David Coppola has only been Keystone College President for nine months, but told a Wyoming County Chamber of Commerce audience it was never too late - or early - to think about the legacy “we are building and leave behind.”
He acknowledged as a boy, growing up in New Jersey, moving to a new neighborhood, and watching pick-up basketball games from a distance, waiting for his chance to play. One day the opportunity came, he made a winning shot, and one of his peers tossed him a Swizzler licorice stick and said, “Nice bucket.”
He said the sense of acceptance is valued at all stages of life, and has been appreciated in his first year at Keystone when people have been “more than gracious.”
As an outsider - coming to Keystone after being an administrator in Connecticut - has given him some time to look at the 146-year-old Keystone’s place in the region, thinking about the loss of economic prosperity when coal left, and then when the railroad presence diminished.
“It’s clear a part of culture left this area,” he said, but with the Marcellus shale adding newfound wealth to the region, it’s time to think about “our new legacy.”
He identified three ways to view a legacy - autonomy, community and transcendancy.
Coppola said that as he travels the region, he has been struck by the number of second, third and fourth generation businesses “that are here” because of commitment to all of the places they call home.
“How are we preparing our students beyond the idea of accumulating wealth,” he said to empowering people to make something better of their lives, and that of those around them.
Coppola acknowledged that with the Marcellus boom, there have been some concerns about water.
“If what’s being done damages our water supply - a true life source, it’s nonnegotiable to do it until we can find a safe way to do it,” he said.
Noting that life is not in a vacuum, Coppola also said that “the biggest test is how do we care for our weakest members.”
“From what I can tell, you folks get it,” he said, noting there are those who might even muse, “We don’t need colleges anymore. We’ll just log on our computers and get instruction that way.”
Acknowledging that the days of Animal House’ are gone, he said that college is not just about classes but the experiment of learning how to live together in a new environment for the common good.
And, he said that’s where transcendency comes in, thinking about an ultimate sacrifice in selfless volunteerism in one’s community.
“It doesn’t have to be difficult to leave a legacy of caring beyond yourselves for someone else,” he concluded, before reaching behind the podium for a bag of Swizzlers and taking it over to a table where he hoped the chamber members there and all the other occupied tables in Hibbard Hall would accept his thanks for what they do every day.