BY ROBERT L. BAKER
Wyoming County Press Examiner
When David Coppola was in Little League back in Boonton, N.J., around 40 years ago, he soon recognized the value of a Christy Mathewson baseball card.
Little did he dream, however, that he might one day guide the institution that once fostered a budding baseball great.
So on Monday afternoon, when Keystone College trustee Susan Belin introduced him as the nineteenth head of the institution founded in 1868, he got a little choked up.
“Saying that I’m the first person to go to college is not just a throwaway phrase here,” Coppola told a packed Hibbard Hall audience.
“Truly, I’m the kind of kid that Keystone would have recruited as a student,” he said. “And I want future students to know they will get a fair chance to succeed here.”
Coppola said that early on he had instilled in him the values of public service from a father who served as a police chief of Boonton for 25 years and a mom who was a homemaker, helping to raise himself and three younger siblings.
After completing his doctoral studies in educational administration at Fordham University, he joined Sacred Heart University in Fairfield, Conn., in 1998.
There he played an integral role in helping the school grow from a commuter institution of about 600 students granting associate’s and bachelor’s degrees to an institution currently serving 6,200 total students and now has master’s and select professional doctoral degrees.
The transformation is not unlike that experienced at Keystone over the past 18 yeears from the man Coppola will succeed on June 1.
Edward Boehm Jr. arrived at Keystone in 1995. Prior to his arrival, Keystone Junior College’s enrollment had dwindled to less than 400 students, and the school was in need of an infusion of energy and enthusiasm.
Under his leadership, Keystone became a baccalaureate college in 1998 and granted its first bachelor’s degree to one student in 2000. Since then, the college has progressed steadily, adding academic programs and attracting more students each year. During the 2012 commencement ceremony, Keystone conferred 355 degrees, the vast majority of which were bachelor’s degrees. Keystone’s total enrollment is now nearly 1,800 students.
On Monday, Coppola said he would work to increase academic programs and to keep college affordable and attainable, with the challenges of first-generation students like himself in mind.
“It’s a dream come true,” Coppola said of his appointment.
The search for president began after Boehm announced his upcoming retirement, and the resumes of 140 people were reviewed. Eight semifinalists were interviewed, and three finalists recently spent time on campus.
Wearing an orange tie – one of Keystone’s colors – Coppola was joined at the announcement by his wife, Delia, and their sons, 7-year-old Aidan and 4-year-old Thomas.
The “thriving and flourishing” learning community helped draw Coppola to Keystone, and the school is “classic and contemporary, challenging and caring and facilitates creativity but in a disciplined way,” he said.
He said he would work to keep costs down for current and future students and to raise money from alumni.
He said he was aware that Keystone College has 15,000 alumni “out there” and he noted that the school’s 150th anniversary was just five years away.
“The only thing missing here is an academic chair or scholarship with your name on it,” he said, noting “It’s not easy or simple to follow a longtime and beloved leader.”
But he looked to another leader from the Keystone familyin his closing remarks.
“I know all about Christy Mathewson,” Coppola said of the baseball hall of fame legend who called Factoryville his hometown.
“The ball has been pitched right down the center, and I’m ready to hit it out of the park.”
Coppola holds a bachelor’s in secondary education with certification in English and music from Seton Hall, and also has earned a bachelor’s and master’s of sacred theology from St. Mary’s Seminary and University in Baltimore, Md.
John Howard Harris
David W. Brown
Fred Manville Loomis
Rev. Elkanah Hulley
Benjamin F. Thomas
George H. Gamble
Curtis Pearre Coe
Curtis E. Coe
Earle Russell Closson
Byron S. Hollinshead
Harry K. Miller
John B. Hibbard
Louis V. Wilcox Jr.
Robert E. Mooney Jr.
Charles F. Kennedy
Edward G. Boehm Jr.
Dr. David Coppola,