Penn College Honors Four Outstanding Alumni

Published 05.14.2016

Alumni News

Pennsylvania College of Technology presented honors to four alumni during Spring 2016 commencement ceremonies, held May 13-14 at the Community Arts Center, Williamsport.

Van A. Johnson, of Curwensville, received the Alumni Volunteer of the Year Award on May 13; Adam D. and Hilary C. Thompson, of Leland, North Carolina, were presented the Alumni Achievement Award during morning exercises on May 14; and James R. Parker, of Chantilly, Virginia, received the Distinguished Alumni Award at the afternoon ceremony on May 14.

Alumni Volunteer of the Year Award winner Van A. Johnson, of Curwensville, with Penn College President Davie Jane Gilmour.The Alumni Volunteer of the Year Award is presented to a graduate of Penn College or its predecessor institutions who has significantly given his or her time and talent to the college by volunteering at college events and activities.

Johnson, who volunteers at Penn College Open Houses in the fall and spring; during Welcome Weekend, when students begin the new academic year; and as a member of the Alumni Relations Task Force, graduated from Penn College predecessor Williamsport Area Community College in 1973 with an associate degree in liberal arts. He went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in education, certification in special education, and Master of Education degrees in elementary education and elementary guidance/counseling.

Johnson has been involved with public education for 35 years, fulfilling roles as a teacher’s aide and elementary special education teacher at Central Intermediate Unit 10, in West Decatur, from 1974-77, and as an intermediate grades teacher, alternative education teacher and elementary school guidance counselor in the West Branch Area School District, based in Morrisdale, from 1977 to 2009.

Since 2009, Johnson has worked as a part-time outpatient therapist for CenClear Services in Clearfield County.

During his career, Johnson has strived to inspire students, colleagues and clients to believe in the possibilities of overcoming learning disabilities and other life challenges through his own life story that includes a childhood learning disability and residency in a county children’s home.

Alumni Achievement Award winners Adam D. and Hilary C. Thompson, of Leland, N.C., with Penn College President Davie Jane Gilmour. Adam’s hometown is Mill Hall and Hilary is originally from Strasburg.The Alumni Achievement Award is bestowed upon graduates from the past 10 years whose postgraduate life includes noteworthy professional accomplishments or dedicated volunteer service to the college or community. Recipients also must demonstrate the importance of their Penn College education and continually support the mission of the college.

The Thompsons are believed to be the first physician assistant alumni to open their own practice. Hilary (Weymer) Thompson, originally from Strasburg, graduated from Penn College’s physician assistant major in 2005, followed by Adam Thompson, a Mill Hall native, in 2006.

Shortly after graduating, they moved to North Carolina and began working in rural areas with medically underserved residents. Hilary Thompson worked in family medicine in Shallotte, and Adam Thompson worked in internal medicine in Chadbourn. In 2008, they purchased an existing practice in Sunset Beach, another medically underserved community. The Thompsons have participated in special pediatric health care access and helped immunize the uninsured, underinsured and Medicaid population in their area. In 2014, their practice joined Novant Health, a health system serving North Carolina and Virginia.

James R. Parker, of Chantilly, Va., receives the Distinguished Alumni Award from Davie Jane Gilmour, president of Penn College. Parker was raised in East Stroudsburg.The Distinguished Alumni Award is given to those who have made significant contributions in their chosen fields, demonstrated the importance of their Penn College education, participated in leadership roles within the community, and demonstrated a commitment to the college and community relations.

Parker, a 1991 culinary arts alumnus, has been a featured artist and judge on The Food Network seven times. He and his wife, Siu, and their partners recently opened Julia’s Restaurant and Lounge, an upscale Italian fusion restaurant in Chantilly.

Parker is founder and director of The Food Artist Group, an internationally acclaimed group of celebrity food artists that travels nationally and internationally, creating visual masterpieces out of edible materials. Their client list includes Busch Gardens, Dole, Giant Eagle, The Today Show, Safeway, Chick-fil-A and Williams Sonoma.

He has been invited to assist with numerous events at the White House – for instance, carving pumpkins on the front lawn for the first family and trick-or-treaters.

His work has been featured on national television and in renowned publications, as well as in dozens of newspapers, blogs and worldwide media.

Parker commits time to various charity organizations including helping to raise thousands of dollars for Generosity Feeds, an organization that helps feed hungry children throughout the United States.

For more about Alumni Relations at Penn College, visit online.

For more about Penn College, a national leader in applied technology education and workforce development, email the Admissions Office or call toll-free 800-367-9222.