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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Michael Traupman, Director of College Relations, 610-740-3790
Allison Benner, College Relations Associate - Media, 610-740-3790

 

CEDAR CREST HONORS FORMER UPS LEADERS AT GALA
The New Harold and Miriam Oberkotter Center at Cedar Crest College is Dedicated at Ceremony

Allentown, PA (October 20, 2004) - Cedar Crest College welcomed more than 200 supporters to campus on Friday, October 15 for a special gala celebration in honor of the official dedication of the Harold and Miriam Oberkotter Center for Health and Wellness.

Despite an unexpected downpour, honorees were feted and guests were dined in a large festival tent on campus before retreating to the warmth of the College's Harmon Hall of Peace - named after the evening's main honoree, Elaine Oberkotter Harmon. Harmon funded the new Oberkotter Center in honor of her parents. Once in the Harmon Hall, guests warmed themselves with festive desserts, coffee, spirits and the music of the Scott Gurney Jazz Trio.

The Harold and Miriam Oberkotter Center for Health and Wellness, a 10,000 square foot building on the western edge of the Cedar Crest campus, adds much needed laboratory and classroom space. The new space will support the tremendous growth at the College over the past several years. Since 2001, Cedar Crest has experienced a 50 percent increase in traditional-aged science and nursing students. The number of students interested in forensic science alone has increased ten fold since its inception in 2000. The lifelong learning population at Cedar Crest has increased as well. Since the launch of the evening weekend nursing program in 2000, the number of lifelong learning students in the College's nursing major has increased more than 105 percent. The main features of the facility include the 100-seat, state-of-the-art, Berta and Harold Keen Multi-Media Classroom; faculty offices including one dedicated to Lorraine Clark Laicha and given by Tom and Stephanie Zimmerer, Ed.D. '72; a forensic science-biological science lab; a biochemistry lab; a student lounge and restrooms. The building was designed by Batten Architects of Bethlehem, and built by Bracy Construction Inc. of Allentown.

The Harold and Miriam Oberkotter Center for Health and Wellness is a fitting tribute to the facility's namesakes - Harold and Miriam Oberkotter, parents of Cedar Crest alumna Dr. Elaine Oberkotter Harmon '59 and grandparents to Cedar Crest Trustee Wendy Harmon Gironda '82. Harold, who served as chairman of the board and the fourth CEO of United Parcel Service (UPS) until his retirement in 1981, succeeded his brother, Paul Oberkotter, who also held these posts. Harold worked his way up through the company - working for UPS for 52 years. Harold started in the package delivery industry as a bicycle messenger with Red Arrow Messenger Service and remained with UPS as it grew from its humble beginnings in Seattle to the worldwide industry leader. Harold and UPS became known for adopting a philosophy where all employees were treated equally. He and other corporate officials did not have private secretaries and shared their company's pre-tax profits not with just the highest managers, but all first-line supervisors on up. At one point during Harold's tenure, more than 8,400 employees shared in the company's earnings.

With his wife, Miriam, he instilled this same value of equality and shared his wealth, his energy and strong sense of value with his family and his community. Miriam was active, not only in her children's lives, but in the community - through participation in everything from the Girl Scouts to the Cub Scouts to taking a strong role in her church's and family's activities. She was also a strong influence on her grandchildren, who made frequent visits to their Connecticut and New Jersey homes.

"The College has had many supporters over the years … and many of them have generously responded to the College's needs, said Cedar Crest College Board Chairman, Charles Noonan. "While it takes money to build buildings, it is the rare donor - like Elaine Oberkotter Harmon - that can truly see the value and spirit of an institution and provide not only money, but also spiritual support and inspiration in how they live their lives. Elaine and her family have demonstrated a concern and commitment to the spiritual and physical health not only of Cedar Crest College, but also of the global community."

Harmon, of Lawrenceville, NJ, has consistently demonstrated extraordinary work and commitment to education, human rights and world peace. Her work has resonated throughout the world - in places as far away as Iraq, Afghanistan, Bosnia, Armenia and the Ukraine. For more than 30 years she was a first-grade teacher - devoted to bringing the message of peace to children both in the United States and around the globe. The Harmon Family has hosted more than 75 American Friends Service students from 25 countries over the past two decades. Harmon has also sponsored children through Save the Children, The Christian Children's Fund and Children International in Appalachia, Africa, Ecuador, Columbia and Mexico, and, in fact, has visited many of them. She has worked to boost the morale of U.S. servicemen abroad by supporting a national "AdoptAPlatoon" program - most recently adopting U.S. servicemen in the Middle East. She not only personally adopted platoons in Iraq, Afghanistan, Kosovo, Bosnia and Kuwait, but also enlisted others to do the same. Through her guidance, students at Cedar Crest College as well as schools near her home in New Jersey have adopted soldiers as well. Harmon has done much to foster global education at Cedar Crest. She has provided funding for the international studies program, as well as for international faculty travel and international student scholarships. Through her sponsorship of students from countries around the world, she has helped to bring the global community to campus. When United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan came to Cedar Crest College for the Miller Family Building dedication he cited Harmon as proof that "one person can make a difference in the world."

