As Ursinus College’s 150th anniversary celebration comes to an end, so, too, does Ursinus Magazine’s tribute to the people who have helped shape its history. In the final installment of this three-part series, we’re proud to present a list of our Unsung Heroes—those who make a big difference within our community and beyond; and our Helping Hands—the “do-gooders” who are out there doing truly altruistic things. Each of these names came to us from faculty and staff, members of our 150th anniversary committee and by our readers. In our fall and winter editions, you read about some of our pioneers, philanthropists, mentors and thought leaders; and thanks to you, we’ve been able to highlight more than 120 Bears for Life who capture the true meaning and purpose of Ursinus.
The Unsung Heroes
When she received the Tortorelli Award in 2018, Ursinus President Brock Blomberg noted that Margie Connor, an administrative assistant for the English and history departments, “is referred to as the administrative nerve center for Olin 3. She is someone whose positive outlook, dedicated work ethic and friendly demeanor embody the Ursinus spirit.” The Tortorelli Award is presented annually to a staff member whose level of work performance, professionalism and commitment to the college is described as exemplary by their colleagues and supervisor. That sounds like an apt description for an unsung hero.
It comes as no surprise that when Ursinus Magazine put out a call for unsung heroes, Connor was among the first and most popular names to appear, as well as Mary Ellen DeWane ’61, a fixture in the Ursinus advancement office for three decades. Among her roles, DeWane was director of alumni and director of special gifts. Known for her encyclopedic knowledge of Ursinus, her devotion, passion and enthusiasm for the college were her trademarks. And recently retired Val Nelson ’11 for many years worked behind the scenes in the dean’s office as a tireless advocate for faculty and students.
When it comes to students, there are few who are as in tune with their passions as Todd McKinney, associate dean of student life and director of student activities, who for well over two decades has worked with the Ursinus Ambassador Program, new student orientation, Greek life, clubs and organizations, student government and more. And no student’s Ursinus journey is complete without the steady guiding hand of longtime registrar Barbara Boris ’83 and the late Carol Williams. And for staff, Kelley Williams has been a pioneer in her own right, “building the current human resources program from the ground up,” as one nominator said.
Our Ursinus alumni community is filled with unsung heroes. After graduating, Todd Wonderlin ’10 began teaching in low-income public schools, including his own high school, to “improve the quality of education in his hometown, and to give back to the school that defined his teenage years,” he said. Lauralee Lightwood-Mater ’11, a Peace Corps volunteer who served in Paraguay, dedicated part of her service to educating farmers on the best ways to use their resources to increase crop yield and teaching English and nutritional cooking to locals. And over the last few months, we’ve learned about proud Bears like Tu Pham ’14 who is among many Ursinus graduates working on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Helping Hand
There may not be a more fitting description for a “helping hand” than the college’s archivist, Carolyn Weigel. She maintains the Ursinusiana collection on the second floor of the Myrin Library, but her vast understanding of all things Ursinus, in addition to her work with students (including those who take the “Bears Make History” course), is what makes Weigel such a revered member of the Ursinus community.
When on campus, it’s not uncommon to run into a friendly face in facilities or campus safety, many of whom have gone above and beyond as essential workers during the COVID-19 pandemic. Many alumni have fond memories of the late Gary Hodgson, whose booming voice and big, welcoming smile routinely greeted students with warmth and laughter. And speaking of warmth, it’s one of the endearing qualities most associated with safety officer Pete “Pedro” Looft, often seen traversing campus on his bicycle; and Emergency Management Coordinator Chris Wilcox and Director of Environmental Health and Safety and Risk Management Carol McMillin ’85, both of whom ensure emergency preparedness on our campus.
No list of helping hands is complete without the people who keep the Ursinus campus running day-to-day. When describing HVAC specialist Perry Kline, another Tortorelli Award winner, a colleague once said, “I have often seen Perry with his head in the ceiling or laying on the floor trying to solve a problem. He does it all with a smile and his good nature.” And locksmith Randy Markley, who recently celebrated 25 years at Ursinus, is often commended as a “go-to guy who is always willing to assist and to tend to campus community needs, even in the middle of the night.”
Among our alumni, many Bears go above and beyond to meet the needs of the communities in which they work. Susan (Hartenstine) Wolf ’67 became a teacher at one of the first programs for the deaf in New York City, and classmate Patty Earhart ’67, a volunteer at the St. James Episcopal Church Outreach House in Collegeville, created and manages the “Patty Packs” program, which provides food to local school students who are on a free lunch program for when they aren’t in school. Robin Talley ’72 founded Global Baby Steps in 2009 to help provide basic maternity and obstetrical care for women in rural Tanzania. Kimberly (Spolitback-Higgins) Love ’00 works with ex-offenders, helping them to reintegrate into society and obtain jobs, and Brianna Gaddy ’13 assists homeless and underprivileged people to improve their situations and have an impact on their community.
No matter where you look, there are Ursinus Bears on campus and in every corner of the world looking to quietly make a difference.
Many of them are unsung heroes, almost all of them, in some way, lend a helping hand, and each of them captures the Ursinus spirit in their work.
We still want to hear from you!
If there is someone else you want to see here, or in any of our six anniversary categories, let us know by emailing email@example.com. A complete list of names and all three stories are available at ursinus.edu/magazine.