Mercyhurst Magazine Fall 2019

FALL 2019

Creating a legacy of inspiartion Brian DeFrancesco ’06 P. 2

Inside this issue: Hurst alums beitnt by entrepreneuiral bug Mercy nun pursued cancer cure P. 6 MNE program aids single moms P. 12

P. 3

A message from the President

As I write this, August is days away and the calmer stretch of time that June and July bring to campus is quickly slipping away. I enjoy the transition between summer and fall and the rejuvenation that accompanies it. As we commence Academic Year 2019-2020, we are energized with a new slate of goals, priorities, and plans of action – all in service to our students who, by the way, never cease to amaze me. In June, for example, we learned that four students in Dr. Joe Morris’ political science class took top honors in a competition sponsored by Draw The Lines PA, a statewide civic education initiative intended to help Pennsylvanians learn more about political redistricting and gerrymandering. The redistricting maps and essays our students produced took frst (Logan Ford) and second place (Miranda Henry) and two of three honorable mentions (Sydney Gondringer and Admir Barucija) in the Higher Education-West category. To see our students dominate the winners’ circle like that is a testament to the education they receive at Mercyhurst and to the outstanding faculty members who inspire this kind of accomplishment. While deeply honored to be president of our beloved university, my days as a business professor in the Walker College, and the relationships I cultivated with our students, were among the most rewarding. Our cover story tells of one such relationship, and my attempts to help a senior business major by the name of Brian DeFrancesco identify and capitalize on his leadership skills. I did not learn that my eforts had had any efect until 13 years later when that young entrepreneur returned to Mercyhurst to thank me for believing in him. I can’t imagine a more personally fulflling moment in my career than that one, and I suspect many of our faculty know the feeling. These are the relationships that diferentiate Mercyhurst.

Brian is one of several Mercyhurst alumni featured in our Fall 2019 magazine whose entrepreneurial DNA has reaped rewards for themselves, their families and the lives of many

others. One of the tenets of a Mercyhurst education is to engender a love of lifelong learning, which is also a key characteristic of entrepreneurs: Entrepreneurs always seek to learn and to get better at what they do . As our magazine will show, entrepreneurship certainly is not a new concept at Mercyhurst. You’ll also read about Sister Mary Eymard Poydock, RSM, one of our early biology teachers who – with few resources but remarkable determination – created a respected cancer research program here in the 1960s and ‘70s. So, take a moment to peruse our magazine and reconnect. We appreciate your interest in and support of our Mercyhurst community.

Carpe Diem .

Michael T. Victor, J.D., LL.D. President, Mercyhurst University

ON THE COVER: Brian DeFrancesco ’06 is pictured in the ofces of SMET Ventures, his business investment and technology frm in Orange County, California. Before founding SMET, DeFrancesco led two companies from inception to successful exit acquisitions totaling nearly $100M in value.

Mercyhurst Magazine is a publication of the Ofce of Marketing and Public Relations.

Magazine Editor Susan Hurley Corbran ’73 814-824-2090 Design Jeremy C. Hewitt ’07 814-824-3022 Contributing Writers Susan Hurley Corbran ’73 Deborah W. Morton Mary Solberg


Contributing Photographers Leena Clint ’16 Ben Friesen Jeremy C. Hewitt ’07 Curtis Waidley ’19 Anna Wesley Director of Alumni Engagement Lindsay Cox Frank ’12 ’14M 814-824-2330

Read profles of Sara Andriacchi Brennan ’07 ‘09M, Whitney Otto Berkowsky ’11, Anthony Maher ’02, Ben Bluemle ’06, and Dawn Peske Britt ’90.


Sister Eymard Poydock’s work in the 1960s and ’70s led to creation of ‘Mercytamin,’ which once looked like a promising cure for cancer.

18 LAKER FOR LIFE CAMPAIGN OFF TO EXCITING START Fields get new turf surfaces; ice center gets major upgrades; new feld to bring softball program to campus next spring.

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Successful tech entrepreneur passes on legacy of inspiration Brian DeFrancesco ’06

in 2006, the two went their own ways. Victor went on to become president of Lake Erie College for the next nine years and then return to Mercyhurst as president in 2015, while DeFrancesco pursued his own career in business and entrepreneurship. With a major in Business Finance and a minor in Computer Systems, DeFrancesco’s career took him across the country, eventually settling in California, where he found a natural ft for both his business and technology abilities. After learning the ropes in roles at various digital data, media, and advertising companies, he quickly worked his way up to become an executive, including roles as vice president of Product and Technology at Vindico and Specifc Media (acquired by Time, Inc.). In his early 30s, he embarked on his entrepreneurial journey and never looked back. “It wasn’t always easy and there were days when I had more failures than successes, but I always leaned on the foundation and confdence that was instilled in me at Mercyhurst,” said DeFrancesco. “When I failed, I learned, and when I succeeded, I always set higher goals.” In December 2017, the hard work and perseverance paid of, as DeFrancesco led the acquisition sale of his company, Likqid Technologies, a digital video infrastructure provider, for more than $90 million to a large U.S. television broadcaster. After leading the company through its acquisition transition during 2018, DeFrancesco set out on a new mission – to make a diference through philanthropy, inspiration, and thought leadership. The frst step was to reconnect with Victor. Last spring, 13 years after they had parted ways, the two caught up over lunch in the State Dining Room. “It was a surreal experience,” said DeFrancesco, who told Victor about his career path and desire to give back. Victor was equally awed and elated. Like any good teacher and mentor, and Mercyhurst is known for many, Victor felt rewarded to know

