Landscape Grad Recognized at Chamber's Education Celebration
Christopher E. Keiser, a project engineer at Larson Design Group and a 1995 graduate of Penn College's landscape/nursery technology major, was among those lauded at a well-attended event that pays tribute to alumni, educators and students nominated by their respective educational entities, and recognizes the linkages among Lycoming County school districts, colleges, and business and industry.
The award is given annually to a local graduate of the college who has made a significant contribution to the quality of life in Lycoming County, has excelled in his or her own profession, and is active in the community.
"This event gives us the opportunity to focus on an institutional keystone – lifelong learning – in honoring someone who has fashioned an ongoing and inspiring career from the seeds of a Penn College degree," Penn College President Davie Jane Gilmour said in introducing Keiser.
"While at LDG, he has contributed and managed projects for UPMC Susquehanna, the City of Williamsport and River Valley Transit," she recounted. "He was publicly recognized for his design of the River Portal sculpture during the August 2016 dedication of the Trade & Transit Centre II, and recently earned his Registered Landscape Architect’s stamp from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania."
The president also noted his "selfless" community work as chair of the Lycoming County Planning Commission, and as a member of the Williamsport Planning Commission, the local advisory board to the River Valley Regional YMCA and the Penn College Foundation Board of Directors.
Looking back 25 years to "an 18-year-old kid hitching a ride to the college's (Schneebeli) Earth Science Center in Allenwood" with his father, Keiser said his alma mater started him on the path to a career and not just a job.
"The only thing I was sure of was that I was unsure – not unsure of the present, but unsure of the future," he said. "I knew I was going someplace in life and I knew at that time I needed Penn College to help me get there.
"And that, to me, is what makes Penn College so special. It can be so many things to so many people. Whether it’s an associate degree in applied sciences, a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering technology, or simply taking courses for college credits and industry certificate programs, the college has an ability to help individuals get one step closer to their goals – or, in my case, ultimately help me identify what my goal was."
After graduating, he enrolled at Temple University in Ambler – a small, hands-on campus that felt much like Penn College to him – and earned a bachelor's degree in landscape architecture.
"When I was approached by the Penn College Foundation Board, I was ready to say 'Yes' instantly," he continued. "In my mind, it only seemed like a few years prior that I was at the Earth Science Center, hiking through feet of snow for one of Rich (Weilminster)’s plant identification courses. And now I’m being asked to help with the college’s growth and development. Truly an honor."
Fast-forward a few years to December 2015, when Keiser said he was asked to chair a scholarship initiative in conjunction with a corporate milestone.
"To help celebrate LDG’s 30th anniversary, we wanted to add another endowed scholarship to the college and do it in Ken Larson’s name," he recalled. "Ken realized the importance of the college and how (it) could impact the growth and development of his vision: 'To grow and develop an architecture-engineering firm in Central Pennsylvania and do it with local talent.'"
By the spring of 2016, Keiser and his co-workers had contributed half of the required $25,000 to make it happen.
"I can honestly say that this was one of the most rewarding experiences for me to date," he said. "Being able to contribute back to the college that helped build my own personal foundation, with fellow employees who shared this value, and to do it for the individual whose goal it was to keep young people in the area – truly humbling."
Lycoming College's honored alumnus also has extensive ties to Penn College: William J. Martin, a member of the Class of 1968, rose to senior vice president during a period that saw phenomenal institutional growth, a number of building projects and creation of the Community Arts Center.
The evening also included Business Partner in Education honors for PMF Industries Inc., and Outstanding Educator and Student Recognition awards for representatives of the East Lycoming, Jersey Shore Area, Loyalsock Township, Montgomery Area, Montoursville Area, Muncy, South Williamsport Area and Williamsport Area school districts, as well as St. John Neumann Regional Academy.
Several of the exemplary students also have a campus connection, either completing the Youth Leadership Program or earning valuable credits in the Penn College NOW dual-enrollment initiative.
For information about Penn College, a national leader in applied technology education and workforce development, email the Admissions Office or call toll-free 800-367-9222.