Two $1 million gifts made to information systems program

Student talking about lab with donors
Student Tom Mitchell with Duke, Alexander and McDowell

Two $1 million gifts from President Emeritus Richard E. and Ruth McDowell and Zippo Manufacturing Co. will benefit the computer information systems and technology program, one of the university's eight programs targeted for prominence.

 

            “The combined $2 million gift to the CIS&T program could not have come at a better time,” said Dr. Livingston Alexander, president of Pitt-Bradford.

 

“We're implementing the first year of a five-year strategic plan that promises to transform our campus and produce a profound impact on the region. Enhancing and expanding the CIS&T program is an important priority in the plan. We expect the program to rise to new levels of prominence and attract students from this region and beyond.”

 

            The contributions will enable faculty in the CIS&T program to add concentration focuses in applications software development, cyber security and forensics, and networking and systems administration. Students majoring in CIS&T will be able to select one of the concentrations. For students who are not majoring in CIS&T, the same offerings with additional pre-requisite requirements may be taken as a minor

 

            A large portion of the gifts will be used to create endowed scholarships intended to recruit more students into the program.

 

The gifts also make possible a new computer lab in the Hangar Building and a new faculty member with expertise in cyber security and digital forensics.

 

“We're extremely grateful to Dr. McDowell and Mr. George Duke for their longstanding support of our campus and for their extraordinary financial support of the CIS&T program,” Alexander said.

 

McDowell said he chose to make the gift to the CIS&T program to encourage students to enter the STEM realms of science, technology, engineering and mathematics. “My entire adult life, I've been reading Science magazine, and there's always been a lot of concern about fewer people entering the sciences,” he said.

 

The McDowells made their gift in the form of a $1 million challenge, with the expectation that other donors would step up to match the amount.

 

Greg Booth, chief executive officer at Zippo, a member of the Pitt-Bradford Advisory Board and co-chairman of the recently successful 50 and Beyond Campaign at Pitt-Bradford, thought he knew someone who would take up McDowell's challenge.

 

Zippo owner George Duke was receptive to the idea, having hired three Pitt-Bradford CIS&T graduates from the Class of 2015 and having recently undergone a worldwide upgrade to computer systems at Zippo. He did not need convincing on the value of training good information technology workers.

 

“It's incredibly valuable - what these people are learning,” he said. 'Pitt-Bradford needs to stay as close to the front of technology developments as it can.”

 

McDowell said, “This program will produce graduates to help business and industry succeed in the 21st century.”

 

The Pitt-Bradford program was introduced in 2008, replacing the computer science program. The new program, developed by Don Lewicki, program director, and Dr. Ken Wang, associate professor of computer information systems and technology, shifted emphasis away from learning various computer languages, and shifted the focus to problem-solving, working within a business and teaching oneself new skills to keep up with new technologies.

 

Lewicki said that students have been clamoring for the new concentrations and minors, which will allow them to show on their transcripts an area of specialty that may make them more marketable.

 

Lewicki said that the three specialty areas chosen for development as concentrations or minors are expected to be among the fastest-growing occupational skill areas in Pennsylvania, with very competitive starting salaries.

 

For more information on the CIS&T program at Pitt-Bradford, contact Don Lewicki at 814-362-988 or lewicki@pitt.edu.