Alumnus answers call for students impacted by devastating pandemic

Published 05.15.2020


by John Urick

Forestry graduate '74


I know the impact that a Pennsylvania College of Technology applied technology education has on lives.

In my own family, I (forest technology/Williamsport Area Community College), my son (horticulture), granddaughter (hospitality), and three cousins (electrical, diesel mechanics, and nursing) attended Penn College, leading to productive and successful lives. My grandson is a prospective PCT Information Technology student.

Having benefited from a Penn College (WACC) education, I feel obligated to help current students in their pursuit of useful life skills.

My goal is to strategically provide “seed money” that will provide opportunities for students to achieve career goals that will enhance their quality of life. While I do donate to charitable causes, I much prefer philanthropic giving because, along with students’ hard work, my contribution is leveraged to provide much more benefit going forward than the original gift.

I have been giving to the Penn College Foundation for years. I know that my gifts don’t just drop into a black hole. They are needed and appreciated. Regardless of the amount, one or more Institutional Advancement staff send personal emails and/or call. (By the way, the Institutional Advancement staff are extremely helpful.)

Giving now, though, at this moment, is critical. Due to the COVID-19 crisis, large numbers of students are in jeopardy of not finishing their education because of financial stress caused by losing critical part-time jobs, compounded by some parents their losing jobs. The thought of students’ education being disrupted and their lives changed forever is unbearable to me.

I think my commitment to giving to the Foundation is rooted in my appreciation for the school and my own situation nearly 50 years ago.

Like many students, I was on a shoestring budget while attending WACC. In my case, my father was in a nursing home and my mother needed our Social Security checks to pay the bills. I worked 60-hour weeks in a factory during summers. I worked semester breaks and holidays catching chickens (yes, you read that correctly) for a poultry processor. My dear grandmother subsidized me the best she could. Any interruption to these income streams would have resulted in me dropping out. Thankfully, I was able to finish. It’s a long story but, as it turned out, WACC was the first step in a series that eventually led to me becoming a professional civil engineer. But if it wasn’t for that critical first step, the rest would never have happened.

I contacted Institutional Advancement staff to see how and what I could do to specifically help students in need. An Emergency Scholarship Fund had been created for this purpose.

An inner voice compelled me to dig deep and contribute as much as I possibly could. A short time later, I received a government stimulus deposit. I felt that the intention of the stimulus would be best served by helping those with greater need, and I forwarded it on to the Emergency Scholarship Fund, as well.

As I write this, I received a harsh reminder that this crisis is very real. A company email stated that all 70 summer interns were informed that their internships are canceled. Devastating.

Inspired to join John in empowering students?

Consider a gift to the Emergency Scholarship Fund.