that he may have played a role in his former student’s success. Most of all, he was proud that his example had such a profound efect on DeFrancesco. “I really wanted him to know that he set a great example,” said DeFrancesco. “Seeing him devote his time to higher education and to lead and inspire students when he could have easily retired after his successful business career was a great example of how to not defne success from what you achieve in business alone, but by how you give back and inspire others.” Today, DeFrancesco is giving back on multiple fronts. He currently runs SMET Ventures, through which he consults and invests in small businesses to help other entrepreneurs realize their dreams. In addition, he and his wife, Jessica, oversee a charitable foundation they founded to empower people to overcome hardship and enhance their well-being. He’s also showing his gratitude to his alma mater, which was part of the reason for his recent visit to Mercyhurst. “Mercyhurst was a turning point in my life,” he said. “When I heard Michael Victor had become president, I had even more pride in the university and belief in its future, so I wanted to help where I could.” Since reconnecting last spring: • The two re-established their friendship; • DeFrancesco agreed to Victor’s request to become a member of the university’s board of trustees; and,

It’s been said that “Success isn’t just about what you accomplish in your life; it’s about what you inspire others to do.”While it’s hard to argue that individual achievements don’t validate success, it’s undeniable that inspiration is the greatest legacy that one can create. The story of Mercyhurst President Michael Victor and Mercyhurst Class of 2006 alumnus Brian DeFrancesco is an example of how inspiration and leading by example can have a crucial and lasting impact. A product and technology entrepreneur now living in Orange County, California, DeFrancesco was a senior in the fnal Business Policy & Strategy course that Victor taught at Mercyhurst as dean of the university’s business school. For their senior capstone projects, Victor organized his students into groups, and charged each with preparing a business plan for a local organization. He appointed DeFrancesco to lead the group working with the YMCAs of Greater Erie County. “I recognized Brian’s leadership abilities early on,”Victor said. “I wanted to let him know I believed in him to be a successful leader for the capstone project, but more importantly for his career after Mercyhurst.” DeFrancesco remembers the class well. “It was the culmination of my studies at Mercyhurst and the fnal preparation for the real world of business,” he said. “Students respected Victor immensely because he had been a very successful business CEO. So, when he believed in me, it gave me a ton of confdence – especially at such a pivotal time in my life.” Victor said DeFrancesco and his team did an excellent job on their case study and that the YMCA ultimately put some of their recommendations into practice. DeFrancesco spent the remainder of his last semester learning as much as he could from Victor and getting involved in more leadership initiatives, such as becoming president of Mercyhurst’s Delta Mu Delta Business Honor Society. After DeFrancesco’s graduation from Mercyhurst

He generously gifted Mercyhurst the funds it needed to complete renovations to the Hammermill Library.

Most importantly, they share the commitment to continue to collaborate and inspire others in the Mercyhurst community and beyond.


Hurst alums take the plunge to become business owners

turning passions unrelated to their previous jobs into proftable enterprises. They’ve all been successful, but still dream of growing their businesses even further. Perhaps the “Carpe Diem” spirit they experienced on campus inspired them.

In this issue we profle a few Mercyhurst alumni who’ve actually done it – pursued their entrepreneurial dreams and created their own businesses. They followed diferent paths. Most worked for others frst – until they discovered the niche they were meant to fll and struck out on their own. Others changed felds completely,

“Entrepreneurship is at the core of the American dream. It’s about blazing new trails, about believing in yourself, your mission, and inspiring others to join you in the journey. What sets [entrepreneurs] apart is the will, courage and sometimes recklessness to actually do it.” – Derek Hutson, president and CEO of Datical

Sara Andriacchi Brennan ’07 ’09 Sara Andriacchi Brennan earned a biology degree at Mercyhurst in 2007 and a master’s in secondary education in 2009, but today she owns one of the most prominent interior design frms in Charlotte, North Carolina. Sara’s married to Mitch Brennan, a native of promote her business, a one-stop shop that can take spaces from bare bones to that “HGTV moment” at the end. Sara coined the term “romantic transitional” to describe her style. “I love soft, feminine elements

in a space, but mixed with the timeless and clean lines of transitional style,” she explained. She’s built a business that works well while she’s raising children, but that she’ll be able to scale as life allows. And, make no mistake, she plans to scale it big. “I want it all – a TV show, a magazine column, the furniture line, the accessory line. I want to be one of the greats in the design industry. I want romantic transitional to be the next big thing.”You can cross one item of that wish list: she recently began writing for Cottages and Bungalows magazine. And she hopes her story will inspire people who don’t have a linear path to follow their dreams. Be really clear on what you want to do, she advised, and that you have a passion for it. “If you have that fre and passion, you can sustain it.” Learn more about her work at . Follow her on Instagram @saralynnbrennan .

