W. Charles Patrick to retire as Penn State Fayette chancellor

W. Charles Patrick sitting on campus.

W. Charles Patrick, chancellor and chief academic officer of Penn State Fayette, The Eberly Campus, will retire effective June 28, 2024.

Credit: Penn State

LEMONT FURNACE, Pa. — W. Charles Patrick, chancellor and chief academic officer of Penn State Fayette, The Eberly Campus, will retire effective June 28. An interim plan will be forthcoming.

“After a decade in the position, Charles Patrick has accomplished much and has established himself as a dedicated leader that works diligently to support faculty, staff and student success,” said Margo DelliCarpini, vice president for Commonwealth Campuses and executive chancellor. “His leadership and commitment leave a lasting, positive impact on the campus and broader community. He will be dearly missed, but we wish him a long, full and happy retirement with his family!”

Patrick said, in reflection to his time on campus, “It’s important to recognize there were programs here before my arrival that were very successful, namely nursing and business. My job is not just to introduce new programs but to enhance them as well."

Under Patrick's guidance, the Fayette campus introduced a myriad of academic programs and renovations that greatly enhanced student life facilities. At the start of his tenure, the campus had only four nursing faculty members, a number that has since increased to seven.

“A new program that’s been successful is Electro-Mechanical Engineering Technology (EMET)," Patrick said. "It’s a specific yet general engineering degree that wraps around both mechanics and electronics, which is the function of much that we deal with today. This program enables students in the region to find jobs within Fayette County, and there are several places in the region where EMET is critical, such as Advanced Acoustic Concepts, Boeing, and Johnson Matthey.”

Enhancing facilities

Under his leadership, Penn State Fayette saw a renovation to its Engineering and Arts Suite on the third floor of the Eberly Building, funded by Capital Renewal. The suite houses four traditional classrooms, one computer lab, two engineering labs to simulate industrial environments, and six Ultimaker 3-D printers. Nathaniel Bohna, associate teaching professor of engineering, secured multiple grants to enhance the engineering program with new technology.

Centralized funding helped renovate what became the Student Success Center in the Williams Building, allowing the Fayette campus to bring tutoring, the registrar and advising into a centralized location alongside mental health counseling, student affairs, the student nurse and the office of academic affairs.

“When I came in, there were a lot of student services that were spread across the campus and didn’t connect well,” Patrick said. "It’s a very welcoming place where students now gather in great numbers."

Community leadership

When beginning his tenure at Penn State Fayette, Patrick said, he noticed how sheltered the campus was from the outside community. His goal was to establish the opposite — to offer its resources to the public seeking educational conferences, professional retreats, sports facilities and more.

“First and foremost, we are providing education to people that will then stay in the area and filter into the workforce and contribute to the local economy,” he said. “Beyond that, our campus is providing nearby communities with unique, world-class facilities and events such as concerts, art, and hundreds of activities otherwise unavailable for miles. Our campus is a gem to this region, and I want to make sure that we get people visiting as much as possible.”

Reflecting on his leadership philosophy, Patrick emphasized how his approach, inspired by figures like the late Steven Sample, 10th president of the University of Southern California, has shaped the initiatives at Penn State Fayette.

“After being in a leadership cohort several decades ago, I have followed certain writers on leadership; one of them being Sample and his book, 'The Contrarian’s Guide to Leadership,'” Patrick said. “He talks about thinking ‘grey’ while making decisions. Very seldom is a decision binary. There are always going to be nuances that take decision-making past a simple 'yes' or 'no' answer.”

During a question-and-answer session for the position of chancellor and chief academic officer at Penn State Fayette, Patrick was asked about his top priority if he were to assume the role. Without hesitation, he said student success.

“A lot of people think student success only involves the classroom, but every person on this campus has a role to play and can contribute to it in different ways. If you can’t connect what you’re doing to student success, ask yourself why you’re doing it. To this day, I still firmly believe that’s how we have to think,” Patrick said.

Since then, Patrick has aimed to foster a holistic campus environment at Penn State Fayette, emphasizing mutual respect and collaboration among departments. His vision was to raise the bar on civility and helpfulness, creating a warm, welcoming atmosphere that resonates with faculty, staff and students; this collaborative approach gradually took shape, strengthening the campus community into what it is today.

Remembered by colleagues

Colleagues at Penn State Fayette recalled Patrick’s indelible contributions and the personal impact he made on the campus community.

“When Dr. Patrick approved the painting of a green wall in the new Student Success Center shortly after he joined Penn State Fayette, it wasn’t just an aesthetic choice; it was symbolic,” said Danielle Mitchell, associate professor of English and associate chief academic officer.

