Interim President Holds First Convocation

Mar 23, 2021

Cal U is projected to end the year on 'strong financial footing,' interim President Thorn reports in his address to faculty and staff.

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Despite challenges posed by the pandemic, interim University President Robert Thorn had some welcome news to share at his first faculty-staff convocation – an event delayed to provide what he called “a small grace period” after his transition to the new role.

Thorn, who spent 11 years as vice president for Administration and Finance, announced that the University is on track to end the fiscal year with a balanced budget.

Speaking via Zoom to about 200 faculty and staff members, the interim President projected a surplus in the Educational and General (E&G) budget. He also explained that one-time federal funds received from the HEERF II and HEERF III pandemic relief programs will help to balance significant revenue losses reflected in the auxiliary budget, which includes housing and dining services.  

As a result, “Cal U will be ending the year on strong financial footing,” Thorn said.

The University’s mid-year sustainability report also received kudos from a review team of chief financial officers and provosts across the State System, which noted that Cal U “has exceeded midyear milestones overall.”

The positive financial news is especially important as Cal U plans for integration with Clarion and Edinboro universities, said the interim President, who stressed that “universities that are preparing to integrate also are responsible for creating plans that will make their campus operations financially sustainable.”

Looking ahead

The interim president took the opportunity to reiterate good news previously shared with the campus community: Cal U expects to resume on-campus classes and in-person operations this fall, and modified Commencement ceremonies will be held in the Convocation Center to recognize the Class of 2021.

He urged faculty members to support the graduates by attending the ceremonies, where masks and social distancing will be required.

“You may not have seen them much in person over the past year, but this will be a memorable moment for our students and their families. Although hugs and handshakes won’t be permitted, your presence will mean a great deal to our graduating students.”

Interim President Thorn also provided updates on the Western Integration, noting that faculty and staff will have an opportunity to comment on the academic program array later this week.

He reviewed the campus master plan, noting that “one of the key objectives … is to right-size the University’s footprint – essentially, to reduce excess square footage, so we aren’t expending resources on buildings we no longer need.”

Demolition will begin with Azorsky Hall in January 2022, with Morgan, Keystone and Gallagher halls to follow.

Construction of the new science complex is slated to begin in 2023. And after a four-year renovation that was plagued by weather-related delays, the Lilley Field softball complex opened with a small ribbon-cutting ceremony earlier this month.

Finally, Thorn discussed the University’s diversity, equity and inclusion efforts and introduced Sheleta Camarda-Webb as the interim DEI officer, a Cabinet-level position.

“I am honored to have the opportunity to lead such an amazing workforce of faculty and staff,” he said in closing.

“I do not know how long I will have this leadership opportunity, but I pledge to give you all my very best during this transition period. … I know that each of you is committed to the success and the well-being of our students. Thank you for the important work you are doing each and every day.”

Staff Awards

Interim President Thorn also announced the Vulcan staff awards. Eric Sabo, senior Windows system engineer in University Technology Services, won the Vulcan President’s Circle Award recognizes a staff member for outstanding job performance.  Ron Lincoski, assistant director of building trades for Facilities Management, earned the Vulcan Exceptional Service Award, awarded for making outstanding customer service a part of every interaction.

Recipients are nominated by members of the campus community and the awards committee – led by Human Resources director Eric Guiser – uses a rubric to determine the recipients. One President’s Circle and one Exceptional Service award are presented each fall and spring semester, for a total of four awards per academic year.