Penn State York chancellor retires, sends students off with graduation speech

Chancellor of Penn State York Dr. David Chown speaks during State Rep. Kevin Schreiber's Student Debt Day of Action discussion at The Pullo Center in York, Thursday, April 28, 2016. Dawn J. Sagert  photo

Penn State York's commencement ceremony on Friday also will recognize the end of a chapter for campus chancellor David Chown.

Chown will be retiring after a little more than five years, and he'll be going out with words of wisdom for graduates as speaker at the 48th spring commencement Friday, May 4.

He said he plans to keep the focus on students and their graduation, rather than his retirement — reflecting on themes relevant to Penn State York students and giving some cautionary tales.

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Chown began his tenure as chancellor in February 2013, bringing his expertise in academics and business to the campus.

He was formerly the chief academic officer and senior vice president of the residential Upper Iowa University, business dean at Northern State University in Aberdeen, South Dakota, and dean of the McCamish School of Business at Reinhardt University in Waleska, Georgia, according to a news release.

He holds a doctorate in business administration from the University of Iowa and degrees in management and sociology from other universities, the release states.

"He certainly brought a wealth of experiences to Penn State York," said Robert Farrell, director of academic affairs and a biology professor.

John Klinedinst, the chairman of the Penn State York Advisory Board, said he had a great experience working with Chown.

"I’m an engineer, (and) he comes from a management background, so we approach things in the same way," Klinedinst said.

Chown was an excellent leader, Klinedinst said, delegating to his team and empowering them to do their jobs. Chown was very calm, very organized and very focused, he added.

Chown's retirement will take effect Aug. 1, at which point a new chancellor will start at the York campus following a national search.

Contributions: During his time as chancellor, Chown helped move the campus forward in several ways. 

He added new four-year majors, including a bachelor of science in biology and a bachelor of science and bachelor of arts in psychology, said Barbara Dennis, coordinator of publications and promotion at Penn State York.

Chown also created an articulation agreement with HACC, allowing students to transfer credits more easily.

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Under his tenure, the school achieved a couple of firsts — the first full-time athletic director, along with new athletic programs, and the Women's Philanthropic Network, created by the school's director of development, Di Hershey.

The network brings women together to fund grant proposals for students, campus activities and programs, and outreach.

"Her idea was to empower women ... even if people don’t think they can make a difference, a bunch of small donations can make an impact," Dennis said.

Chown also expanded the Graham Center, which will be moved to a new building on campus and named the Graham Center for Innovation and Collaboration in 2019, Dennis said.

Farrell said Chown's many years of experience as a business dean and business scholar were instrumental in helping develop the center, which is thriving.

The center saw expanded programs and opportunities under Chown, including an executive in residence, who has strong connections to the business world and works directly with students.

"I think it’s really important for Graham students to get that real-world contact," Chown said. 

He will serve the university in other roles through Sept. 30, after which he and his wife, Peggy, director of Penn State York's Osher Lifelong Learning Institute, plan to move back to Iowa, the release states.

"I will cherish the people with whom I worked, both on campus and in the community,” he said.

Chown was active in the community as well, serving as a member of several organizations — the York Rotary Club, the York Economic Alliance Breakfast Club, Better York and the Healthy York County Coalition Leadership Council.

Commencement: The graduation ceremony begins at 6 p.m. in the Pullo Center on campus, 1031 Edgecomb Ave., Spring Garden Township. 

In addition to Chown, the top associate, baccalaureate and master's degree students will address their fellow graduates — who also will have the opportunity to speak at an open mic after they receive their diplomas.

It's been a tradition at the school for about 15 years, Dennis said, and adds a personal touch to commencement. Students often choose to tell a story, say a few words or simply send out a "thank you, Mom and Dad!" 

Penn State York students who completed their degree at another Penn State campus also will be in attendance to accept their degrees at their home campus.

The ceremony is free and open to the public, and it will be broadcast on Comcast cable channel 18 and streamed live on the school's website for those who cannot attend in person.