“It represented a new way of doing things, a new way of thinking about spaces, decisions, and investments. That wall was part of a project that brought advising, professional and career development, and peer tutoring together to create a hub for student support services at the center of the campus. ‘That’s just where students belong,’ he asserted — at the center of our spaces, at the heart of our decision-making processes. So many other actions have mirrored this philosophy. Investments in study abroad programs, professional conferences regionally and internationally, simulation equipment, instructional design support, new academic programs, lab equipment, first-year seminar courses, and library renovations were all prefaced by the same question, ‘What’s best for the students?’”

Emma Beaver, head librarian, said, “Dr. Patrick has been a staunch supporter of the Fayette Library and Coal and Coke Heritage Center (CCHC). He understands and believes in the power of information literacy and how it can change the course of a student’s life. With his advocacy, the library is receiving renovations; while this may seem inconsequential in the current landscape of the University, it’s a big win for our recruitment and retention efforts and a major boon for our current students. Dr. Patrick saw that years ago, and this is the culmination of more than five years of effort on his part. We’re able to provide students with a clean, welcoming and safe environment to research and study and the CCHC is developing interactive exhibits to excite a new generation of visitors.”

Stephen Oberly, director of athletics, said, "Since Dr. Patrick’s arrival to the Penn State Fayette community, there has been no greater advocate for the mission and vision of athletic programming. His influence was immediate and significant — leading many initiatives focused on student athlete success and achievement. He was pivotal in supporting the development of student athlete academic programs such as SAGE (Student Athletes Graduate & Excel), and has leveraged University and community resources towards the expansion and enhancement of our state-of-the-art athletic facilities.

"Lastly, he has been an important liaison in our partnerships with the community and the USCAA National office as our campus played host to a multitude of national tournaments during his tenure. Through his leadership and vision, he has led us through countless campus, community and global challenges. He embodies 'Fayette Family' and dedicates time to build strong personable relationships with his faculty, staff and colleagues. He will be missed deeply.”

“When I think about the campus without Dr. Patrick at the helm it makes me a bit emotional,” said Debra Saylor, associate director of enrollment management. “He hired me and gave me the incredible opportunity to lead an enrollment management office for Penn State. I’ve only been in my position for a year and a half, but I feel like I have been here for so much longer, because of the supportive environment created for me by Dr. Patrick.

“He is a steadfast advocate for students, this campus, and the broader community," continued Saylor. "With the numerous changes higher education enrollment has faced recently (FAFSA simplification, shifting demographics, and fewer students choosing to attend college), Dr. Patrick has supported every new recruitment initiative, offered his presence at events, and provided his knowledge and guidance as we faced these challenges head-on. While his absence will be felt as we navigate a new horizon, his legacy will live on in the choices we make and in the advocacy we continue for students and this campus.”

Barbara Koffler, director of outreach and continuing education, said, “Dr. Patrick has been a huge advocate for our department. I remember his advice well: ‘Take your time and figure out what training you want to do. Be strategic, provide data, and I'll support you.’ He's done just that in relation to all our initiatives.

“He believes in our vision of becoming the hub for EMS training across the Commonwealth Campuses, and over the years he has supported the addition of Continuing Education full- and part-time staff, acquisition of training equipment, and the expansion of non-credit programming through campus partnerships, professional development for staff, and the shift to live Zoom instruction. He has been a great mentor in many ways, especially in collaboration and leading initiatives within a team. I have personally grown a lot in my role and the CE department has experienced significant growth in non-credit programming and revenue raised for the campus.”

Lori Omatick, director of development and alumni relations, said, “Charles Patrick came to Penn State Fayette shortly before its 50th anniversary and from the very start, he provided the vision for a year-long celebration that included a chamber open house event, a Founder’s Day dedication of our Clock Tower and Brick Patio, an Alumni Barbecue Reunion and Outdoor Concert, and a Golden Gala Fundraiser to cap it all off. The latter two spawned extremely popular annual events that continue to this day — our Concert on the Lawn and Benefit Fayette. Charles has been instrumental in bringing the campus and community closer these past 10 years.

“His endearing and genuine nature, combined with his practice of always putting students first, makes him a natural for fundraising and alumni relations. He has formed strong bonds and true friendships with numerous donors," added Omatick. "His success in development is reflected in the growth of the campus endowment, which has increased from $15.8 million to $27.9 million over the last 10 years. As the second-longest tenured campus executive, his impact will be felt for a long time to come.”