Jacob Hafer, ’19 John Browne, ’64 Kevin Brighter, ’19

It’s easy to take everyday things in life for granted. But for the more than 113,000 men, women, and children on the organ transplant list, the simple things are cherished the most. For some, the natural inhale and exhale of a breath is a small miracle to be celebrated, and a calling to give back.

Three Explorers share their stories. 

John Browne, ’64

John Browne, ’64When John Browne went to a routine physical around his 50th birthday, he was surprised to receive an urgent follow up from his doctor. The news of colonial carcinoma—a fatal type of cancer—left him and his family searching for answers. Browne was placed on the transplant list for a liver and began the process of dealing with his illness. From chemotherapy and radiation to a specialty diet, Browne’s life changed drastically and quickly. But when his health continued to decline, it had to change even further. Browne and his wife Pat moved to Rochester, Minn., to live in the Gift of Life House. There they found solace in the company of other patients and families. After two years of waiting and 13 hours of surgery, Browne walked away with a new liver and a second chance at life. Now in his free time, Browne gives back to the organization that helped him through it all, speaking to groups and organizations about the benefits of being a donor. 

Kevin Brighter, ’19

Kevin Brighter, ’19Kevin Brighter first experienced kidney issues before birth. During a prenatal exam, doctors noticed that his kidneys weren’t developing properly and informed his parents that if he survived, his life would be difficult at best. But Brighter’s parents were determined to give him a full and happy life. Brighter’s father stepped up to the plate and donated a kidney to his then two-year-old son. Save for more frequent doctor visits, Brighter lived a fairly regular life until he realized something was wrong during a night out with friends. His severely swollen ankles raised a red flag and after a few days of no improvement the family scheduled a doctor’s appointment. The doctors gave the devastating news that the kidney had failed and Brighter would need another transplant. Juggling class and a social life is difficult for any college student. Add in commuting three days a week for dialysis and you get the full view of Brighter’s circumstances. Through a series of ups and downs, failed matches, and high hopes, Brighter finally received his second transplant during the fall semester of his junior year. When asked what he learned from this experience Brighter said, “Even though life comes at you and it can be very difficult, you can still persevere and find the light in situations.”

Jacob Hafer, ’19

Having received his transplant only seven months after birth, Jake Hafer doesn’t remember a life without his new heart. But it’s not lost on him the importance and significance of this extraordinary gift. “During my time growing up, I wanted to be like every other kid playing in sports and I did not like to be the center of attention,” he said. “Now that I am older I realize the great gift I received and the importance of organ donation and promoting the awareness for others to become donors.” As a young and active advocate, Hafer has taken on some of the toughest fights for the cause. “I spoke about my personal experiences at different events, participated at the national transplant games, and even lobbied at the Pennsylvania State Capitol in Harrisburg for organ and tissue donation awareness,” he said. During his time at La ­Salle, Hafer served the Students’ Government Association as a junior senator and senior senator, was an active brother of Sigma Phi Lambda fraternity, a member of “The Histories Club,” a member of the Phi Alpha Theta History Honor Society, and a student leader for the La ­Salle University Summit Program. He also gained valuable experience by interning for Pennsylvania State Senator John Rafferty and United States Senator Bob Casey. Even with such a busy schedule, Hafer found time to work with and give back to the organization that helped him, and so many others through the journey.

The Gift of Life

gift of life logoFounded in 1975, the Gift of Life Donor Program is the leading organ procurement organization in the United States. In addition to coordinating and scheduling transplants, the program offers numerous organizations that further support families and medical professionals. 

The Gift of Life House, Gift of Life Institute, Transplant Pregnancy Registry International, and Transplant Foundation all aim to assist those in need of or administering transplants to make the process as easy and seamless as possible. From training donation professionals to providing home-cooked meals for patients, Gift of Life is there through the entire process. 

Jake, Kevin, and John are three amazing accounts of the lasting impact of working with the Gift of Life. For those still on the list waiting for treatment, the three Explorers are a beacon of hope and light.


la salle student rower

It’s 5 a.m. Looking out toward the Philadelphia skyline, you see the quiet side of the city most people never see—the one teetering between rise and sleep. But you’ve already beaten the sun on your way to the water. Your teammates have, too. Each of you is integral to the success of the other.  

