Pennsylvania Commission for Community Colleges Announces Prestigious Two-Year Executive Committee Appointments

Pennsylvania Commission for Community Colleges
Announces Prestigious Two-Year Executive Committee Appointments

Newly Elected Executive Committee Members Include College Presidents, Local Business Leaders

The Pennsylvania Commission for Community Colleges (PACCC) today announced the recently elected officers to the Executive Committee of its Board of Directors. The Executive Committee leads the PACCC Board of Directors in determining the statewide direction and policy interests of its 14 community colleges.

Executive Committee members serve two-year terms, which begin July 1, 2019. The following officers have been nominated and approved by the PACCC Board of Directors to the Executive Committee:

Chair, Executive Committee, PACCC Board of Directors
John J. “Ski” Sygielski, Ed.D.
President, HACC, Central Pennsylvania’s Community College

Vice Chair, Executive Committee, PACCC Board of Directors
Mark Erickson, Ed.D.
President, Northampton Community College

Secretary, Executive Committee, PACCC Board of Directors
Lynn Distasio, LPT
Vice Chair, Board of Trustees, Luzerne County Community College

Treasurer, Executive Committee, PACCC Board of Directors (Second Term)
Donald L. Heller, CPA
Chair, Board of Trustees, Delaware County Community College

“These individuals are highly respected within their community, deeply invested in our mission, and profoundly dedicated to the success of Pennsylvania’s 14 community colleges,” said Elizabeth A. Bolden, president & CEO of the Pennsylvania Commission for Community Colleges. “These Executive Committee members understand how critical it is to leverage the expertise and experience of community colleges to increase the workforce readiness skills and educational attainment level of Pennsylvanians, which in turn generates a productive workforce and vibrant economy.”

In the 2017-18 academic year, Pennsylvania’s community colleges enrolled more than 300,000 students from all 67 counties in the Commonwealth. They also provided a foundation for nearly 35,000 students who sought transfer to four-year institutions, saving these students up to $20,000 on the cost of higher education.

John J. “Ski” Sygielski, Ed.D., is serving as vice chair of the Executive Committee through June 30, 2019, then will become its chair.

Dr. Sygielski became the seventh president of HACC, Central Pennsylvania’s Community College, in July 2011. His previous appointments include president of Mt. Hood Community College in Gresham, Oregon, and president of Lord Fairfax Community College in Middletown, Virginia. He began his professional career as a teacher in a Chicago inner-city school followed by a stint as a corporate trainer for two Fortune 500 companies. He transitioned to a community college career at College of DuPage in Glen Ellyn, Illinois, where he began his community college administration and college teaching career.

Dr. Sygielski is the past chairman of the board for the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC) and AACC’s 21st-Century Commission on the Future of Community Colleges. He also serves on the boards of the Broad Street Market Alliance, Capitol Area Greenbelt Association, Harrisburg Chamber of Commerce, Northeast PA Strategic Early Warning Network (SEWN) and Pennsylvania’s Workforce Development Board. He is a member of the Rotary Club of Harrisburg.

He earned his bachelor’s degree in philosophy, two master’s degrees in business and a doctorate in education, as well as an honorary associate degree. A native of Cleveland, Ohio, Sygielski is the only member of his working-class family to graduate from college.

“I appreciate the confidence my peers have in my abilities to represent them throughout the Commonwealth as we address a variety of higher education and workforce development opportunities,” Sygielski said. “I look forward to representing the largest sector of higher education in Pennsylvania to business associations, elected officials and community leaders in order to help them better understand the mission, value and tremendous training and education offerings of community colleges throughout the Commonwealth. I also look forward to working with my peers to address significant changes that our sector of higher education is beginning to deal with in order to meet the ever-changing educational needs of our employers and workforce.”

Mark H. Erickson Ed.D., became the fourth president of Northampton Community College on July 1, 2012, driven by a strong belief that the most innovative, exciting and important work in higher education was, and is, taking place at the nation’s community colleges. A native of Nebraska, Dr. Erickson holds a bachelor’s degree in American history from Princeton University and a master’s degree in education from Harvard University. While earning his doctorate in educational leadership at Lehigh University, he received the Mathew W. Gaffney Award for Academic Excellence. He served in several important positions at Lehigh, including dean of students from 1990-1999, associate vice president and executive assistant to the president from 1999-2001, and vice president for administrative and government affairs from 2001-2005.