Australia who played basketball for Mercyhurst. When their son, Mason, arrived, she stopped teaching. “I was not the stay-at-home mom I thought I was going to be,” she laughed, and she was bitten by the entrepreneurial bug. Her WIRL Project (What It’s Really Like), a social sharing platform that allowed users to create profles and house their blogs on her website, was attracting investors, but a difcult second pregnancy put the project on hold. She never went back. Instead, after daughter Shae was born, the Brennans moved into their dream home and Sara began to decorate it. Soon, the home she was creating for her young family started attracting attention – and job ofers. About a year ago, she decided to get serious and turn her avocation into a business. Her ofce is in her home and she has just one full- time employee, but she’s developed exclusive partnerships with contractors and kitchen and bath specialists who help turn her ideas into reality. She relies heavily on Instagram to


Whitney Otto Berkowsky ’11 Even while she was working in sales in New York City, 2011 fashion merchandising grad Whitney

She’s a self-taught graphic designer, but puts her retail background to use as she handles sales. Her dad, also an entrepreneur, helped her navigate the incorporation of the business. She says she designs cards for the bold and beautiful woman, juxtaposing beautiful forals with bold typography. She writes all the copy, too, often incorporating some humor. Everything is sourced and manufactured in the United States, and she’s worked hard to make her products eco-friendly – using partially recycled paper (produced at plants operating on wind energy) and compostable packaging. Whitney also focuses on giving back to her community and frequently shares a portion of her profts with organizations she believes in. As she grows her company, Whitney says she’d like to maintain her “shop small” focus. “I want to focus on small stores – those are the people that really make a diference in this country and I want to be a part of it. “Starting a business is not easy, but if it’s something you love doing, it will energize you in a way that will allow you to get past whatever the difculties are,” she said. “Accept the fear

Otto Berkowsky had a side gig she named Otto & Berk. Friends (and friends of friends) commissioned her to create unique wedding invitations. When she and husband Jonathan Berkowsky decided to start a family, she left her full-time job and focused on her design work instead. Their son, JJ, is now 2 ½, and Whitney’s company is growing just as fast as he is. Rather than doing custom invitations, she now designs greeting cards that are sold in 75 small businesses around the country. She spread the word about her business through the Faire website, a wholesale marketplace that connects small businesses with artisans. She’s expecting to grow her client list even more after taking part in her frst trade show. She launched an entirely new collection, including seasonal greeting cards, notebooks, notepads, and calendars, at the National Stationery Show in August in New York City. It’s a one-person operation, with Whitney handling all design, and the business operation as well, from her home in Lawrence, New Jersey. Anthony Maher Anthony Maher ’02 is a born entrepreneur who’s made it his mission to champion other entrepreneurs. A soccer All-American at Mercyhurst, Anthony played professional soccer for 10 years. After his sports career, he never considered working for someone else. “It was always a question of what can I create, what can I build,” he said. He wanted to control his own destiny, a lesson he’d absorbed from Coach John Melody ’90, along with a strong work ethic, a drive to succeed, and an obsession with winning. In 2013 he partnered with his brother and sister- in-law, Michael and Jennifer Maher, to create Benjamin’s Desk, a Philadelphia co-working space. From the start, Benjamin’s Desk ofered clients more than just space – it was all about building a community and providing services to help startups grow their businesses. The business fourished, attracting tenants like Uber and the social commerce platform Curalate and being chosen to manage the University of Pennsylvania’s business incubator, Pennovation Center. That led to a merger in 2017 with

that will come with any new job and use that to your advantage. If it scares you, you’re probably doing the right thing.” See Whitney’s work at .


Washington-based 1776, making Anthony the CEO of the largest network of business incubators in the country. Anthony stepped down to an advisory role with 1776 last year when he realized that the travel required by the job wasn’t good for his growing family. Anthony and wife Anne are raising four young sons, Roman, Anthony, Michael – and Apollo, who arrived July 29. At the start of 2019, Anthony became partner and president of University Place Associates, a real estate development frm started by Scott Mazo, a former Benjamin’s Desk/1776 investor. They expect to break ground by the end of the year on 3.0 University Place, a $100 million building that will anchor a research and innovation district along Philadelphia’s Market Street. Anthony said he loves building startup ecosystems and is using his extensive network of contacts to “curate” a tenant list. UPA has already partnered with Wistar, a biomedical research organization, and the Ben Franklin Technology Partnership will create an entire “innovation

foor” and advise on the unique needs of tech startups. UPA is also committed to minimizing the building’s impact on the environment and enhancing the health and productivity of those who will work inside it. To others considering starting their own companies, Anthony says, “Go into it with your eyes wide open. It’s going to be hard. You’re going to face obstacles, but if you’re driven and if you have the perseverance inside, you’re going to succeed.” Visit .


