Ceremony celebrates historic gift from alumni businessman
WILLIAMSPORT — An alumnus’ investment in the next generation of innovators, the literal future of American manufacturing, was spotlighted during the April 27 dedication of the Larry A. Ward Machining Technologies Center at Pennsylvania College of Technology.
Last year’s $1 million-plus donation from Ward, a 1966 graduate in engineering drafting technology, monumentally reshaped the expansive laboratory — one of the oldest on campus, dating to the benefactor’s days as a student at Williamsport Technical Institute and Williamsport Area Community College, the institution’s predecessors.
“A strong advocate for the future of manufacturing in America, Larry is committed to enhancing our automated manufacturing and machining curriculum, lab space and opportunities to prepare students for successful and sustaining careers,” college President Davie Jane Gilmour said. “It is this commitment that has transformed our machining lab, but Larry’s generosity does not stop there. He has donated materials and equipment, sponsored a commencement award for mechatronics students, and hired Penn College graduates and interns as his business grew.”
Reflecting on the August 2019 day when she presented the proposal to Ward, his last official workday before retirement from Packaging Progressions Inc., Loni N. Kline, vice president for college relations, shared a message of gratitude: “Thank you, Larry, for welcoming us into your office that day, seizing this opportunity and making it happen for Penn College. Your gift is truly transformational.”
The center’s innumerable benefits to students were recounted by Bradley M. Webb, dean of engineering technologies.
“From manual machining to multi-axis CNC applications, industrial electronics to rapid prototyping, and engineering economics to lean manufacturing, our students experience it all,” he said. “They develop machinist skills and are exposed to the complexities of cutting-edge automated manufacturing operations. They engineer viable solutions that strengthen products, cut production time and influence the bottom line.
“These academic principles, paired with Larry Ward’s generosity, create a future full of innovative solutions that will fuel our nation and the greater world.”
The college’s Baja SAE team, a prime beneficiary of the enhanced instructional space, was represented at the dedication by Dakota C. Harrison, of Lewisberry. A manufacturing engineering technology student involved with the Baja club since he was a freshman, Harrison vividly contrasted his first two years in Penn College’s “old lab” with excitement for the balance of his time on campus.
“I specifically recall one Baja workday this semester when nearly every single club member who could operate a machine was on a ProtoTrak, some making parts that would previously have been created in the CNC lab farther from the club room,” he said. “Utilizing this many ProtoTraks at one time is something that would have previously been impossible without causing problems for the instructors, who needed the machines for their classes.”
Harrison told attendees how the new lab has helped him and his fellow team members meet the challenges inherent in retooling their competitive vehicle, and shared how learning on upgraded equipment has coupled with other factors — most notably the generational transfer of knowledge — to forge his dream career in the aftermarket powersports industry.
He closed with comments directed specifically at Ward:
“Merely thanking you for your material contributions … would not give you the credit that you are due. The example you have set of the potential for what can be done with the skills learned here is one that surpasses any number of machines, equipment or technological advances,” Harrison said. “I have confidence that there will be many others who find the same entrepreneurial drive from the example you set, and I hope one day to make such a contribution to the manufacturing education community myself.
“Thank you, Mr. Ward, not just for the new facilities and equipment, but for showing each student who enters this campus what it means to pave the way for your own ‘future made by hand.'”
Baja alumnus Johnathan T. Capps, who holds an associate degree in mechatronics and a bachelor’s in applied technology studies, offered a graduate’s gratitude for the college’s hands-on philosophy and for Ward’s furtherance of it.
He is employed as an automation engineer by Pacproinc, which has grown into the world’s leading manufacturer and supplier of high-speed interleaving and stacking machinery – equipment that accurately inserts paper between such food items as sliced sandwich steaks, pizzas and hamburgers.
“Larry and I have shared many conversations about how the education we both received here shaped us into who we are today,” Capps said. “Although I graduated over 2Ç years ago, the skills I learned here were not only ahead of the time, but fostered a desire for continued learning. The environment fostered here … allowed me to fail safely and pushed me to be a risk-taker. I not only easily transitioned to industry, but I was able to enter with fresh, new ideas, the ability to learn on the go, and a solid foundation of teamwork.”
Teamwork, along with balance and common sense, were the three linchpins of success cited by Ward when it was his turn at the lectern.
“I always tried to impress on people that it takes a team to do what we did, and everyone was a member of the team,” he said. “No matter what your job was, it was important to the success of our business.” He said President Gilmour put together a coalition of Howard W. Troup, instructor of automated manufacturing/machine tool technology; Elizabeth A. Biddle, director of corporate relations; and Kline, who worked with Ward’s team to make the new center a reality.
“They had to be two great teams, because we are all here today,” Ward said. “We got the job done!”
He also acknowledged the hundreds of Penn College students who, like him and his wife, are veterans. From wartime training at WTI to the large-scale manufacture, procurement and distribution of medical supplies — including ventilators and COVID-19 vaccines — the military’s historic link to American industry was extolled by the speaker.
Ward’s parting message was to the very students who will be educated in the building that now bears his name: “I put together a team and built a business with the help of what I learned right here at Williamsport Technical Institute. Now, it is your turn. You are the Tomorrow Makers, and it is up to you to bring manufacturing back. With technology, we can compete with anyone in the world; it is up to you to make it happen.”
The afternoon ceremony included the unveiling of a sculpture, designed by students in a Ward-sponsored contest that recognizes his philanthropy while paying homage to the career-making instruction that occurs inside.
Gilmour thanked the design team of Garret L. Barnhart, Bellefonte; Marcie M. Harman, Nescopeck; David T. Hornak, Spring Mills; Cyvae Hunte, Langhorne; Dominic J. McClellan, Youngsville; Colyn Stangl-Meddaugh, Williamsport; Rachael Rutkoski, Milton; and alumna Kennedy L. Englert.
Barnhart is enrolled in applied management, Englert is a 2020 graduate in graphic design and studio arts, and the remainder are majoring in building science and sustainable design: architectural technology concentration. Students were mentored by Dorothy J. Gerring, associate professor of architectural technology.
On hand were two representatives of M&M Sheet Metal who fabricated the students’ creation: Robert J. Glosser V, president of the local company, and project manager Dwight D. Stover, who holds two CAD-related degrees from Penn College.
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