DelVal celebrates Founders’ Day with “Betsy” Gemmill and top students

Apr 14, 2011

By Annmarie Ely


DelVal awarded Elizabeth H. "Betsy" Gemmill an honorary doctorate degree and recognized its most promising students at the annual Founders Day celebration April 13 in Moumgis Auditorium.

“Your life is a masterwork of involvement and activism,” college President Joseph S. Brosnan told Ms. Gemmill as he awarded the degree.

Ms. Gemmill is an attorney, business woman and philanthropist who leads the local Warwick Foundation, started in 1961 by her parents, the late Kenneth and Helen Hartman Gemmill.

“The unwavering attention you have shown to causes big and small is unambiguous testimony to your desire to make a better world for all.” Dr. Brosnan said.

He told Ms. Gemmill that the example of her parents “was a legacy you would take to heart and carry on with unrelenting vigor. Their causes would become your causes; their unfinished mission your passion.”

In September, the Warwick Foundation awarded DelVal a $30 million gift that included the Gemmill family’s former homestead, a 398-acre property in Warwick Township, Bucks County. Since then, Ms. Gemmill said, she has been amazed at the “outpouring of love and support for the college” that she has heard from people.


She said the first letter she received praised the work of the turf management program for preparing skilled, professional graduates that do quality work. She said again and again she heard positive feedback about other majors.

Ms. Gemmill said when she talked to students she heard how rich their educational experience was.

“Each student told me about a professor who had influenced their lives,” said Ms. Gemmill. “The personal connection between faculty and students here is incalculable and priceless.”

She said she heard from a parent who loved coming to DelVal for sports games and being a part of the college community.

Ms. Gemmill said the parent asked if she “understood the magic on this campus” and she replied that she was just beginning to understand it.

“DelVal is full of extraordinary people of good will,” Ms. Gemmill told the large audience of proud parents, students, faculty, administration, staff, alumni and friends of the college.

She said the day was a time to appreciate the vision of the founders and help make sure that vision continues to flourish.

Honorary degrees usually are awarded at commencement in May. The college chose Founders’ Day to honor Ms. Gemmill because she will be away during commencement.

Her father, Kenneth Gemmill, received an honorary degree from DelVal 20 years ago. He was one of the county’s best-known tax lawyers, loved the college and served on its board of trustees.

Ms. Gemmill joked that she and her father were possibly the only father-daughter duo to receive degrees from DelVal that they did not have to work for.

“I want to thank DelVal for such a great honor,” she said.

Founders’ Day is held each spring to commemorate Delaware Valley College’s beginning in 1896 as the National Farm School. The Farm School was founded in Doylestown by Rabbi Dr. Joseph Krauskopf, a social activist and visionary. The day also honors Dr. James Work, a Farm School graduate who became the college’s president in 1946 and oversaw its greatest growth.

During the ceremony, top students receive honors and awards, including the Founders’ Day Award, one of the most prestigious at DelVal. It is given to students who demonstrate exceptional promise and a strong commitment to the college community.

There were 22 nominees and nine finalists for the award.

This year, seniors Jaimie Shipe and Katy Provenzale tied for the award. Shipe is a food science major who loves to educate people about agriculture. Provenzale, voted the 2009-2010 R.A. of the year, is a marketing major minoring in ornamental horticulture.

“These are incredibly talented young people,” said Vice President of Student Affairs John Brown.

Shipe thanked DelVal for her college experience.

“My experience here has been outstanding,” said Shipe. “I want to thank all of the faculty who have made it that way.”


The Student Government Board  recognized three college employees for making a difference in the lives of students. Senior Class President Paoul Martinez presented the awards.

Admissions Office Manager Pam Gazda was chosen from the staff for her dedication to the student body. Martinez said Gazda is always positive and willing to help students.

“She is often the first person people contact when they are looking into DelVal,” said Martinez. “We could not have put a better foot forward.”

Dr. Steven DeBroux was selected for the faculty award. Dr. DeBroux serves as an advisor to two student clubs G.L.O.W. (Gay Lesbian or Whatever) and Agronomy Club. Martinez said he was chosen for providing both interesting classes and helping  student organizations.

Director of Financial Aid Joan Hock received the administration award. Martinez described her as a “caring” and  “approachable” person. He said Hock is “a monumental help to student projects such as A-Day.”

Fifteen students received Departmental Achievement Awards. These go to outstanding graduating seniors who have demonstrated strong leadership and good citizenship. The awards went to:

Mark Alexander – Criminal Justice
Matthew Barto – Ornamental Horticulture & Environmental Design
Christopher Becker – Agronomy
Carly Bombolevicz – Food Science
Patrick Cocchiarella – Horticulture
Megan Coombe – Large Animal Science
Jennifer Cornbower – Chemistry
Kellen Jarrett – Business Administration
Scott Kresge – Education
Nancy Mullen – Liberal Arts
Sarah Repsher – Animal Biotechnology and Conservation
Lisa Schmitt – Agribusiness
Brittney Soban – English
Megan Smith – Dairy Science
Lindsay Whitelock – Biology