Ben Bluemle ’06 Ben Bluemle ’06 had been working in real estate in Atlanta for about three years when he decided to start his own frm in Savannah. He immediately put the skills he’d acquired as an intelligence studies major to work. “I got every piece of data I could get about the Savannah market and ran a ton of analytics to confrm it was the right market for me,” he said. He opened Seaport Real Estate Group – named to honor Savannah’s rich history – in 2010. Seaport was pretty traditional at frst, but soon adopted a creative video marketing strategy that has set the company apart. “I wasn’t the frst to do a real estate video,” Ben explained. “But I worked with a movie production company so I had a level of quality no one had seen before.” As he told South magazine, “In my videos, if the house has a pool, I’m jumping into it. If it has water access, I’m paddleboarding. One seller is a car dealer, so I’m driving up in the video in one of his most premier cars. These videos have allowed us to stand out against other real estate companies because we have pushed Dawn Preske Britt Seventeen is Dawn Britt’s lucky number. That’s one reason the business she created in 2013 is known as the OneSeven Agency. Dawn Preske Britt graduated from Mercyhurst in 1990 with majors in marketing and fashion merchandising. She worked in the beauty and fashion retail industries on the East Coast for several years. Then, ready for a change, she moved west to Las Vegas, where she could advance her career in the hospitality and entertainment industries. From 2002 until 2013, she worked for Sands Corp., rising to become executive corporate director of communications for the Fortune 500 company. She had more than a decade of public relations and marketing experience in Las Vegas, including overseeing the opening of the $1 billion Palazzo property in 2007, before she decided to launch her own company. Dawn had worked with many agencies when she oversaw communications for The Venetian and The Palazzo, but was never completely satisfed. She wanted an agency that understood how to integrate all communication media to create the strongest message possible for a brand.

the limits to sell real estate diferently – and in a more fun way – than it’s ever been done, especially in this market.” He also uses an online video series titled “Port Talk” to position Seaport as the go-to source for real estate information. It’s paid of. His frm is among the most successful in Savannah and he was ranked the No. 201 agent in the United States. He now has 26 agents working for him, with additional ofces in Philadelphia and northeast Georgia, and he’s considering a fourth site in his hometown of Pittsburgh. He advises entrepreneurs to think big. “When you’re dreaming, dream so big that people will look at you and laugh. And then think about it every second of every day.” Anticipate growth, he suggests, and put policies and procedures in place now so you don’t have to reinvent the wheel later. As an entrepreneur, he said, you must be willing to fail and should actually strive to fail at something every day – otherwise, you’re not pushing yourself hard enough. Be willing to invest in yourself frst and ensure that

you are growing yourself somehow each day before you focus on the company. And understand that you may have to make some real sacrifces to reach your goal. In Ben’s case, that meant leaving his girlfriend behind in Atlanta for the 2 ½ years it took him to get Seaport going. Megan was completely supportive. Now Ben’s wife, she worked as a Seaport agent for a time, but is now busy at home with Lillian, 4; Anderson, 2; and Cameron, born July 1. Visit .


So she created a business to provide what she had sought when she was the client. OneSeven Agency is a full-service integrated marketing agency – she described it as one source that fuses seven core traditional and non-traditional facets of communications to produce strong, measurable results: marketing, public relations, social media, creative, digital, events, and partnerships. Dawn had the PR and marketing communications background and her business and life partner H Farahi owned a boutique creative agency and printing company. In the beginning, she worked at her dining room table, but seven years later the business has grown to a staf of 15 and a 5,000-square-foot ofce. The client list has grown from just one – Emeril Lagasse’s restaurants – to more than 40, with a focus in hospitality, restaurants, nonprofts, health and wellness, beauty, consumer lifestyle, and entertainment brands. She’s now hired a creative content manager, a social media coordinator, and a vice president for business development, marketing and events. The agency has a presence in the major media markets of Los Angeles and New York, and is looking for possible future expansions in Dallas, Houston, and Austin.

Her advice to potential entrepreneurs? “Just do it. But be ready to work really hard – I’m not kidding 24/7 – the business needs to be your child, your passion, your everything. Don’t be afraid to do it, because you’re never going to be ready, and all the studying in the world won’t make you ready.” She says her focus has always been on building and maintaining relationships with everyone, as you never know when a relationship will become an opportunity. Being an entrepreneur is all about having strong relationships and savvy networking skills. Visit .


Mercy sister’s pioneering cancer research made headlines in ’60s, ’70s By Sue Corbran

Modest beginnings Sister Eymard added research to her biology curriculum in 1961-62. She taught junior biology majors the basics of biological research, and then mentored seniors as they conducted their own experiments. The program started small, very small. After getting the OK from President Sister Loretta McHale, Sister Eymard had to fnd space and equipment. “We started from the subbasement of Egan to the 4th foor ‘cat walk,’ but we could not fnd any available space,” Sister Eymard later wrote. “Sister Loretta then told me I could use one free room on Egan 3rd until a foor could be put on the left side of the cat walk.” Sister Eymard sold a secondhand typewriter she’d been given and used the $50 to pay for that fooring and for shelving to hold her mouse cages. The cancer research project would grow into other makeshift locations in Old Main. Small annual grants from the National Science Foundation and the American Cancer Society through the 1960s helped purchase needed equipment and paid stipends to the students carrying out the experiments. But when Zurn Hall of Science and Fine Arts opened in 1968, Sister Eymard fnally got the facility she needed, designed and equipped to carry on her research.