In 2005, he was named president of Wittenberg University, Springfield, Ohio. During his seven years there he was credited with facilitating the development of new academic programs, expanding international exchange opportunities, and fostering a close and mutually beneficial relationship with the regional community. Under his leadership as president of Northampton Community College, the institution has thrived. The college was selected as one of the top 150 community colleges in the nation by the Aspen Institute in 2014, the same year NCC opened a new $72 million 84-acre campus in Monroe County, Pennsylvania.

Dr. Erickson’s local, state and national leadership includes serving as Chair of Community Colleges for International Development, a founding member of the Presidents’ Alliance on Higher Education and Immigration, and Chair of the Lehigh Valley Education Talent Supply Council. He also serves on the boards of the Lehigh Valley Industrial Parks, the Lehigh Valley Partnership, the Workforce Board Lehigh Valley, Campus Compact of New York & Pennsylvania and the Lehigh Valley Community Foundation Board of Associates.

“Community colleges are vitally important to providing accessible higher education and workforce training in the state of Pennsylvania,” said Erickson. “The Pennsylvania Commission for Community Colleges has long advocated that community colleges are not only essential to a healthy, vibrant economy, but they are often the only chance at higher education for many of the state’s residents. I am looking forward to working with my colleagues and the Commission to ensure our students and the communities we serve are successful for years to come.”

Lynn Distasio is currently vice chair of the Board of Trustees at Luzerne County Community College. She also serves as chair of the Board’s Legislative, Economic, and Public Affairs Committee. She has served as a member of the Luzerne Board from 2008 to 2013 and from 2015 to the present.

Distasio co-founded PRO Rehabilitation Services in 1997, which specializes in delivering outpatient physical and occupational rehabilitation services. She began as a treating clinician and clinical manger with the company and was promoted to chief operating officer/clinical director in 2003. She also oversees the operations of PRO Fitness Club, a health and wellness center and Athletic Republic, a sports performance training center.

Prior to working at PRO Rehabilitation Services, she was director of services at Riverside Rehabilitation Center II and physical therapy program director at East Coast Rehabilitation. Distasio also served as an adjunct faculty member at Misericordia University where she taught a course in leadership, administration, and management in physical therapy.

She holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Physical Therapy from Temple University. In the community, Distasio has served as a board member of the Colleen Shea Children’s Foundation since 2002 whose mission is to help serve the needs of children through charitable fund-raising and community service. She also recently accepted a board position with the American Heart Association serving the Luzerne and Lackawanna Counties and was appointed as chairwoman for the GO Red for Woman Experience for 2019.

“I am honored to be appointed as secretary for the PA Commission for Community Colleges Board of Directors and especially to be the first trustee to serve from Luzerne in the College’s history,” said Distasio. “I understand how important the community college is to the development of our community and I look forward to working with all trustees to support the Commission and its commitment to our students in keeping education in PA affordable and accessible for all.”

The 2019-21 appointment marks Donald Heller‘s second term as Treasurer of the PACCC Board of Directors’ Executive Committee. Heller has been a member of the Delaware County Community College Board of Trustees since 2014, and currently serves as chair.

As senior vice dean of the Klein College of Media and Communication at Temple University, he manages all operating and financial functions of the college and oversees TUTV, the Temple University cable television channel. With more than 30 years business management and finance experience, especially in the entertainment and cable business, Heller also serves as a business development, financing, and operations management consultant.

Previously, Heller was Assistant Dean of Temple University’s College of Engineering. Prior to joining the university, he spent 20 years in cable television as Vice President and General Manager of the PRISM network and as Vice President at the parent company of Suburban Cable Lenfest Communications developing international expansion.

A native of Springfield Township in Delaware County, Heller holds a Bachelor of Science degree from Penn State University and is a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) with a strong commitment to the community. He also serves as the Vice Chair of the Philadelphia Police Athletic League (PAL) Board and Chair of the PAL Scholarship Committee and Foundation. He was an elected local school board member for 12 years, serving as Board President and Treasurer prior to joining the Delaware County Community College Board of Trustees. He also served four years in the United States Air Force.