Retiring Chancellor of PSU Abington Leaves Lasting Impact; Successor is Former CEO of Prestigious NYC Prep School

Photo of retiring chancellor Karen Wiley Sandler courtesy of Penn State Abington.

PennStateAbgtn_SpcBlk287The memories and tributes to retiring Chancellor Karen Wiley Sandler float and swirl like leaves along the paths at Penn State Abington.

Many of these stories made their way into the book Karen Wiley Sandler Taught Me … that was created for her as she departs this summer after more than two decades leading Penn State Abington.

Sandler staunchly supported lifelong learning, and Abington staffer Jean Moffatt benefitted.

“Dr. Sandler inspired me to pursue higher education,”: said Moffatt. “Although 48 years have passed since my high school graduation, I graduated in December with my Bachelor’s Degree. Her example was the driving force.”

Sandler was renowned for her ability to foster leadership skills, especially among women.

“She always demonstrated the importance of developing women into leaders,” said Ethel O’Dea, from the campus Career Development Center. “Karen strongly encourages women to look at education as a means to develop those capabilities. She has been a model and devoted her years here to creating a campus of exceptional students, faculty, and staff.”

Sandler plans to write, teach, and volunteer as a literacy tutor after she retires this summer. Among the accomplishments under her leadership:

  • Transformed Abington into a four-year baccalaureate degree institution.
  • Construction of the first University-sponsored residence hall at Abington to open for fall 2017.
  • With a $50,000 seed grant from Invent Penn State, fast-tracked the development of the first co-working space, innovation, and idea hub in Montgomery County. Penn State Abington LaunchBox debuted in March 2016.
  • Enrollment growth during the last 10 years while maintaining high admissions standards.
  • Added degree programs, currently totaling 18 with others in development.
  • Established a thriving undergraduate research program, known as Abington College Undergraduate Research Activities or ACURA.
Damian Fernandez, the CEO of the Ethical Culture Fieldston School in New York City, will replace Sandler as chancellor of Penn State Abington.
Damian Fernandez, the CEO of the Ethical Culture Fieldston School in New York City, will replace Sandler as chancellor of Penn State Abington.

Damian Fernandez, the CEO and head of school at the Ethical Culture Fieldston School in New York City, is Sandler’s successor.

“The vast experience that Dr. Fernandez brings to the table as a senior academic leader, particularly in the areas of strategic and long-range planning, program development, fundraising and community engagement, will serve Penn State Abington well as it moves forward into a new era,” said Madlyn Hanes, Penn State vice president for Commonwealth Campuses.

“I am confident that under his innovative leadership, Penn State Abington will continue to evolve as a major educational, economic, and cultural partner in the Philadelphia region.”

Fernandez has enjoyed a distinguished career as a teacher, scholar, and administrator. The Ethical Culture Fieldston School is a prominent progressive private school with 1,700 students, 300 faculty members, and two campuses.

Fernandez led faculty, staff, and the board in creating a strategic plan focused on integrating science, technology, engineering, art and math; re-centering the ethics curriculum; and enhancing world languages and global education.

Prior to joining the Ethical Culture Fieldston School, Fernandez served as provost and executive vice president for academic affairs at Purchase College, part of the State University of New York (SUNY) system.

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