When she decided to bring cancer research to Mercyhurst, even Sister Eymard Poydock probably had no idea just how far her team would go. She started in 1961 in a makeshift laboratory under the eaves of Egan Hall and with a shoestring budget. But over nearly three decades, Sister Eymard would recruit dozens of Mercyhurst students – and adult community volunteers – into her study. At its peak in the mid-1970s, Sister’s team developed a cancer-fghting compound that attracted nationwide attention. The researchers dubbed their combination of vitamins and enzymes “Mercytamin” in tribute to the Sisters of Mercy. Though the product never made it to market, for a time it seemed to hold great promise for curing some cancers. Writing for Prevention magazine in 1982, alumnus Randy Byrd ’74 said, “It appeared that Sister Eymard had found a cancer-inhibiting agent that not only stops many kinds of cancer, but does so with absolutely no side efects in healthy tissue.” Today, websites that promote alternative treatments for cancer still suggest patients give the treatment a try, one of them calling it a “nun’s divine cancer cure.”


Damian Gallina cares for the mice used in Mercyhurst’s cancer research program.

The path to ‘Mercytamin’ Sister Eymard had completed a fellowship in 1960 at the Institutum Divi Thomae, a graduate school for scientifc research in Cincinnati, and earned her Ph.D. in biology and experimental medicine there in 1965. The frst research projects her students conducted grew out of Sister Eymard’s work at the Institutum Divi Thomae, working alongside her mentors, Drs. George Sperti and John Fardon. The research focused on how a developing tumor afects cell division in normal body tissue surrounding the cancer cells. Each year, she shepherded her students through increasingly complex studies of cancer in mice. Eventually, projects began to focus on how cancer-fghting drugs afected other parts of the body, with an eye to mitigating some of their devastating side efects. Only later did the thought of fnding an actual cure for cancer emerge. Her students continued to do excellent work, but turnover was high as they graduated and moved on to graduate school or research jobs. So, in 1969, Sister Eymard expanded cancer research again, starting an evening course for adult volunteers. Seven community members completed the three years of training. It was one of those volunteers – local pharmacist Damian “Dan” Gallina – who frst proposed the concept that eventually became “Mercytamin.” Then Sister Eymard and her team went to work. The tests involved implanting cancerous tumors in laboratory mice, then injecting half of them with a combination of Vitamin C and Vitamin B12. They discovered that the tumors continued to grow rapidly in untreated mice, but cancer growth stopped completely in those exposed to

the vitamin compound. In addition, the treated animals lived longer than those that didn’t receive C and B12. Promising results occurred as early as 1973, but a cautious Sister Eymard kept up her diligent pursuit accruing positive data. In 1975, a newspaper report noted that the compound had already been created 86 separate times – and tested through 186 experiments. Once the National Cancer Institute corroborated her results, Sister Eymard was ready to share her work. In 1979, her paper appeared in the journal Experimental Cell Biology . Sister published more than a dozen papers in a variety of scientifc journals, but she also noted proudly, “This research gave Mercyhurst million-dollar publicity when the results of experiments done at Mercyhurst were aired from coast-to-coast on CBS under the title ‘Report on Medicine.’” Sister Eymard clearly hoped her work would lead to trials on larger animals and eventually on humans. But despite modifcations to the original Mercytamin compound, they weren’t able to develop a formulation that was consistently efective. The research program – funded for 20 years primarily with just $75,000 in grants from the NSF and American Cancer Society – had neither the money nor the resources to pursue it further. Still, Dan Gallina – now retired and living in Erie – wonders if they may have been on the right track. He says cancer researchers are now investigating some of the same cellular reactions, such as DNA methylation via vitamin B12, that Hurst researchers explored all those years ago.

’ from Mercyhurst College in 1943, earned a master s degree from the University of Pittsburgh, and received a Ph.D. in biology and experimental medicine from the Institutum Divi Thomae in 1965. ’ She was a member of the Mercyhurst faculty for 44 years, from 1947 to 1991, and chaired the biology department for much of that time. While shes best known for her pioneering cancer research, she had a broad interest in science. As a botany buf, she was responsible for planting many trees on the Mercyhurst campus. In 1969 she organized an Intersession trip to Florida where students studied marine biology. Sister Eymard found relaxation by painting, in both oil and watercolor. Her works were well-received; in summer 1971 she was able to tour Europe thanks to proceeds from a show of her art. She retired around 1991 and died in 1998 at the age of 87. Sister Mary Eymard Poydock Sister Mary Eymard Poydock graduated

Sister Eymard documented her career and the cancer research project in scrapbooks that have been digitized by the Mercyhurst University Archives. You can view them at . Were you involved with Sister Eymard’s cancer research project? We’d love to hear your story. Email Sue Corbran at . 7

Kern gift creates presidential residence

For years, the stately brick Tudor at 3906 State Street with its elegant leaded glass windows and steeply pitched slate roof served as the family home of Bruce and Nancy Kern. Thanks to a generous gift from the Kern family, the 4,295 square feet of spacious rooms, gleaming hardwood foors, and ornate black walnut woodwork is now the ofcial Presidential Residence of Mercyhurst University. President Michael Victor says the home – now known as the Kern House – promises to become a social and cultural center where the university can host alumni, students, faculty, and other special guests. While he doesn’t plan to move from his family home in Millcreek, it will also be the home of future Mercyhurst presidents. Bruce and Nancy Kern are longtime supporters of Mercyhurst; their son, Scott, currently serves on the board of trustees. When they decided to part with the home they had lived in for nearly 30 years, they wanted it in the hands of someone who could appreciate its architectural integrity and take responsibility as good stewards. “Architecturally, the house is a natural ft for Mercyhurst,” Nancy said. “It looks like it could be sitting right on campus and not be out of place. We knew we’d be putting it in good hands.” During the years the Kerns lived there, it had a cozy, casual vibe. In its new role, it will be decidedly more formal.

