Tenth Anniversary Q & A with President Davie Jane Gilmour

Davie Jane Gilmour became president of Pennsylvania College of Technology on May 4, 1998. Her appointment followed a unanimous vote by the Board of Directors, which had conducted a national search to fill the position. Gilmour joined the institution's faculty in 1977, when it was Williamsport Area Community College. After serving as a member of the dental hygiene faculty for several years, she accepted her first administrative assignment, as coordinator of dental hygiene, in 1983. She moved through the administrative ranks over the next decade and became the highest-ranking academic officer in 1993; she was named vice president for academic affairs and provost in 1996. She earned a doctorate and a master's degree from The Pennsylvania State University, as well as bachelor's and associate degrees from West Liberty State College. On the 10th anniversary of her presidency, Gilmour was interviewed for this special, annual report issue of One College Avenue.

Q: You began your professional life as a dental hygienist. Please describe your path from hygienist to college president and tell us what inspired you to challenge yourself professionally over the years.

The path from hygienist to president was one of opportunity and challenge. For the most part, I deliberately prepared academically by gaining my master's degree and Ph.D., and yet, candidly, I was in the right place at the right time for advancement - most of which was not planned. I have always tried to make myself a valuable employee and colleague, learning daily, and trying to do more - as a way of demonstrating my worth to an organization. I believe that work served me well, as I inadvertently positioned myself for advancement. Once I became an administrator, my plan evolved a bit as I saw the opportunity and reward for advancement - making a difference in a different and larger way.

Q: What are some of your greatest memories as president?

The day I became president - and the overwhelming sense of support I felt from everyone. I was nervous, but felt that together we could accomplish anything. Deciding that people will always make the difference has never led me astray.

Dr. Gilmour with student

Q: Family is an important influence. Tell us how your family has influenced your professional life.

My father taught me to value all people, get your hands dirty and pitch in - you'll be a better person for it. He was always positive; his glass was always half full, and he never settled. Take the high road, even if it is lonely; good will always win, but it may take time. And, never lie; tell the truth, even if it hurts. My mother taught me the value of education and about giving back.

Q: The millennial generation sometimes gets a bad rap for not making sacrifices that previous generations have made. What has your experience in working with young people led you to believe about the character of this generation and its potential to meet the challenges of the future?

Character is defined daily. I repeatedly have said that while some young people demonstrate the worst we want to see, the majority demonstrate commitment, respect and strength of character. We often miss this because we are focused on the packaging. In 30 years at Penn College, never have I had more students open doors for me than in this academic year. Perhaps this is a metaphor for our role in their lives or perhaps it was just their manners. Regardless, we must look beyond the packaging and find the soul, the moral character. I have full confidence in the future.

Q: As a leader in our community, much of your life is lived very publicly. How do you maintain positive public relations with individuals and groups while tackling tough issues that impact the vitality of the community today and for the future?

Honesty. When asked to serve on boards and committees or to work with organizations in our community, I tell them: What you see is what you get. I will always tell them the truth. I work hard to do so respectfully and openly, but I am always honest. I never compromise my personal values or take any position that would reflect negatively upon the college.

Q: We know that complaints and criticisms are often a part of public rhetoric. What would you say to encourage all members of our community to work together in a positive way to secure the future?

Listen to the complaint or criticism. Evaluate the basis. Consider the source. Act as appropriate and learn. Try to be open to new ideas and opportunities. We do not know everything, and we are not a perfect organization. I make a mistake every day; I try not to make the same mistake tomorrow.

Q: You have spent most of your life in higher education, helping students achieve their educational goals. Why do you think it is important for men and women to go to college?

College provides for the future. With an education, you have opportunity. With opportunity, you can reach for the stars.

Q: You are known for encouraging cultural enrichment and literacy - the Madigan Library, The Gallery at Penn College, the Community Arts Center, the Art on Campus initiative, etc. What do you believe is the importance of literacy and culture to a campus . and to a community?

Literacy and culture round us out as human beings. We cannot thrive with work alone. We need the thinking and stimulation we get from literacy and culture. They enrich our lives, our work and our spirits.

Q: You made history when you were named the first woman president of the college. What in the institution's nearly 100-year history has been most inspiring to you?

Most inspiring to me was the culture of team and commitment through the merger with Penn State in 1989. In our darkest hour - anticipating closure of the community college - we came together as a community and worked hard for the betterment of our students. Our Penn State affiliation is a landmark relationship; the affiliation process and product were worth the end result.

Pennsylvania College of Technology Profile 2007-08

Location: Williamsport

Founded: 1914 as an adult education program in Williamsport Area School District; 1941 as Williamsport Technical Institute; 1965 as Williamsport Area Community College; 1989 as Pennsylvania College of Technology, an affiliate of The Pennsylvania State University

Accreditation: Commission on Higher Education of the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools, an institutional accrediting agency recognized by the U.S. Secretary of Education and the Commission on Recognition and Postsecondary Accreditation

Affiliation: Penn College is a special mission affiliate of Penn State, committed to applied technology education.

Degrees awarded: Bachelor of Science (B.S.), Associate of Applied Science (A.A.S.), Associate of Science (A.S.), Associate of Arts (A.A.)

Enrollment: 6,811 (85% full time / 15% part time)

Resident status: more than 90% PA residents; 9% from other states, less than 1% international

Full-time faculty: 306

Student to faculty ratio: 18.5 to 1

Average SAT scores: (B.S. majors only) 1430

High school rankings: 19% in top 1/3; 26% in bottom 1/3

Applications received: 5,912 (5,532 offered acceptance)

Freshman statistics: 2,697 enrolled (26% in B.S. majors)

Alumni on file: 38,975

Graduate placement: In recent years, more than 90% of Penn College graduates have been employed or were continuing their education one year after graduation. Placement rates reach 100% in a number of majors.

On-campus housing: Housing available for approximately 25% of student body

Library: Madigan Library contained more than 118,000 volumes, 15,000 e-books, 12,000 media, 1,500 active subscriptions and 90 electronic references.

Athletics: Wildcat teams competed in 15 intercollegiate sports in the Pennsylvania State University Athletic Conference.

Distance Learning: A total of 493 students enrolled in 48 Web-based and 220 Web-supplemented courses, including five B.S. majors offered via distance learning.

Tuition and fees: In 2007-08, Pennsylvania resident students taking a full-time course load and living on campus paid an estimated $19,720; out-of-state residents paid an estimated $22,600. These estimates did not include tools, uniforms, transportation or personal expenses.

Financial aid: 4 out of 5 Penn College students received financial aid to help meet their expenses.

Donations: Penn College and the Penn College Foundation received donations that totaled $1,940,204 including cash gifts of $1,022,616 and in-kind gifts of $917,588.