassion; Lycoming College and the Lycoming County United Way

Nurturing compassion; Lycoming College and the Lycoming County United Way

Download Image: Web

Since arriving in Williamsport five years ago as the new president of Lycoming College, Kent C. Trachte, Ph.D., has served as a dedicated board member of the Lycoming County United Way (LCUW). This past spring, he began a two-year term as chair of the board of directors for LCUW.

The mission of LCUW is simple: Mobilize resources to improve lives. Its support for local organizations that serve as the county’s safety net is broad-reaching, backing agencies that cover every aspect of local human need from domestic violence support to dental care, children and youth, counseling services, homeless shelters, and more.

The College has a long history of supporting LCUW, dating back to 1947, when Lycoming became a four-year college. For many years since, in what has become an annual tradition, the campus conducts a fall fundraising drive benefitting LCUW.

But it wasn’t until 1999 when then-president James E. Douthat, Ph.D., took the reins as the chairman of the LCUW capital campaign — a substantial time commitment, especially for someone already heading a college — that Lycoming College made its first step toward increasing the level of participation with the LCUW.

“This was one of [Douthat’s] most significant community contributions,” said John Piper, Ph.D., Lycoming College historian and retired history professor. “And Kent’s current position as chair of the LCUW board will be remembered as one of his most significant contributions to the community.”

With careful strategizing and a new approach to rallying support for LCUW, in two years the College more than doubled funds raised annually among faculty and staff. “Although past campaigns had been successful and did raise modest amounts, we saw an opportunity to improve our support of LCUW,” said Steve Johnson, professor and chair of religion, who assists with LCUW fundraising. He credits the jump in giving to meetings and personal invitations to contribute.

“We’re excited about the ways this involvement can teach our students about engaging and supporting local communities, and we believe this is central to a Lycoming College education,” said Trachte.

“Presidential involvement is clearly important,” said Piper, adding that without Douthat’s and Trachte’s exemplary actions, the College would not have the support for LCUW that it has today.

As chair of LCUW, serving a two-year term, Trachte will work to advance the organization’s policies to better identify community needs, as well as create the partnerships that help to address them.

“Our board and community volunteers scrutinize every dollar spent to ensure donations are being used in the most responsible way. Because of this shared responsibility, our community has confidence in our allocation of funds,” said Ron Frick ’83, president of LCUW, who first became involved in the United Way right out of college while working at Northern Central Bank (now M&T).

Frick explained that it’s important to look at the impact of LCUW and its 38 partners in Lycoming, Sullivan and Tioga counties to measure its effectiveness. “Last year, LCUW served 42,000 residents, and this year we have set a goal of touching 55,000 residents in those three counties — that means 55,000 times that services are provided by LCUW program partners.”

Trachte is no stranger to serving the communities around him. In addition to lending his leadership to collegiate organizations, including the NCAA Division III President’s Council, the Middle Atlantic Conference President’s Council and the Association of Independent Colleges & Universities of Pennsylvania Board of Directors, he also supports groups closer to home including the board of both the Williamsport-Lycoming County Chamber of Commerce and the Williamsport Community Arts Center.

Also on a local front, Trachte has led in Lycoming College’s dedication to community engagement, leadership, and generosity, as evidenced through his shepherding the East End Gateway Project and the Krapf Gateway Center from conception to reality, with the ground breaking on the project just this summer. The new building, set for completion in 2019, will create a new entrance to the College and in doing so help to revitalize the East End of Williamsport. The College secured $12.5 million for the construction of the building and an additional $11 million for site work and infrastructure. The project is likely to attract millions more in private investment to the area.

As the student population has diversified geographically, the College has had to work harder to maintain ties to the community. Whereas the vast majority of students prior to recent years were from a tighter radius around Williamsport, (for example, in 1986, 63 percent of students were from Pennsylvania, with just nine other states represented and only one international student) today’s student population hails from 29 different states and 21 countries. Despite this obstacle, there have been signs of successful transitions to LCUW involvement post-Lycoming: Piper and his wife Margaret, 2016-17 campaign co-chairs, were presented with the LCUW’s highest honor, the 2017 Douglas C. Dickey Award, for their dedication, commitment and outstanding leadership in contributing to the welfare of Lycoming County. Robert Glunk ’86 served as the 2017-18 campaign chair, currently serves as past chair, and is the Board’s secretary. Like the Pipers and Glunk, Frick served as campaign chair in 2002, was the 2004 Douglas C. Dickey Award recipient, the Douglas J. Shangraw Memorial Volunteer Award winner in 2010, and was named to lead the organization in April 2017 after service as a volunteer for for 33 years.

“We keep the community connections long after people leave campus,” explained Piper. “Robert Glunk and Ron Frick have poured new energy, enthusiasm and interest into the United Way.”

Regarding his deep involvement in the College’s annual campaign, Johnson said, “I do it because the United Way supports so many nonprofits in our community. The money we raise keeps them from having to spend so much time fundraising. Knowing the United Way has their back allows them to focus on their organization’s mission. It’s my way of participating in the community. I work at my church and I’m involved in my daughter’s activities, but the United Way is what gives me the opportunity to connect faculty and staff with the community.”

“We are a college in the heart of and completely surrounded by a city. The lifeblood of this community includes the college, and the lifeblood of the College is Williamsport,” said Trachte.

For more information on this year’s LCUW capital campaign, or to contribute, contact the LCUW office at 570-323-9448 or online at www.lcuw.org/give.

Useful Resources