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Coming Full Circle: Alumni Return as Professors

Coming Full Circle: Alumni Return as Professors
Several of the 60 faculty members who are also alumni of the University. Pictured in the front row (from left): Julie Nastasi, OTD ’00, Kathleen Iacocca, Ph.D. ’07, Joseph Cimini, Esq. ’70, Ronald Grambo, Ph.D. ’73, G’76, David Salerno, Ph.D., CPA ’97 G’04, Kevin Norris ’83, Donna Witek G’13, John Ruddy, CPA ’91; and in the back row (from left): Richard Klonoski, Ph.D. ’74, Deborah J. Gougeon, Ph.D. ’73, G’74, Brian Carpenter, Ph.D. ’82, Robert McKloskey, Ph.D. ’84, Paul Fahey, Ph.D. ’64 and Paul Jackowitz ’77.

An intimate campus. A deep sense of community. And, of course, the esteemed Jesuit tradition. 

Ask the 60 members of The University of Scranton faculty who share the distinction of having been educated here themselves what brought them full circle, and these themes come up time and again. 

The Scranton Family 

The University of Scranton is, in a word, family, in the broadest sense and the most literal. 

Take Joseph F. Cimini, Esq. ’70, who graduated with degrees in German and political science and returned a decade later to teach. As a student, he had many influencers, not the least of whom was his father, Frank A. Cimini, Ph.D. ’39, who taught foreign languages at Scranton before the Jesuits arrived. The year was 1942. The elder Cimini arrived in February and the Jesuits that fall. 

“He often said this was ‘the best job in town,’” recalled the younger Cimini, whose dad turned 100 in October

With such affirmation, it’s little surprise that he chose to follow in his father’s footsteps to teach at the University. Before he returned, however, he had a distinguished legal career that included time as an assistant U.S. attorney. 

Another reason the younger Cimini felt compelled to return was the mentorship he received from his teachers at Scranton. 

Familiar Faces and the Jesuit Tradition 

Their former professors are a big reason that alumni return to campus to teach, but an extra learning curve comes into play when they sign on as new faculty: They must learn to call their beloved mentors by their first names. 

Teresa M. Conte, Ph.D., CRNP ’94 joked about that difficulty. “I call them ‘The Big Five,’” she said of a powerhouse team of her own nursing professors who still teach here. “They are always saying, ‘Call me by my first name now.’” 

Dr. Conte said the infusion of Jesuit tradition into every aspect of life here truly sets the University apart. When it comes to the Scranton nursing graduates, she said, “We’re Royal RNs,” who not only take care of patients’ medical needs, “but walk the hospital halls to see if the patients’ parents in the room could use a fresh sheet or blanket.” This is something she remembers learning as a student. 

“We’ll give you the medicine, but we’ll also sit with you at the bedside,” she said. “We’ll ask you how your grandmother is doing.” 

Dr. Conte, who has taught at the University for five years, previously worked at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. She was told that Scranton student nurses were the best the hospital has ever had, largely because of the extra attention they show patients and their families. 

Despite teaching at Villanova University and working in New Jersey for a time, Dr. Conte felt called back to Scranton, as many faculty members did, including Kathleen Iacocca, Ph.D. ’07, an assistant professor in the Operations and Information Management department in the Kania School of Management. 

After graduating with a finance degree, Dr. Iacocca went on to Rutgers Business School for her doctorate in supply chain management. “Being an undergraduate at a private, Jesuit school and then getting a Ph.D. at a large state school, I really came to value what is given here,” she said. 

At 29, Dr. Iacocca is among the newer faculty alumni but no less a proponent of long-held University values. The Jesuit identity is “so strongly present in the culture here,” she said, noting the Gospel words inscribed in the lobby of Brennan Hall: “Of those to whom much is given, much is expected.” 

“When I graduated I felt like that was my charge, and it really did stick with me,” she said. 

Our Students, Our Passion 

Asked what they love most about teaching at the University, alumni faculty often cite passionate, engaged students. 

As accounting professor Daniel Mahoney, Ph.D. ’81, a frequent winner of teaching awards, puts it, “They are really in it to win it. They make life really enjoyable here.” 

Dr. Mahoney also feels fortunate to work with “on-fire” colleagues, a statement he does not make lightly. “Across our entire campus, I see a great many faculty members who are passionate about their work and who are very devoted to our students,” he said. “Yes, you’ll find such faculty on any campus, but we seem to have a disproportionate share, and that’s a very good thing.” 

He tells his students that if they pursue a doctorate in accounting, they will have “many suitors” in what is and will continue to be a seller’s market, he said. That means students who earn accounting doctorates may be able to write their own tickets, but they also may choose to keep punching them in Scranton. 

Dr. Mahoney, who returned to the University to teach in 1990, has indeed, after a quarter-century, seemingly planted his flag here. He even joked, “I was here when they planted the first tree.” He admitted his heart is anchored here. “It’s not at all impossible for me to imagine spending the rest of my career here,” he said. 

Dr. Conte, the “Royal Nurse,” is likely to agree. She noted the perks are “amazing.” 

“The Dean let me have a purple office,” she said. “How awesome is that?” 

When students tour the University, she said, they or their parents often inquire about return on investment. Will they realize that here? “I point to my diploma on the wall,” said Dr. Conte. “I could never sell what I wouldn’t buy.”

Click here to see a full list of faculty members who attended Scranton.
Click here to read what some of the 60 faculty alumni had to say about returning to Scranton to teach

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