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LHU News

LHU holds inauguration of 15th president, Robert Pignatello

Robert Pignatello, LHU president, following his inauguration address.

Lock Haven University celebrated the inauguration of its 15th president, Robert Pignatello, on Friday, March 1, to a packed audience in the Thomas Fieldhouse on the campus of LHU. Students, faculty, staff, coaches, alumni, board members, trustees and community members all were in attendance. Hundreds of students filled the bleachers, wearing their specially designed inauguration T-shirts, representing a “whiteout section” for the ceremony.

Pignatello was selected as president of LHU in March 2018. Prior to joining The Haven, he spent more than two decades in senior executive and administrative positions within higher education at Hunter College, a flagship institution of The City University of New York (CUNY) system, and John Jay College of Criminal Justice, also part of the CUNY system.

Albert Jones served as the master of ceremonies for the event and Cynthia Shapira, board of governors’ chairwoman, gave the oath of office. Greetings were given by Richard Reinberg, student body president; Matthew Girton, LHU APSCUF president; Rich Heimer, LHU AFSCME president; Donna Wilson, provost and executive vice president; Gregory Wilson, city manager; Robert Maguire, foundation board president; Joseph Koehler, alumni board past president; Jean Nestlerode, Student Auxiliary Services board president; and George Durrwachter, council of trustees’ chairman.

Prior to the welcoming remarks, the National Anthem was sung by student, Chiara Hauserman, backed by the LHU band, and the presentation of colors was performed by LHU Army ROTC students.

Daniel Greenstein, Pennsylvania’s State System of Higher Education (PASSHE) chancellor, performed the investiture of the 15th president; Durrwachter presented Pignatello with the medallion; and Mark Cloud and Karen Kline, university marshals, presented the maces.

During his inauguration address, Pignatello recognized his family and many of the people who have helped him along his path to The Haven. He emphasized his working class roots and shared a special story about his first time to LHU in 1994, when his Italian cousin was enrolled in a student exchange program at LHU. “She stayed with my parents during winter break and I transported her back and forth to New Jersey. Little did I know then, what was to be,” he said.

Pignatello has spent a lot of time in his first eight months as president building relationships and talking and listening to the students in many different settings all over campus — getting to know them and what is important to them as students. “They have the best advice about how we can make their experience even better,” he said. “We just have to listen to them.”

He addressed the challenges that lie ahead, such as rising mandatory costs, less state support, fewer college-age students, greater competition and his strong belief in public higher education to create affordable pathways for success. He stressed developing shared goals and vision, alliances with other organizations, working with employers, community leaders and securing private funds in pursuit of a brighter future for the university.

“We are raising our profile and visibility and talking in more purposeful ways about our mission and value,” he said, referring to what makes LHU distinctive. “We are working to provide more needs-based aid to make coming here more affordable and accessible and working to increase the yield of accepted students, and looking at new programs to address enrollment challenges.”

Pignatello also spoke on the crisis of civility in our society as a major concern — and how we should listen to one another and look for common ground. “We must more strongly focus on the need to respect another’s right to have opinions different from ours. … Let us aspire to decency. Let us practice civility and respect one another. Let us enhance our ethic of care and inclusion. Let us place service to our fellow citizens at the very top of what we value when we talk about what makes this university a place that is distinctive and contributes to a better community. Let us look for ways to instill this more into our curriculum and our educational vision,” he said.

Pignatello called on those assembled to work collaboratively and convert challenges into opportunities while overcoming obstacles and solving problems. “We can control our own destiny and make it one that better serves our students and our community if we — all of us represented here today — join hands to soar higher together,” he said.

In recognition of the event, the inauguration committee held a student poem contest. Following Pignatello’s address, contest winner, Isabelle Collier, read her poem, “Ascent,” to the audience. Student, Symone Terrell, designed the poem’s commemorative broadside, which was displayed at the front of the stage during the ceremony.

Attendees were invited to a reception across the street in Rogers Gymnasium for food, live music and a complimentary mason jar, commemorating the event. Pignatello also performed with the band, SNUG, playing guitar and offering vocals on a few songs.

For more information on Lock Haven University, visit, email, or call 570-484-2011. 

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Lock Haven University’s main campus is located on the West Branch of the Susquehanna River in the scenic mountains of Pennsylvania. The university offers 49 undergraduate majors and certifications with 47 minors and five graduate programs.

LHU is a member of Pennsylvania’s State System, the largest provider of higher education in the Commonwealth. Its 14 universities offer more than 2,300 degree and certificate programs in more than 530 academic areas of study. Nearly 520,000 system alumni live and work in Pennsylvania.

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