Member of the quiz team, editor of the school newspaper, a National Merit Semifinalist, involved in chorus, the honor society, plays and co-valedictorian of the class of 1960 -- it is clear that Karen Wiley Sandler, now chancellor of Penn State Abington, was no wallflower when a high school student at Strath Haven High School (formerly Nether Providence and Swarthmore). Located in Wallingford, the school recently inducted Sandler into the school's "Wall of Honor" as recognition of her career success in the field of higher education. During the ceremony, Sandler -- one of five 2010 inductees -- gave an inspiring speech to the senior class to share with them how she attributes much of her success today to the quality education and experiences she earned at her alma mater.
"Being honored by my high school was very meaningful to me since I had benefited so much from the friendships and outstanding educational environment there. In my message to the high school seniors at the induction ceremony, I wanted to share with them some lessons learned which would not have been possible without the strong foundation of education and character provided by my parents, friends and school during those formative years."
According to Mervyn Harris, former Pennsylvania State Representative and a member of the "Wall of Honor" selection committee, Sandler's comments were well received by the students.
"Karen stressed education and hard work, but not in a boring manner. She was lively and kept them interested. She let them know that they too can be successful with a solid educational foundation."
"I've know Karen since she became a student at Penn State (M.A. French). She went through the whole system and ended up heading it. Anyone who goes from student to chancellor is worthy of this award," enthused Harris.
In the fifty years that passed since her high school graduation, Sandler has built her impressive career in higher education and become a major civic contributor in the community, among women in higher education and to the students she serves.
Sandler became the chief executive officer of Penn State Abington (formerly Ogontz Campus) in July 1994. In 2005, the University changed the title to chancellor to better reflect the scope of the position.
Prior to her tenure at Penn State, Sandler served as vice president and dean of Academic Affairs at Juniata College in Huntingdon, Pa., and also held high level administrative positions at Gettysburg College and the University of Vermont. She earned her doctorate in romance languages at the University of Pennsylvania and taught full time as a tenured faculty member at the University of Vermont. Sandler has written and spoken on topics that include French Renaissance literature, curriculum transformation, writing across the curriculum, women and risk and leadership.
Near and dear to her heart is an organization designed to advance women in higher education -- the American Council of Education’s Office of Women in Higher Education (OWHE). Sandler has held several positions with OWHE and remains involved in their activities on a statewide and local level. Sandler also is active with the Middle States Association of Schools and Colleges.
Abington Township and Montgomery County also benefit from Sandler's civic engagement. She serves on several boards and committees designed to promote and enhance commerce, economic development and revitalization in the community.
Sandler's contributions to the community have not gone unnoticed. She's been recognized for her leadership by the Eastern Montgomery County Chamber of Commerce (Outstanding Female Executive of 1997), Abington Township, the Montgomery County Chapter of the March of Dimes and by the members of the Penn State Abington Class of 1998 who awarded her the Lion Heart Award for her commitment to students.
And now, Strath Haven High School. The "Wall of Honor" plaque bearing Sandler's name now hangs in the hallway to someday inspire another Strath Haven student to seek a college presidency.