Sept. 7, 2011

In This Issue
Student-Centered Changes Mark Start of New Academic Year at MWCC
MWCC Alumna Carrie Progen Honored on 10th Anniversary of 9/11
9/11 Commemoration: Honoring the Memory of Those Lost a Decade Ago
MWCC's Wanda Pothier-Hill Releases Debut Novel
MWCC Announces a Beta Launch of its New Website
In Memoriam: Professor Herman Gelbwasser
Upcoming Events
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TopStudent-Centered Changes Marks Start of New Academic Year at MWCC  

Staff within the new LaChance LibraryMany changes and new initiatives are marking the start of the 2011-2012 academic year. Not only are the college's campuses filled with scores of new students, but many new faculty and staff members have joined the college community, as well. Many of the changes are due in large part to the student success initiatives outlined in Project ASPIRE, the college's grant-funded Title III program, now entering its second year. Programs and services that provide student support have been realigned to better serve the needs of students.


Among the changes at the Gardner campus, the LaChance Library and the Academic Support Center have been combined. By providing free tutoring in writing, mathematics and other subject areas within the library - the heart of an academic institution - more students are apt to take advantage of the services throughout their academic careers.


"There is so much similarity between what the Academic Support Center does and what we do in the library to support student learning. In the past we have worked closely together, but now there will no longer be a need to shuttle students back and forth down the hall," explained Heidi McCann, who has been appointed the college's new dean of Library and Academic Support Services. "Number one is convenience for students - to make it as easy as possible to find quiet study space, group study space, and to take advantage of tutoring services and all of the wonderful resources we have here. The bottom line is student success and to help them succeed academically," she said. "It will be one-stop shopping for students."


The Advising Center, in rooms 115 and 116 of the main campus, will now incorporate expanded services to evening students as well as greater outreach to help all students remain on track in their academic programs. Similarly, the Counseling and Student Support Services departments have been reconfigured in the center of the main campus to provide ongoing service to students to support academic and personal success.


Among the other changes, a new Student Support Center will open this month at the Leominster campus, to provide a central location for tutoring, counseling, advising and other services for students attending the Leominster and Devens campuses.


SGA at Orientation The start of the new academic year brought more than 1,000 day and evening student onto the campuses for orientation sessions in late August and early September, sponsored by the divisions of Student Services and Academic Affairs. A majority of the students attended the orientation for new day and transfer students on September 1 in Gardner. Students attended seminars and orientation sessions that provided an opportunity to learn about college life and MWCC programs.


They were also able to meet with faculty, tour the campus, and receive information about campus resources. President Daniel M. Asquino, marking the start of his 25th year as president of MWCC, encouraged the incoming students to recognize their dreams and aspirations and to seek help if they needed it. "You have a goal in mind. You have a dream. You have an aspiration. It's our job to help you achieve that goal," he said.


Executive Vice President Ann McDonald echoed those sentiments. "While there may be lots of paths you're going to take, your final destination is graduation."


In a presentation both humorous and insightful, leadership trainer and motivational speaker Michael Miller of South Weymouth emphasized the importance of figuring out what students want out of life. "Today is the day you start answering that question, 'What do you want?' "


During an afternoon club expo, Student Government Association President Bridgette Woodcock and other student leaders encouraged the incoming students to become involved with clubs and activities at MWCC. "Whether they are part of the SGA or another club, they have a better opportunity to gain leadership experience by becoming involved," Ms. Woodcock said.


Pictured at top: The library and academic support services have been combined to create the new LaChance Library and Academic Support Center. From left, Heidi McCann, dean of library and academic support services; Christopher Doyle, director of academic support services; and Suzanne Levasseur, reference and instructional services librarian.


Pictured below: Student Government Association members welcoming incoming students during an afternoon student club expo on Sept. 1 included, from left, Isaac Matson, vice president; Christine Eck, secretary; Bridgette Woodcock,  president; Shane Cullins, and Jennifer Brennan, treasurer. 

MWCC Alumna Carrie Progen Honored on 10th Anniversary of 9/11 

Carrie Progen Flag PhotoOn Sept. 11 one year ago, an American flag was raised, then lowered to half mast, at Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan in honor of Carrie Beth Progen, who was one of nearly 3,000 victims who lost their lives in the 2001 terrorist attacks. Her brother, Sgt. 1st Class Matthew Progen, a member of the 1st Squadron, 172nd Cavalry Regiment of the Vermont National Guard, witnessed the solemn commemoration, conducted at the precise moment the World Trade Center's Twin Towers were hit. Soon after, he returned to Massachusetts to present the flag to their parents, Don and Kathy Progen of Westminster.