Betsy Frank, director of executive ofce projects and events, has overseen the renovation. For months, she haunted high-end consignment boutiques throughout the region in search of furnishings and décor that would match the home’s 1920s origins. She didn’t need to locate a dining set, though – the set that belonged to original owners James and Anna Dwyer had remained in the house. But she did locate a mural of the Virginia countryside that will enhance the dining room. The kitchen will be functional for a presidential family in the future, but it also boasts three ovens, a wine refrigerator, and other equipment needed for catering ofcial Mercyhurst events. Outside, the university painted the trim in a rich brown-and-cream combination to refect the classic Tudor style, and repaired the nearly 90-year-old slate roof. The frst phase of improvements included the exterior work and the frst- foor public spaces. Eventually the four bedrooms and three baths on the second foor will be restored; the third foor could be converted into additional living space. The newly renovated Kern House will be open to the public Nov. 9 and 10 as a stop on the ffth annual Holiday Tour of Homes to beneft the Erie Philharmonic.


Above, far left: Bruce and Nancy Kern turn over the keys to their former home to President Michael T. Victor. Above, left: Sisters (from top) Anne Schaaf Rahner, Mary Schaaf Mulard, Ellen Schaaf Innes, and Katie Schaaf check out the new look of their former family home. Above, right: Betsy Frank shows of renovations to the Kern House to Sheila Dwyer Grove, who lived in the home as a child. Historic ties to Mercyhurst

Judge Dwyer grew up in the home at 3906 State. In 1962, he and his wife, Margaret Quinn Dwyer, bought the family home and moved in with their six children. Attorney Peter Schaaf, who also served as a Mercyhurst trustee, and his wife, Peg, purchased the home in 1970, and the Kerns purchased it from the Schaafs in the late 1980s. Many other familiar Mercyhurst names also have ties to the new presidential residence. For instance, Judge Dwyer’s sister Ruth married prominent Erie builder Bob Baldwin and moved across the street from her childhood home to 3857 State Street. Bob Baldwin and his brother, Art, both later served as Mercyhurst trustees. (Baldwin Hall, a residence for women on the Mercyhurst campus, is named in honor of their aunt, Mabel Baldwin.) Margaret Quinn Dwyer was an early member of the Carpe Diem Society, a group of female graduates and friends of the college formed in 1966 to help with friend-making and fundraising. Like many family members, she had attended Mercyhurst Seminary, which operated in the same building as the college until Mercyhurst Preparatory School opened on Grandview Boulevard in 1963. Family gatherings at the Dwyer house usually included a variety of Quinns and Weschlers, too. Margaret Dwyer’s widowed father, Frank Quinn, had married Florence Weschler. Sister Mary Charles Weschler, the legendary chemistry teacher at Mercyhurst, was one of Florence’s siblings. And Patrick Weschler is the son of their brother, Frank Weschler.

Mercyhurst’s new presidential residence sits several blocks from campus, but fts perfectly with the school’s architectural style. As it turns out, it’s also a great historical ft. When the Kerns’ generous donation was announced, Trustee Patrick Weschler, an Erie history buf, was quick to point out, “I don’t think there is a residence in Erie with more Mercyhurst connections.” The beautiful Tudor Norman home was built in 1928 for James B. and Anna Ryan Dwyer. The Dwyers’ two eldest sons would go on to operate the family business, Firch Baking. Their third son, James B. Dwyer Jr., became a lawyer and later an Erie County judge. Along the way, he became involved at Mercyhurst at a pivotal time in its history. In 1961, Sister Carolyn Herrmann created the school’s frst advisory board of lay people to help guide the college’s future. James B. Dwyer Jr. was one of the frst community leaders appointed to serve. Two years later, Mercyhurst’s trustees – then all Sisters of Mercy – voted to add two laypeople to the board, and James B. Dwyer Jr. and Richard Wehle became the school’s frst lay trustees. As Dr. Roy Strausbaugh noted in his history of Mercyhurst, “The college was no longer the sole province of the Sisters of Mercy. The new board, including these two laymen, appointed Sister Carolyn Herrmann president on Oct. 8, 1963.”


Anthro alumni search for answers in high-profile forensics cases By Deborah W. Morton