You are a rower. 

In the boat, you see another view that most only see for a moment: the start line. Rowers are positioned with their backs toward the finish, looking back at the start, never seeing the competition until it is behind you. The only team member facing forward, the coxswain, doesn’t hold an oar, but instead a microphone. And such builds the intrinsic framework that leads the team to success: the rowers steer the boat but can’t see where they’re going; the coxswain can see but can’t steer. It’s the embodiment of teamwork, an exhaustive dance of finding balance through motion. 

Only together can you cross the finish line. 

Rowing is much like life. The discipline instilled and the lessons learned shape success that leads you through the rest of your life, on and off the water. 

Explorers Reflect on the Lessons Learned On The Water

Henry Backe, ’81

HENRY BACKE, ’81“Both my father and I learned the value of discipline and training while rowing for La ­Salle. We spoke many times of the reasons for hard work and long training sessions,” said Henry Backe. A former La ­Salle oarsman, Dad Vail Champ, and coach, he knew both sides of the rowing program. If Backe could endure the cold rainy day practices on the Schuylkill after chopping the ice in front of the dock with blistered hands to get the boat in the water and push off, he could endure anything. “This was a huge confidence builder for me. We both learned that one can go beyond limits one thought he/she had. Crew pushes you to do so. Following college, I attended medical school and found this discipline helped me excel throughout my orthopedic career.”

“We both developed close friendships with the men in our respective programs,” he continued. “You get to know your fellow oarsmen like you know your brothers and maybe better. You see them daily and spend most every waking hour with them for four years. There is nothing you would not do for them and you gain a lifelong respect for them.”

Ken Shaw Jr, ’64

KEN SHAW JR, ’64“In my formative years, rowing had the single largest impact on positively shaping my life,” said Ken Shaw Jr. “It afforded me the opportunity to grow and mature into the man I became. As a 77-year-old man, I am fortunate to look back on a life filled with success as a rower, friend, husband, father, grandfather, great-grandfather, and business executive. I know now that my success with these endeavors was directly impacted by the critical life lessons that rowing taught me.”

“The discipline, determination, commitment, camaraderie, and focus that rowing demands transferred into success during my adult life,” he continued. “The rigors of rowing become the formation of an individual who learns the secrets of life’s success at a young age. I recognize rowing as the sport responsible for my successes. I continued my rowing career as a master rower, La ­Salle College High School coach, U.S. Rowing board member, referee, and board member of the Pennsylvania Barge Club. I was very successful in business and am blessed to be happily married for 55 years and counting. My wife Betty and I will leave a legacy of 23 gifted offspring. I send out a humble and grateful thank you to the sport of rowing, my life would not have been the same without it.”

Marci Shankweiler, ’90 

marci shankweiler, '90“Crew has taught me perseverance, persistence, and reinforced the notion that to succeed at any given task, surround yourself with talent and focus on collective teamwork,” said Marci Shankweiler. 

“When you are in a boat together, whether it be in life or on the Schuylkill, as long as you row in unison, in the same direction, and with your best effort, you will cross the finish line! You will succeed, you will celebrate and you will cherish the race outcome, together! Today, I continue to cherish fond memories of life on the crew team and celebrate the many friendships that continue today over 30 years later! And yes, I am still rowing along the river of life, happily!” 

La Salle’s rowers continue to thrive, recently hitting the water for the Philadelphia Frostbite Regatta, held Nov. 10 and concluding the fall rowing season.

To find out about a new initiative to support La Salle rowing, please contact Brian Quinn at 215.951.1543 or

Pups Are Never Lost

La ­Salle announced in Spring 2019 that students would be able to live with their dogs on campus throughout the academic year. In August, the University’s four-legged guests moved in to the newly renovated, dog-friendly residence hall at St. George.