Now, Carrie's flag will be on permanent display at Mount Wachusett Community College, in honor of the free-spirited artist and 1995 alumna. The Progen family recently presented the flag to MWCC President Daniel M. Asquino with gratitude and appreciation for the college's remembrance of Carrie through an art scholarship that has been awarded annually in her name to MWCC students since 9/11.

"We decided to make this presentation to show our appreciation for the college and for the MWCC Foundation for keeping Carrie's memory alive through this scholarship," said Don Progen, a retired Assistant District Attorney in Worcester Superior Court and long-serving member of the MWCC Veterans Memorial Scholarship Committee.

Raised in Ashburnham, Carrie was a dual-enrolled student at MWCC during her senior year at Oakmont Regional High School. She became a regular figure in the Fine Arts Center, before graduating with an associate degree in art and transferring to the Pratt Institute in New York to earn her bachelor's degree. Though raised in a rural community, she delighted in the bustling excitement of NYC, her parents said.

"Carrie liked adventure. She liked new experiences. She loved living in New York," Kathy Progen said.

While riding the subway, it was not unusual to find Carrie with a sketch pad in hand, creating slice-of-life portraits of her fellow passengers on the A train. At the time of her death, she also was working on a children's book.

Flag PresentationCarrie's carefree nature stood out in a family whose other members' lives revolve around maintaining law and order. Don and Kathy Progen met while students at MWCC in the early 1970s. Don Progen had just returned from serving as a sergeant in the U.S. Marine Corps, where he completed two tours in Vietnam. The college, he has often said, provided a haven to veterans during that turbulent era. After earning a degree in Liberal Arts, he transferred on a full scholarship to Amherst College, then continued on for a law degree from Boston College Law School. He is a member of the board of directors and former commander of the Ovila Case Post 905 VFW in Gardner, holds a leadership role with the VFW's Honor Guard and is president of the Gardner Veterans Council.

Kathy Progen, who earned a degree in Business Administration, is a retired lieutenant with the Massachusetts Department of Corrections in Gardner. Matt, who met his wife, Jaime, while students at MWCC as well, continued on for a bachelor's degree in legal studies at UMass, Amherst. He served in active duty in the U.S. Army from 1991 to 1994. He continues to serve in the National Guard in Vermont, where he also works for the U.S. Border Patrol, and has been deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan in recent years.


Though her passion was art, along with martial arts, snowboarding and travel, Carrie earned her living in the corporate world. She worked as an administrative assistant for Aon Corporation on the 100th floor of the South Tower of the World Trade Center. She was one of 176 Aon employees who perished in the collapse of the South Tower; and one of 2,976 victims that tragic day a decade ago. Carrie was 25 years old.

"She saw the good in everybody," her mother said. "She saw everybody as an individual - everybody. She didn't put them in any categories."


The Carrie Progen Scholarship, administered by Mount Wachusett Community College Foundation, recognizes students who excel in art. A fundraiser to benefit the scholarship fund will take place Thursday, Sept. 8 from 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. in the South Cafeteria. Chocolate cream pie, Carrie's favorite dessert, will be sold.


Artwork created by Carrie will be on display throughout September in the glass cases in the college's East Wing Gallery of the Raymond M. LaFontaine Fine Arts Center. Regular gallery hours are Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.


Pictured: Mount Wachusett Community College President Daniel M. Asquino recently accepted a commemorative American flag in honor of MWCC alumna Carrie Progen, donated to the college by her parents, Kathy and Don Progen, and her brother, Sgt. 1st Class Matthew Progen. 


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9/11 Commemoration: Honoring the Memory of Those Lost a Decade Ago

Through silent reflection and acts of service, members of the MWCC community will honor those who lost their lives in the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks in New York City, at the Pentagon in Arlington, Va., and in Shanksville, Penn. Several events will take place on campus and in the community in commemoration of the anniversary.