The Oberkotters' granddaughter and Harmon's daughter, Trustee Wendy Harmon Gironda, class of '82, was celebrated by College Trustee Cynthia Blaschak, who called Gironda "an extremely strong supporter of the College who has continued her family's history of service and philanthropy." A nursing graduate of the College, for many years, Wendy worked with children as a school nurse. She also worked in various healthcare settings as a nurse - in medsurg, intensive care and critical care, emergency care and home care. The College's nursing program, which has experienced tremendous growth over the past several years, is one of the beneficiaries of the new Oberkotter Center.

Gironda has served on the Alumnae Association's executive board for six years and chaired the Alumnae Scholarship Program. She served on the College's President's Council and is a Life Member of the Alumnae Association. She also has worked tirelessly in her local community - playing an active volunteer role with her church and in her children's school.

The College also acknowledged the support of Harmon's sister, Marlene "Linny" Fowler of Bethlehem, PA, with Noonan calling her "a deeply caring person … with dedication to at-risk children, college students from low-income families and those who would benefit from arts and cultural involvement."

Noonan also honored Harold Keen of Carlisle, PA, for his gift of the Berta and Harold Keen Multi-media Classroom, which he said "would be an integral part of the educational journey of thousands of Cedar Crest students over the years." Keen made a substantial gift to Cedar Crest College to establish the facility in conjunction with his late wife Berta's 60th Class Reunion, which was held last May. Berta Herr Keen, class of 1944, died late last year at the age of 81. Berta graduated from Cedar Crest with a degree in Business Education. She was a lifetime member of the College's Alumnae Association.

Mr. Keen was inspired to give the money for the new facility after his wife's battle with Parkinson's disease.

The Keens have established a long tradition of community service and philanthropic activities. The Keens received the Alexis de Tocqueville Humanitarian Award from the United Way of Carlisle and Cumberland County in 2002. Over the years, the Keens have awarded more than 35 scholarships to students seeking higher education. They have a 4-decade history of community involvement in the Carlisle area - working to better their community through local hospitals, the Red Cross, the United Way, as well as various civic organizations.

Stephanie Laicha Zimmerer '72 was honored for her gift of office space in honor of Lorraine Clark Laicha, Stephanie's mother. A teacher, school administrator and Founder and Director of the Lebanon Valley Academy, a private school for Grades K - 8, Zimmerer received the College's prestigious alumnae award in 2003. She has worked for the arts, serving as a champion fundraiser for the Pennsylvania Ballet, and has devoted time to the healthcare community as well, serving on Paoli Memorial Hospital Auxiliary Board. In addition, she has served as President of the Historic Preservation Trust of Lebanon County. Her community work is too numerous to mention - as she has served on countless cultural and civic boards throughout the region.

After presentations to the honorees, Trustee Abram Samuels feted the evening's heroes with a musical tribute.

Enjoying the soggy, but spirited event were trustees of the College, benefactors, and friends of Cedar Crest including Elaine Oberkotter Harmon and her husband John; Marlene "Linny" and Beall Fowler; Wendy Harmon Gironda and her daughter, Laura Gironda; Cynthia Blaschak, Stephanie Laicha Zimmerer and her husband Tom; Barbara Benner; Joan and Peter Fuller; Samuel and Dr. Martha Hutson Saxton; Robert and Sandy Lovett; Joe and Dorothy Martini Flesher; Roland Sigal; Anne Okal Winkler; Charles and Adrienne Snelling; Robert and Kathleen Johnson; Ruth and Joel Spira; Harold Keen; Charles and Constance Noonan; Former Cedar Crest College President Polly Tompkins; Heidi and Larry Butler; Abram and Tretchie Samuels; Alice Anne Miller; Helene Whitaker; Architect Wayne Batten; Discovery Center Executive Director, Lin Erickson; and Dr. Lawrence Levitt.

The event raised more than $50,000 for the College's endowment fund.

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