This initiative has been made possible through the generosity of Stephen Degnan, ’87, Chief Human Resources Officer, Nestlé Purina and member of La ­Salle’s Board of Trustees, and a generous sponsorship and partnership with Purina. The new space includes a dog grooming and washing station, an outdoor dog-run with a watering station, a dog-friendly lounge inside St. George’s Hall, and training to help students prepare for successful and responsible pet-ownership.

The goal of increasing the pet paw print on campus is to help relieve the stresses of college life. The University’s hope in bringing student and dog together is to impart the knowledge of time management, budgeting, care for others, and camaraderie upon each Explorer. It is in these skills that the formation of the whole person and whole pet are realized. 

A ribbon-cutting ceremony to celebrate the new space and partnership with Purina was held Sept. 23 in the St. George lounge. The event included remarks from Degnan; University President, Dr. Colleen Hanycz; Dr. Dawn Soufleris, Vice President for Student Affairs and Enrollment Management; and Cathleen M. Parsons-Nikolić, Vice President for University Advancement.

Other dog-friendly events that the University has implemented over the years include a traveling version of Purina’s National Dog Show, and stress-buster programs driven by Student Wellness including Pause for Paws and Bring your Dog to Work Day.

Though it started as an upperclassmen only initiative, the dog-friendly residence hall will be open to freshman starting in Fall 2020.

ribbon cutting to open dog friendly dorms

“We’re so grateful to Purina for their on-going dedication and innovative partnership with La Salle. This effort has generated a lot of excitement on campus and they are helping us to bring to life a vision for a dog-friendly campus.”


Students learn what poverty feels like


student undergoing poverty simulation

Students were tasked with budgeting funds under the poverty line.

For the third year running, La ­Salle hosted a poverty simulation program in November using the Missouri Action Coalition toolkit. The simulator events gave students and community members the ability to role-play, as a member of a low-income family trying to survive week to week. Everything from single parents trying to care for their children to senior citizens trying to remain self-sufficient on Social Security was covered, based upon information from real individuals living in poverty. The program mandates students go to work, shop for food, pay their rent and utilities, and get their children to school and child care, all while keeping their family and home safe.

students undergoing poverty simulation

Students and staff role-play scenarios as civilians living at or near the poverty line.

“It really is an eye-opening experience for our students from nursing, public health, nutrition, speech, and social work,” said Kathleen Czekanski, Ph.D., R.N., CNE, Dean of the School of Nursing and Health Sciences. “We’ve expanded the student majors who experience the simulation. The most impactful part is the inclusion of community members who play key roles as community agency representatives.”

Patricia Dillon, Ph.D., R.N., Chair of La ­Salle’s Graduate Nursing Program, leads the simulations. She said, “This perhaps prompted students to rethink how to meet the healthcare needs of those living in poverty, as well as demonstrated the important role of the patient/community on interprofessional healthcare teams. Better understanding the realities facing those they care for will help these future practicioners engage in patient-centered care that leads to improved outcomes.”

Madeleine Dean, ’81, helps bring women back to the table in Pennsylvania

Madeleine Dean, Esq., ’81

Madeleine Dean, Esq., ’81

She goes by Mad. When you are the youngest of seven siblings, you learn how to simplify.  Maybe that explains just how Madeleine Dean, Esq., ’81, Representative of Pennsylvania’s 4th Congressional District which, recently redrawn, includes Montgomery County and parts of Berks County, has accomplished so much. 

A fresh graduate of Abington High School, Dean was elected a committee person in her hometown of Glenside, Pa., at the age of 18. Earning her bachelor’s degree in English from La ­Salle, she went on to graduate from Widener University Delaware Law School in 1984. 

She has served as a lawyer, an educator at La ­Salle, and as an Abington Township commissioner. Prior to her election to Congress, Dean represented the 153rd District in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives. Today, she can be found everywhere from Washington, D.C. to CNN, representing her District and fighting for what she cares about most: oversight and government reform, appropriations, judiciary, transportation, and infrastructure. 