They are helpless to stave of a hurricane, a wild fre, or a drug deal turned deadly, but they are there in the grisly after-efects that defne their work as forensic anthropologists. Many graduates of Mercyhurst University’s master’s degree program in the Department of Applied Forensic Sciences are doing the kind of feld work that Dr. Dennis Dirkmaat and his colleagues prepared them to do in analyzing skeletal remains. Are they human? If so, was the person male or female? What about age, stature, geographic ancestry, and probable cause of death? They call it the “biological profle.” In the past year, a handful of those grads have been busy with high-profle cases. Last winter, Dirkmaat and alumnae Andrea Ost and Rhian Dunn, who spent the 2018-2019 academic year teaching in the same program from which they graduated, traveled to San Juan, Puerto Rico, to put their skills to work in the morgue. Budget cuts in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria (September 2017) left an overcrowded morgue and depleted professional staf to identify victims of the most destructive hurricane to

hit Puerto Rico in modern times. Dirkmaat was among the sought-after experts called upon to help by the American Society of Crime Laboratory Directors (ASCLD) and National Association of Attorneys General (NAAG). He, Ost, and Dunn volunteered their time and made the trip with fve other board- certifed forensic anthropologists, hailing from Washington, D.C., Missouri, Texas, New York, and Louisiana. As grad students at Mercyhurst, Dunn and Ost worked on dozens of cases, scenarios that typically included the retrieval of on- site remains and return to Mercyhurst for lab analysis. In San Juan, they worked fve days straight, sunup to sundown, in the disaster morgue, gratifed that they were able to use their skills to help close the remaining 47 cases there. Last fall, another Mercyhurst grad, Dr. Kyra Stull, was among a team tasked with identifying victims of the 215-square-mile Camp Fire in Paradise, California. Stull, who co-led a team of 10 students from the University of Nevada, Reno, where she is an assistant professor, is

accustomed to identifying burn victims from her years at Mercyhurst and beyond. She earned her doctorate from the University of Pretoria in South Africa. Still, she told USA Today , nothing in her catalogue of crime scenes and disasters approached the scope of the damage she witnessed at Paradise. “I’ve never experienced anything like that before,” she said, although admittedly her Mercyhurst education was instrumental in preparing her. “Dr. Dirkmaat established a program that had the perfect mix of hands-on experience and classroom-based knowledge that resulted in competent anthropologists,” she said. “Additional experience working with the short courses he ofered each summer enabled us to learn from and work with some of the best in the feld as well as establish professional relationships.” Looking back, she said Mercyhurst ofered more than a rigorous academic program; the camaraderie among the forensic anthropology faculty and cohorts had its own perks. “I still work with, publish with, and am friends with

Forensic anthropologists Kyra Stull, left, and Tatiana Vlemincq walk through a trailer park destroyed by the Camp Fire in Paradise, California, on Nov. 17, 2018. (Reuters/Terray Sylvester)


my colleagues from Mercyhurst,” she said. “Not all graduate programs foster that type of relationship and collegiality. My experiences at Mercyhurst have defnitely shaped how I run my own research lab today and how I interact with my students as well as encourage them to interact with one another.” Last year, another Mercyhurst grad, Erin Chapman ’10, was the subject of a feature in The Bufalo News , about her unique role as a forensic anthropologist in the Erie County (New York) Medical Examiner’s Ofce, and the many interesting cases she is called upon to evaluate, from bodies pulled from the lake and rivers around Bufalo to the remains of murder victims discovered in the woods. “Chapman is one of a small number of anthropologists in the nation who works in a medical examiner’s ofce,” the Buf News noted. “Most medical examiners employ forensic pathologists who examine organs, soft tissues and bodily fuids to determine a cause of death. By contrast, forensic anthropologists study skeletal remains.” Unlike colleagues who have built careers in academia, Chapman derives satisfaction from being an asset to law enforcement, largely driven by her Mercyhurst experience where she said the opportunity to assist with active

forensic casework is unmatched by any other institution. In fact, she was introduced to the staf of her current employer nearly 15 years ago through cases on which Dirkmaat’s department had lent assistance. Clearly, the nature of her work gives many people pause, and she’s used to their bewilderment. “Each person has a role to fulfll and, although mine may not seem appealing to everyone, there are a number of careers that I am not emotionally equipped to perform,” she said. “Learning to focus on the science helps me to remain as unbiased as possible and emotionally detached at some level. To best serve a deceased individual and their family, one must put feelings aside and focus on answering the important questions in order to bring a family the justice or answers they seek.” When it comes to niche academic programs at Mercyhurst, forensic anthropology gets its nod time and again for the volume of real cases students work on while attending college. Dirkmaat often refects upon the year he welcomed a group of new grad students to the frst day of class. He hadn’t even learned their names when he told them to “pack up, we’re going down state to process the scene of a plane crash.” And so it began … and so it continues.

