The First-Ever Donor-Designated Endowed Chair at Arcadia University

BeFunky_Ellen and Blankleys.jpgDr. Ellen Skilton-Sylvester Named Inaugural Blankley Chair in Investiture Ceremony

In a show of extraordinary generosity of both resources and spirit, Rosemary Deniken Blankley, a graduate of the Class of 1957 and 2006 honorary degree recipient, and her husband, Walter Blankley, recently made a million-dollar donation to Arcadia University to fund an endowed chair in Education, the first-ever donor-designated endowed chair at the University.  The Blankleys, who have also provided support for Blankley Field and Blankley Alumni House, have a special interest in and concern for early childhood education that stems from their experiences as first college graduates in their respective families.

As a sign of their commitment to early childhood education in particular and the advancement of learning in general, the Blankleys have established close ties with the Guadalupe Center, a Florida-based organization that focuses on promoting educational, social and other initiatives to support disadvantaged youth to break the cycle of poverty.  The Blankley Scholars, funded by Arcadia and named in honor of Mr. and Mrs. Blankley, provide full, four-year scholarships annually to three students from the Guadalupe Center’s Tutor Corps.

As the newest example of the Blankleys’ longstanding support for Arcadia University, The Rosemary and Walter Blankley Endowed Chair in Education will play a pivotal role in helping the School of Education to attract and retain gifted faculty, by providing monetary support for in-depth research over a period of three years—the span of The Blankley Endowed Chair for each faculty member chosen to serve in this capacity—in specific fields of scholarship in education.

Dr. Leif Gustavson, Interim Dean of the School of Education, explained that the endowed chair will provide a School of Education faculty member with essential resources to explore a particular research interest and in turn, enrich his or her students, the School of Education, and the external community. The chair also honors the intellectual and creative strength of the School of Education’s faculty while laying down a welcomed challenge to live up to the standards associated with it.

 “This gift is just so energizing and inspiring,” Gustavson said. “It pushes and challenges us to be our best. And it says that the Blankleys trust us; they believe in what we are doing, and they want to support us. What a vote of confidence!”

 The School of Education has long been known for its success in teacher preparation at the regional and national level. This past year, 11 of the 59 teachers listed in The Philadelphia Inquirer’s Distinguished Teachers list were graduates of Arcadia, representing positions at eight high schools, two military academies, and one charter school. In addition, in a report issued in June by the National Council on Teacher Quality, Arcadia was ranked in the top nine percent of 1,200 elementary and secondary education programs for its teacher preparation. The inaugural report gave Arcadia Honor Roll status for its undergraduate programs that prepare students for teaching positions in secondary schools.

The School of Education focuses on three guiding principles: igniting students to teach, learn, and lead; immersing them in a deep practice of teaching; and providing them with excellent mentoring and coaching that extends beyond students’ years on campus.

Dr. Ellen Skilton-Sylvester, Associate Professor of Education and Chair of the Department of Curriculum, Culture and Child/Youth Studies in the School of Education, is an example of an Arcadia faculty member who embodies the mission of the School of Education.  An educational anthropologist and applied linguist with deep experience in cross-cultural education and TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages), Dr. Skilton-Sylvester’s proposed research for her tenure as endowed chair, “Documenting and Creating Arts-Based Local/Global Civic Education,” will use the arts and narrative analysis to expand and understand local/global civic education at Arcadia and across community and school contexts in the Philadelphia region, the Midwest, the South, Eastern Europe, and the Middle East. It will develop new tools for globally focused teaching, learning, and scholarship that put imagination, creativity, and the arts (especially theater, storytelling, and creative writing) at the center.

Dr. Skilton-Sylvester officially assumed The Rosemary and Walter Blankley Endowed Chair at an investiture ceremony held on Thursday, March 6, 2014 in the University Commons on Arcadia’s Glenside campus.  A gathering of approximately 200 individuals connected to the University community, including 17 trustees, President Emerita Dr. Bette Landman, past president Dr. Jerry Greiner, trustee emerita, Beverly Goldberg ’53, students, alumni, faculty and staff, joined in this celebration.  In her remarks at the investiture ceremony, Dr. Skilton-Sylvester noted her excitement at the prospect of engaging in scholarship that will “connect the dots of my past, current and future teaching and scholarship in creative and complex ways.”

“It is entirely appropriate that this endowed chair should be in the field of education,” said President Nicolette DeVille Christensen before she presented Dr. Skilton-Sylvester with a medallion signifying her appointment at the investiture ceremony. “The education of the next generation of teachers is one of the greatest investments in the future that we can make. When I read Dr. Skilton-Sylvester’s three-year proposal…it was clear to see how her work aligns perfectly both with Rosemary and Walter’s philosophy on the unrivaled power of education and Arcadia’s commitment to expanding civic education at the local and global levels.”

Walter Blankley agreed with President Christensen’s assessment, saying, “Ellen clearly epitomizes our values.”  Mr. Blankley concluded his remarks at the ceremony by thanking Arcadia University for all they have provided Rosemary and for “allowing us to give back in such a satisfying way.”

To read more about the Rosemary and Walter Blankley Endowed Chair in Education please click here  and here.


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