Growing up in a large, engaged family taught Dean more than just how to simplify. She told WHYY that it prepared her for public service and bipartisanship. “In a family like mine, we are diverse,” she said. “Diverse in our interests, diverse in our ideals, even though we all grew up under the same roof. We made sure to try to find a compromise.”

Her journey to Capitol Hill was highlighted by being part of the group, named The Fab Four, that brought women back to the seats of Congress in the Commonwealth. “Eighteen congressmen, two senators… 20 federal representatives, and
not one woman,” she said. “None.” Until, that is, she was
sworn in alongside Mary Gay Scanlon, Susan Wild, and
Chrissy Houlahan.

That’s why Dean, or Mad, remains mindful of exactly how she wants to represent her District and the Commonwealth. “I taught writing and rhetoric at La ­Salle University,” she said. “I always told my students, ‘Prize your words. Value your words. Don’t say things that are histrionic or untrue and make your arguments those ways.’”

Full Circle

Creating an enriching student experience often involves encouraging students to open their eyes and see futures greater than they ever imagined. The Business Leadership Fellows program began in 2018 as a learning-based offering for leadership-focused students. Developed by MarySheila E. McDonald, J.D., Dean of the School of Business, and supported in large part by Edward J. Fierko, ’63, the program sets fellows apart from the rest of the workforce from day one. 

More than 40 fellows have been paired with a mentor based upon personality and career path to work with them throughout their time at La ­Salle. Their mentor then becomes a personal cheerleader, a guide, and an example of the endless possibilities for a prosperous future. 

Tristan Musho, ’13, and Genesis Perez, ’22

Tristan Musho and Genesis Perez, both marketing majors, were matched for a shared love of their field. The two have bonded over softball and a mutual escape from the pressures of everyday life. When asked about her experience as a mentor, Musho remarked, “My experience has been so rewarding. [Perez] is an inspiring person and to be able to be part of her journey at La ­Salle is something I will never be able to put into words. This program has given me a friend for life, and I cannot wait to see the woman she becomes.” But Musho isn’t in the business of waiting and watching. She continues to help Perez become the best person and business woman she can be. “The best piece of advice Tristan has given me is to continue to be an aggressive go-getter,” Perez said. “She reminds me that in today’s world, that is exactly what companies are looking for; not a perfect GPA, not a perfect resume, but the will to work hard.”

Anthony Kimsal, ’94, and Andrew Chiaradonna, ’21

Anthony Kismal, ’94, and Andrew Chiaradonna, ’21Andrew Chiaradonna, a student in the four-year Accounting BS/MBA program, matched with Anthony Kimsal, a graduate of the accounting program and Vice President of Finance at DocuVault Delaware Valley, LLC. 

“Getting to know a person like Mr. Kimsal has given me a sense of reassurance that I am on the right track when it comes to navigating college, and that it will work out great for me at the end,” Chiaradonna said. For each other, they provide an insight into the future. For Chiaradonna the experience provides a glimpse of a flourishing career that he could love, and for Kimsal, a view of the next generation of the workforce. “I have realized even more what a great place La ­Salle is for students who want to succeed in both business and life,” Kimsal said. “If even just a tiny part of what I have learned in life is passed along to Andrew and it helps him, I feel that I have succeeded as a mentor.”

As the program continues to grow, student mentees are offered the opportunity to step into the role of mentor. Once each class graduates, they become the newest set of mentors available to the current fellows, continuing the cycle of Explorers giving back to one another.

The Business of Nonprofit

nonprofit center logoWhen the Nonprofit Center at La ­Salle opened its doors in 1981, it operated under a different business model than today. Originally, the intention was for faculty to deliver its services. But over the years, the Center morphed, adapting to industry needs and demand. That’s why today, nearly 40 years later, La ­Salle’s Nonprofit Center stands as the oldest management support organization in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. 

“The Center is known as a capacity building organization or management support organization,” said Laura Otten, Ph.D., director of the Nonprofit Center since 2001. “What that means is we work to help other nonprofits become stronger in their management systems and governance.” And the Center has a long history of doing so. 