MWCC, together with members of its student Veterans Group, will host a Remember to Remember Memorial to honor and reflect on those who lost their lives in the attacks a decade ago. Remember to Remember is a silent memorial, except for the reading of the names of the victims. The public is invited to stop by anytime during the memorial, which will take place on Sunday, Sept. 11 from 1:30 to approximately 4:30 p.m., and place a flower at the base of the flagpole.

 American Flag

The memorial is a recorded reading of the names of the victims of the terrorist attack against the United States, with the names read by actress Betsy Palmer; actor Jerry Orbach; Admiral Mike Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff at The Pentagon; Port Authority of New York & New Jersey (PANY&NJ) Public Affairs Officer Alan Hicks; and volunteers at the New York Unit of the Recording for the Blind & Dyslexic (NY-RFB&D) organization.


The names of the victims of Flight 11, Flight 175, Flight 77, and Flight 93 are read by Ms. Palmer. The volunteers at NY-RFB&D recorded the names of the victims in the World Trade Centers and the FDNY Firemen. Mr. Hicks recorded the names of the Officers from PANY&NJ. The names of the NYPD officers are read by Mr. Orbach, and the names of the Pentagon victims are read by Adm. Mullen.


The memorial was founded by local artist and poet James Pelletier of Winchendon, who organized the recordings in collaboration with the NY-RFB&D, and The Pentagon. Mr. Pelletier volunteered at Ground Zero for several months in the wake of the 9/11 attack. The first edition included only the names of the NYC victims. The recording was presented in 2002, as part of the first anniversary tributes in Battery Park, NYC. In 2008, Remember to Remember September 11 was expanded to include the names of all of the victims.


In addition to the memorial, members of the AmeriCorps Job Ready program will be participating in a day of service in Gardner on Sept. 11. A group of volunteers from MWCC will complete restoration projects at the Helen Mae Sauter School and at Gardner High School.


A fundraiser to benefit the Carrie Progen Scholarship, administered by Mount Wachusett Community College Foundation and awarded each year to a student who excels in art, will take place Sept. 8 from 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Chocolate cream pie, Carrie's favorite dessert will be sold in the South Cafeteria.


The Student Government Association is raising money for the nonprofit organization HOT (Helping Our Troops), which sends care packages to troops serving overseas. Stop by the SGA booth in the café hallway on Sept. 8 to purchase raffle tickets for a chance to win a Today's Technology basket or a Sports Fan basket. Proceeds collected from the raffle will benefit the service organization.  


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MWCC's Wanda Pothier-Hill Releases Debut Novel 

Wanda Pothier-HillWanda Pothier-Hill, an alumna of MWCC and an English instructor at the college, will release her debut novel, "The Road Home," this month. The setting of this work of fiction takes place from the hills of Western Massachusetts, to the back roads of Montana, and the streets of North Central Massachusetts. Ms. Pothier-Hill tells a story of a young woman's journey across the country to escape violence and addiction, while searching for truth and healing.


"I've always been intrigued by strong women who choose whether or not they have the stamina to follow things through and determine their own future," Ms. Pothier-Hill said. "Karen Black, the main character in the novel, is like so many women out there, who face challenges and must determine which road to take."


The public is invited to attend the Book Launch Party Wednesday, Sept. 14 from 4:30 to 7:30 p.m. at Destare in Fitchburg. Complimentary hors d'oeuvres and a cash bar will be available for guests, and the author will do a reading and book signing.


Born and raised in Leominster, and the third of four children, Ms. Pothier-Hill held a lifelong dream to become a published fiction author. She began her path toward achieving that goal as a student at MWCC, where the seeds for this first novel were planted.  After earning an associate degree in Liberal Arts, she went on to earn a Bachelor of Arts degree in English at Mount Holyoke College and a Master of Fine Arts degree in Creative Writing from Goddard College in Vermont. Over the past decade Ms. Pothier-Hill has been a writing tutor, academic advisor, and adjunct English professor at MWCC. She has had the pleasure and the honor of working with students with a range of academic and socio-economic backgrounds. She has provided professional instruction in English Composition I and II, Women's Literature, Creative Writing, Film Appreciation, and more. She has been published in several literary journals, including Goddard's Pitkin Review and MWCC's imagazine.


In addition to her talent and passion for writing, Ms. Pothier-Hill is also an accomplished photographer. She resides in Ashburnham with her husband, Tim, their three children, and her father.


"The Road Home" will be available at, and other local and online book sellers. For more information, please call 978-257-3008.


