DelVal appoints new dean for agriculture

Jan 28, 2010

Judith Schwank, president and CEO of a non-profit group that advocates for land preservation and intelligent land use, has been named Delaware Valley College's Dean of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences.

"This is an ideal opportunity for me," Ms. Schwank said. "It's a chance to get back to my roots in agriculture and education.  I'm so thrilled that this is coming at a time when there may be some exciting changes coming to the college."

Dr. Joseph S. Brosnan, DelVal president, announced the appointment Dec. 23.

"Judy is a smart and experienced administrator who knows how to lead." Brosnan said. "She has a long history of involvement in agriculture, land preservation and conservation. In addition, she is used to working with state officials in Harrisburg, which is sure to help our college."

Ms. Schwank starts Feb. 1 and will leave her post as top administrator with 10,000 Friends of Pennsylvania, a Harrisburg-based group devoted to better policy, research, advocacy and communications on statewide land use, preservation, urban revitalization, smart-growth and local governance reform.

Prior to starting there in 2008, Ms. Schwank served from 2000 to 2007 as an elected County Commissioner in Berks County, and was the Commission chair from 2004 to 2007. She was Berks County's director of the Penn State Cooperative Extension and also served as a horticulture agent.

Ms. Schwank was appointed to the Administrative Council of the Northeast Region Sustainable Agriculture Research & Education Program in April, and in 2000 was selected by Gov. Rendell to chair the Pennsylvania State Planning Board.

She has served on many boards, including those of the Girl Scouts of Southeast PA and Alvernia University, a private liberal arts school in Reading. She is a frequent public speaker and a regular guest on several talk shows in the Reading and Harrisburg areas.

Her academic degrees from Penn State University are in agriculture education.

Ms. Schwank was familiar with DelVal long before interviewing for the Dean's position.

"It's a lovely campus," she said. "I've been there many times and have friends who are alumni or in leadership positions. I'm very fond of the college and have long admired its mission."

In her first few weeks, she plans to speak with staff and faculty about their ideas for the agricultural-related departments. Once settled in, Dean Schwank hopes to use her strong ties to industry and government to help the college.

"Because of DelVal's unique experiential learning environment and geographical location, I would like to  focus on programming related to urban agriculture and the environmental issues associated with farming on the rural/urban interface. These issues are getting a lot of attention these days from consumers, government and industry," she said.

Ms. Schwank takes over from Professor Larry Hepner, who filled in as interim dean after the retirement of Dr. James Diamond.

"Larry is a fine administrator and did a great job over the course of 18 months," Dr. Brosnan said. "We appreciate his willingness to serve in that critical role during our search for a new dean."