Other management support organizations have come and gone over the decades, largely because they didn’t have sustainable business models. But, Otten noted, “One of our greatest successes is not that we’re still around, it’s that we’re thriving. We’ve managed to be sustainable for nearly 40 years.” 

The Nonprofit Center holds about 70 classes per year that are open to the public across the city. With more than 2,000 projects completed for nonprofits of all missions and sizes, external organizations receive in-depth learning experiences for their staff, volunteers, and board members including educational programs, leadership advancement, and consulting services. Better yet, the Center does so affordably and in conjunction with the Lasallian mission. 

Laura Otten, director to Nonprofit Center at La Salle“Fees are very accessible, so no matter how rich or poor a nonprofit is, they can access our services,” said Otten. 

With decades of proven success, The Nonprofit Center is strong and has become a model for other management support organizations on what to do. The diverse, integrated services in nonprofit education, consulting and leadership development, are rooted in best practices and immersed in the unique nonprofit culture of the 21st century. 

Additionally, the Nonprofit Leadership master’s degree program launched in 2014, also run by Otten. While the programs aren’t linked together, Otten said there is some cross-over between the two, which has strengthened both programs and helped educate even more. 

Another way the Nonprofit Center has diversified is through partnerships with community colleges including Bucks County and Northampton. “The Lehigh Valley had very few services for nonprofits or educational services,” said Joan Mintz Ulmer, director of marketing and communication at The Nonprofit Center. “So by bringing the classes to Bethlehem, it opens up a whole new audience for us.” 

What the Nonprofit Center has been able to do is to step back and look at the big picture. By determining where a nonprofit organization is struggling, Otten and her team are able to assess what strategy will work best in addressing concerns and then building a planning model that best reflects the solutions. From educational workshops to governance courses, nothing is off the table. And the response has been enthusiastic across the board, with a reputation that proceeds them.

“At this point,” Otten said, “people know us before we know them.” 

For more about The Nonprofit Center at La Salle, visit


La Salle report reveals gender gap in nonprofit boardrooms throughout Greater Philadelphia

cover of collaborative regional report, “The Gender Gap in Nonprofit Boardrooms: The 2019 Census of Women Board Members of the 50 Largest Medical and Educational Institutions in Greater Philadelphia.”In October, The Women’s Nonprofit Leadership Initiative (WNLI), The Nonprofit Center at La ­Salle, and La ­Salle University released the collaborative regional report, “The Gender Gap in Nonprofit Boardrooms: The 2019 Census of Women Board Members of the 50 Largest Medical and Educational Institutions in Greater Philadelphia.”

The analysis is the first in-depth report of gender diversity on the boards of the 50 largest medical and educational nonprofit institutions in the Philadelphia region.

“We see this work as the first step in raising awareness around the current state of women’s engagement in the governance of this region’s top universities, colleges and health care systems, so that meaningful steps can be taken to move toward greater gender representation that will enrich these institutions and their capacity to make the best possible decisions for those whom they serve,” said Dr. Colleen Hanycz, La ­Salle University President.

La ­Salle University, The Nonprofit Center at La ­Salle, and WNLI plan to conduct follow-up research every three years.

Read the full report online at


The Nonprofit Center at La Salle led the analysis of the 50 largest medical and educational nonprofit institutions in the Philadelphia region. It found:


of boardroom positions are held by people of color


of health care board positions are occupied by women


of the 50 boards are chaired by women


of higher ed board positions are held by women

Mission in Action

Giving back starts at home. This year, 14 La ­Salle alumni came together to do what Explorers do best for the very first La ­Salle Alumni volunteer trip.  

Organized by Maggie Garin, ’17, in conjunction with the Alumni Relations office, the cohort of alumni joined together to make a difference. “Throughout college, we were constantly called to live out our Lasallian values so I truly feel that work needs to continue into post-graduate life,” Garin said.  Rather than serving on her own, Garin chose to use the opportunity to reconnect with fellow classmates and galvanize them to remember their Lasallian roots.