 - Carol Cullins


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MWCC Announces a Beta Launch of its New Website 

Mount Wachusett Community College will launch a new website in January. In preparation, members of the college community and the public are invited to test drive the new site throughout the fall.


To help visitors differentiate between the two sites, the college has adopted the name "MWCC Beta" for the new website, and "MWCC Classic" for the current website.


The transition began on Sept. 1 with the beta launch of the new website with the intention of collecting data and making final adjustments based on the feedback that is collected during this phase. The beta site introduces new features such as an updated look, new navigation, and many new pages that don't exist on the current website.


As the college moves forward with a comprehensive website redesign project, which is being completed entirely in-house by the Marketing & Communications Department, the beta site will eventually replace the current website. This is scheduled for late January 2012.


For the next sevral months, these two websites will both be live. MWCC Classic will continue to function exactly as it does now and will continue to be updated. This is still the college's primary website and where the general public should continue to visit for college information. The web address will not change at any time.


Concurrently, the college's Marketing and Communications Department will collect feedback, conduct testing, and continue to convert content into the beta site between September and December.


"This is an exciting time for the college and for our students, as we expand and improve the online experience, as well as the resources available to website visitors. Through collaboration across the college and with current students and alumni, we have established a new Web Team, which has led the way in this technological transition," said MWCC Vice President of Marketing and Communications Robin Duncan.


Community members, students, parents, and other interested parties are invited to visit the beta site, give it a test drive, and report experiences and impressions using a feedback form. The new site can be accessed by visiting the MWCC Classic at and clicking the "under construction" invitation on the home page.


- Sarah McMaster


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In Memoriam: Professor Herman Gelbwasser 

Herman Gelbwasser

The MWCC community mourns the passing on Aug. 11 of Professor Emeritus Herman Gelbwasser, who taught chemistry and mathematics to generations of students from the college's nascent years until his retirement in 2010. 


When once asked about his decision to remain in academia, rather than accept one of many lucrative offers in the field of chemical engineering, Professor Gelbwasser explained that teaching was his passion. "Each semester, I enter the classroom with a sense of excitement and expectation," he said in a May, 2001 interview. "For me, the key to teaching well is to recognize it as a partnership. Effective teaching means breaking down barriers to communication. And if one student in the course of a semester comes to me and says,' I never realized I could do math. I was afraid of it, but now I enjoy it.' Or they tell me that as a result of my class, they plan to change their major to chemistry, I know that my life's work is worthwhile, which gives me a great feeling of satisfaction."


Below is an excerpt from a faculty profile written in 2006 by Academic Counselor and MWCC alumna Melanie Patterson for the college's Alumni Association web page:


In 1965, a young chemical engineering graduate, Herman Gelbwasser, drove his rusty 1957 Dodge Coronet with large tail fins, east from New York looking for a job. As his rusting out car ran through puddles and splashed water up inside, he thought, "I need to go as far as this car will take me." In that moment he never realized that four and a half decades later, he would still be at the car's final stop, Mount Wachusett Community College.


When Professor Gelbwasser began his career as the only chemistry teacher in MWCC's history, he worked in the former campus on Elm Street. He witnessed shifts in the student population over the years, as well. When he began, most of the students were fresh out of high school. Then, in the final days of the Vietnam War in the '70s, as more people were being drafted, the age of students jumped into their 30's. Since then it has shifted back to a younger population, however, Professor Gelbwasser taught a lot of single parents and adult learners over the years.


Professor Gelbwasser found his love for teaching at an early age from his own experiences of being a student. He grew up on the Lower East Side of New York and attended public schools right through high school. He then went to the former New York University College of Engineering in the Bronx, finishing his undergraduate work. He completed his studies at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, NY, where he earned his master's degree in chemical engineering. His first love was for mathematics. However, while in college, Sputnik was on everyone's mind and he was mentored to study chemical engineering.


Professor Gelbwasser was sought after over the years for higher paying professional positions in chemical engineering, but said his first passion was to teach. "All the money in the world wouldn't have made me feel any different."


Pictured: Professor Herman Gelbwasser at MWCC's 2010 Commencement, where he was honored by President Daniel M. Asquino. Professor Gelbwasser resided in Rutland and Mashpee with his wife, Bonnie. He is survived by three children, Michael, Amy and Sherry, and two grandchildren. The family asks that contributions in his memory be made to Mount Wachusett Community College Foundation, Inc.