- The master’s degree program represented the frst in the country focused primarily on providing students with a comprehensive basic training regimen in the feld. To this day, Dirkmaat and his team of faculty and graduate students are regularly called upon by law enforcement, coroners, and medical examiners across the tri-state area to evaluate cases from human death scenes, spanning crimes to natural disasters. Over the summer Dirkmaat welcomed back some of those trailblazers as part of his “All-Stars Forensic Anthropology Short Course.”Thirteen students were enrolled in the two week course, hoping to glean knowledge, improve their skills, and even snag career advice from nine of the earliest students in Dirkmaat’s program who have gone on to achieve success in the feld. The visiting alumni presenters included: • Dr. Joseph Hefner ’99, Dirkmaat’s frst graduate student, currently an Assistant Professor of Anthropology and director of the Forensic Anthropology Laboratory at Michigan State University • Dr. Kyra Stull ’08, Assistant Professor of Anthropology, University of Nevada, Reno • Dr. Heather Garvin ’07, Assistant Professor of Anatomy at Des Moines University Medical School, Des Moines, Iowa • Dr. Nicholas Passalacqua ’07, Assistant Professor and Forensic Anthropology Program Coordinator at Western Carolina University, Culhowee, North Carolina • Dr. Alex Klales ’09, Assistant Professor of Anthropology, Washburn University in Topeka, Kansas • Dr. Erin Chapman ’06, forensic anthropologist for the Erie County, New York, Medical Examiner’s Ofce in Bufalo • Dr. Sara Getz ’11, Assistant Professor of Anthropology, Idaho State, Pocatello, Idaho • Mercyhurst rolls out red carpet for forensic anthropology all-stars When Dr. Dennis Dirkmaat began the graduate program in forensic anthropology at Mercyhurst University 15 years ago, he had high hopes that the students trained under his watch would go on to top-flight doctoral programs and the careers of their dreams. Diana Messer ’13M, Forensic Anthropologist for SNA International in support of the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) in Hawaii • Christopher Rainwater ’06M, Forensic Anthropologist in the Ofce of the Chief Medical Examiner of the City of New York. Four of the alumni (Hefner, Passalacqua, Klales and Stull) have also already attained board certifcation within the American Academy of Forensic Sciences, the highest status in the field of forensic anthropology. “When our students graduate, our primary goal is that they have a signifcant impact and become leaders in their chosen disciplines,” said Mercyhurst Provost Dr. Leanne Roberts. “Having alumni return to campus to share their expertise and wisdom gained from time spent in the profession after graduation is truly a privilege.” 11

Single collegiate moms University ofers merciful new beginnings By Mary Solberg • Reprinted with permission from the March issue of Faith , the magazine of the Erie Catholic Diocese

College life is more than 8 a.m. classes, research papers and exams for four women enrolled at Mercyhurst University North East in Erie County. It also means studying well past midnight after they’ve fed their rambunctious toddlers, read them books and tucked them in for the night. The scenario is repeated most days, amid the usual runny noses and occasional tantrums. For these single collegiate moms, responsibilities don’t end there. Most also hold down a part-time job to pay the bills. But mercy has come to the aid of students Jasmine Butcher, Daijah Campbell, Quanshay Carroll and Jennifer White. All have been accepted into a new Women With Children program ofered at Mercyhurst North East, a two-year Catholic liberal arts satellite campus of Erie’s Mercyhurst University. The groundbreaking program’s biggest perks are rent-free housing on campus, including free utilities, laundry services, cable and internet service. All of the women agree that the daily chaos and worries of attending college and raising children – on a single income at or near the poverty level – are more bearable now. “It’s been a blessing on top of a blessing,” says Quanshay Carroll, 23, who entered the program in January with her 4-year-old daughter, Delaysia. The words “blessed” and “grateful” come up frequently during a recent talk with the women at the school’s Matthew L. Ryan Student Union. They watch as Delaysia, a newcomer to the program, plays with Jasmine’s daughter, Noella, 2; and Daijah’s daughters, Dallas, 2, and Dasani, 4. White’s 2-year-old

son, William, isn’t present that night, but subsequent get-togethers quickly include the only boy in the group. “I’m more relaxed now,” says Jasmine, who, at 22, is the youngest of the mothers. “I’m happier. I’m not stressed out.” A growing demographic Stress can impede growth on many fronts, both physically and mentally. A 2018 paper released by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research found that single mothers who attend college full time spend nine hours a day on child care and housework. “Single mothers in college are doing double and triple duty to make a better life for their families, but too few have the support needed to juggle the competing demands of college, parenthood and employment,” according to Lindsey Reichlin Cruse, the institute’s current study director who was quoted in Diverse: Issues in Higher Education , a publication of the College Media Association. But single moms – including those at Mercyhurst North East – are not alone. U.S. Census Bureau statistics released in 2016 found that children living with a single mother make up the second most common family arrangement in the U.S. That’s nearly triple the percentage of children living with single moms in 1960. These facts, and a plethora of others, are of increasing interest to colleges and universities. More than one-quarter of all undergraduate students in America are raising children while attending

college, according to the Best Colleges website. Single moms, it fnds, make up 43 percent of the student-parent population, while single fathers comprise 11 percent. About three years ago, Mercyhurst University President Michael Victor became intrigued by the concept of a Women With Children program while at the Conference for Mercy Higher Education in Washington, D.C. Misericordia University, a private Catholic liberal arts university in Dallas, Pennsylvania, and the College of Saint Mary in Omaha, Nebraska, both founded by the Sisters of Mercy, ofer similar single-mother programs. Victor proposed the idea for Mercyhurst North East, which has a current enrollment of 660. “It goes right back to the critical concerns of the Sisters of Mercy, which is to battle poverty through education,”Victor says. “What we believe is that this is the path to break the cycle of poverty. If we give them an opportunity to do well, the children will do well.” Mercy Sister JoAnne Courneen, a member of the board of trustees, visited Misericordia and two other institutions to learn about their programs. She and Jackie Fink, the director of administrative services at the North East campus, also conducted more research about its benefts and challenges, including ensuring the safety of children on a college campus. The benefts of the Women With Children program were so evident that Mercyhurst fast-tracked it and welcomed the frst cohort last fall. Fink believes Mercyhurst is now among only a handful of universities nationwide that ofer year- round, free on-campus housing for single mothers.


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