With the help of the staff of alumni relations, Garin successfully recruited alums who were ready to get to work. From September 26-30, the group traveled to Sussex County, Del., to help build homes with the local Habitat for Humanity affiliate. In exchange, they received free lodging in the basement of St. Philip’s Episcopal Church, which led for some lifelong memories, laughs, and quite a few ghost stories. 

Thursday morning was the first of three full workdays for the cohort. Alongside the La ­Salle volunteers on the worksite was a Habitat for Humanity staff including three site supervisors, two volunteer coordinators, and an AmeriCorps VISTA. With the help of the Habitat team, the volunteers installed nearly all of the siding of a home. On Saturday, they assisted in putting the finishing touches on a different home that was scheduled to be completed in the following week. Tasks included painting, landscaping, caulking, and removing the last items of equipment from the site.

Sunday offered time for the participants to reflect on their experience as they prepared to go their separate ways and head home. “To me, being Lasallian is all about connection: to self and to others,” Garin said. “This experience was so influential because we took time to disconnect from work, our phones, and other commitments and really connect to one another, the community, and the concept of social justice.”

Elise Corbett, ’17, mirrored Garin’s sentiments. “This experience was so unique,” she said. “For a span of four days, we were able to be fully immersed in a Lasallian community again. And no matter one’s graduation year, no one ever felt like a stranger because we were all ‘La Salle.'”

It is the hope of Maggie, Alumni Relations, and the entire La Salle community that this trip will continue to evolve and expand in the future. “My plan, with the support of the University, is to have multiple alumni trips organized throughout the year and really work on alumni engagement and commitment to La Salle through service.”

Though some of the participants never attended a service trip as students, their affiliation to the University allowed them to give back as graduates. No matter how far these Explorers have traveled, they were all able to find their way back home to work together in service of others. Efforts like these solidify the importance of La Salle’s mission and serve as a reminder of what sets us apart as Explorers.

For information on the 2019 alumni service trip, go to or contact

Connelly Library, Then and Now

The Connelly Library stands as one of the most iconic buildings on campus. Now, 30 years after it opened to students in the Fall of 1988, a $1 million grant proposes exciting upgrades.

The Library was named after John F. and Josephine Connelly. John Connelly was a member of the La Salle University Board of Trustees from 1958 to 1988, and the library was funded by donations from the Connelly Foundation.

Over the past 30 years, the Connelly Library has seen information and technology change in drastic ways. The foundation of service, though, has remained solid and its dedicated librarians, archivists, curators, and staff have supported the La Salle community. The Library grew in national, and international reputation due to the work of John Baky, Director of University Libraries for 26 years, now University Librarian Emeritus and Curator of Special Collections. Some of its finest research collections are due to contributions from Dr. James A. Butler, Professor Emeritus of the La Salle University English Department, and Curator of the Wister Family Collection, and Dr. Kevin Harty, professor and previous Chair of the English Department.


The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania has announced a $1 million Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program grant to Connelly Library for developing a three-phase project supporting improved-programming, physical spaces, and amenities along with traditional library functions on the first floor.

“Connelly Library has served as the academic hub of La Salle University for thirty years,” said Sarah Clark, Ph.D., Dean of Connelly Library. “The University and the State of Pennsylvania’s investment in this renovation will allow the library’s professionals and staff to more effectively serve the university community for the next thirty years and beyond. The new Learning Commons space on the first floor of the library will provide La Salle’s students and faculty with new technology and support, individual and collaborative study spaces, a state of the art information literacy classroom, and greater visibility for our nationally regarded archives and special collections.


“News of this funding could not come at a more appropriate time,” said La Salle University President Colleen M. Hanycz, Ph.D. “We applaud Governor Tom Wolf, State Senator Art Haywood, State Senator Sharif Street, State Representative Rosita Youngblood, State Representative Isabella Fitzgerald, and the full General Assembly for this award. The project supports improved programming, student activities, and amenities at La Salle.”



Highlights of The Department of Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts include:




Homecoming & Family Weekend 2018


Nearly 1,500 La Salle alumni and parents of students returned to La Salle for Homecoming and Family Weekend for fun and a sold out men’s basketball game.

Check out the Flickr gallery for more photos.