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Upcoming Events

"As We Age", a free health fair for senior citizens, will take place Friday, Sept. 9 from 12:30 to 3 p.m. at the Fitness & Wellness Center at Mount Wachusett Community College. Health care professionals representing approximately 30 businesses from North Central Massachusetts will be on hand to provide information about a variety of health and wellness topics, including home health care and extended care options, cancer, Alzheimer's disease, arthritis and financial assistance. The event will also feature a SilverSneakers exercise demonstration, free screenings, samples and more. For more information, call 978-630-9212.


CoexistFilmmaker Adam Mazo of Boston and Mount Wachusett Community College alumnus Jean Paul Turayishimye, a former official with the Rwandan Patriotic Army, which succeeded in halting the 1994 genocide, will present the documentary, Coexist,at the college's campuses in Gardner, Fitchburg, Leominster and Devens on Sept. 12 and 13. The presentations and discussion sessions are free and open to the public. Coexist presents rare, candid testimony of trauma survivors searching for ways to coexist with their loved ones' murderers in the post-genocide era. In the documentary, women who survived the genocide share their inner-most feelings on confronting killers and having little choice but to interact with them daily, as they cope with the long- lasting trauma of losing their families. Coexist asks, what can viewers learn from the experience of victims of horrific crimes trying to rehumanize their loved ones' killers? Viewings of the film will take place Monday, Sept. 12 at 10:30 a.m. at MWCC's Burbank campus, 275 Nichols Road, Fitchburg and in the North Café of the Gardner campus, 444 Green Street, at 12:30 p.m. and 6 p.m. The film also will be shown on Tuesday, Sept. 13 at the Leominster campus, 100 Erdman Way, at 11:30 a.m., and at the Devens campus, 27 Jackson Road, at 1:30 p.m. The presentations are co-sponsored by the college's Diversity Committee, the LaChance Library, and the human resources and student life offices. For more information, contact Marsha Poor at 978-630-9374.


The Fall Fest Welcome & BBQ will be held on the back lawn of the Gardner campus 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. on Sept 15, featuring Grupo Fantasia in celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month. Enjoy the free BBQ, big chair photos, glass etching, gel candles, henna tattoos, caricatures, cotton candy, and the student club expo. The event begins at 12:30 p.m. and is open to all MWCC students, faculty and staff. Sponsored by the student life office and CATS (Campus Activities Team for Students). 


Constitution Day Trivia Show with Morgan White will be held Monday, Sept. 19 from 12:30 to 1:30 p.m. in the South Cafeteria on the Gardner Campus. There will be many chances to win prizes!  Also, Voting is Cool will be taking place, get your free popsicle and register to vote and/or pick up a pocket Constitution at the Student Government booth.


MWCC will host the annual New England Association of College Admissions Counseling (NEACAC) College Fair on Tuesday, Sept. 20 from 9 to 11:30 a.m. in the Fitness & Wellness Center. This free fair is the largest college fair held in Worcester County during the Fall and allows attendees to interact with representatives from nearly 200 public and private colleges and universities, as well as military institutions. The fair is open to the public. For more information, contact the Admissions Office at 978-630-9110 or visit


MWCC is offering Information Sessions on a number of academic programs. Upcoming sessions will take place on the following dates: A.S. Nursing: Sept. 14, 2 to 3 p.m., Gardner Campus, room 204 and Sept. 26, 5 to 6 p.m., Gardner campus; Clinical Laboratory Science: Sept 21, 4 to 5 p.m., Hospital Aide Conference Room (RSVP to the Office of Admissions prior to the session); Physical Therapist Assistant: Sept. 22, 2 to 3 p.m., Gardner campus, room 204; Dental Hygiene: Sept. 21, 2 to 3 p.m., Gardner campus, room 204. In addition, small group information sessions are offered daily Monday through Thursday beginning at 3 p.m. Prospective students interested in attending an information session are asked to call the Admissions Office at 978-630-9284 (TTY 978-632-4916), or send an email to


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Archived issues of Mount Wachusett Community College e-News can be found online at To submit to the MWCC e-News or request coverage for your event, contact the Public Relations Office at 978-630-9547. 


Janice O'Connor
Director of Public Relations
Mount Wachusett Community College
(978) 630-9547