INDIANA, Pa. – More than 150 people – students, faculty, alumni and community guests — attended the Oct. 4 renovation celebration of Indiana University of Pennsylvania’s Whitmyre Hall, home to the Cook Honors College.
The ribbon cutting ceremony featured sophomore Cook Honors College student Matthew Hiles, an accounting and finance major from Kittanning, as one of the keynote speakers for the event.
Hiles, who is an IUP “legacy” – his mother graduated from IUP with a degree in accounting — is a member of the first cohort of students to study in the new classrooms.
During his remarks, he said he knew the Cook Honors College was special even before he was accepted.
“I’ve already noticed an almost frightening change—for the better — in the way that I think and act,” he said. He praised the community for being interesting and diverse, and recognized the instructors for “being some of the best.” He said that while the Cook Honors College is about the people, the building also helps to gives the college its unique character. He thanked the Cook Achievement Fund for providing him the chance to study in China this past summer.
Hiles, son of David and Amanda Hiles, is a 2018 graduate of Armstrong Junior-Senior High School. He lived in Whitmyre Hall during his freshman year. In addition to his majors, he is working to earn a certificate in Chinese. He is treasurer of the Management Association, is a member of the IUP Ambassadors student-alumni association, is co-president of the Chinese Language and Culture Club and is a member of the Eberly College of Business and Information Technology Business Honors Program.
Hiles was joined by speakers David Reed, a 2000 IUP graduate, member of the first graduating class of the Cook Honors College and a 2016 Distinguished Alumni Award recipient; IUP President Dr. Michael Driscoll; Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Dr. Timothy Moerland and Dr. Chauna Craig, acting director of the Cook Honors College.
Tours of the building and light refreshments, themed to the rooms where they were placed, followed the ceremony. The event also celebrated the 20th anniversary of the first graduating class and was part of the university’s Homecoming celebration events.
More than 60 current students attended the event and filled the exterior stairway to the entrance of the building for the ceremonial ribbon cutting photo.
Reed offered his appreciation for the opportunities offered to him by the Cook Honors College, noting that he quickly realized the great caliber of IUP’s faculty and coursework when he began his master’s study at the University of Pennsylvania. “The Cook Honors College offers an ivy league experience to families that could never afford it,” he said. He encouraged students to “experience it all, appreciate it all and take advantage of it all.”
Reed endorsed the fundraising opportunity launched for alumni and friends to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the first graduating class of the Cook Honors College ($200,000 for scholarships) through IUP’s Imagine Unlimited comprehensive campaign. “It’s an exciting way to pay it forward.”
Provost Moerland said that the Cook Honors College received 352 applications last year and welcomed the largest class in its history, 138 students, this fall. “No doubt the Cook Honors College will continue to grow in the respect and honor it deserves,” he said. He thanked all members of the community who have worked to bring the CHC from its beginnings to its present.
The 26-month, $4.6 million renovation in Whitmyre Hall includes a rebuilt entrance; a facelift for the living spaces on the second and third floors and a comprehensive upgrade of the restrooms and shower rooms on those floors; six new seminar rooms, new individual student study rooms and additional lounging areas.
Planning for the renovation of Whitmyre Hall, now 67 years old, began in summer 2016. Renovation of the residential areas, which offers 180 beds, was completed for the fall 2018 semester, with work on the new seminar, study and lounging areas completed for this fall.
Internal and external infrastructure renovations were also part of the renovation, including updating the mechanical systems and modifying the entrances to the building and selected residential rooms for accessibility.
Ribbon-cutting speaker Reed graduated from IUP with degrees in mathematics and economics. A native of Homer City, he attended and graduated from Homer-Center High School, where he was a member of the baseball and football teams. He represents the sixth generation of his family to reside in Indiana County.
While at IUP, Reed was a javelin thrower on the track and field team and served as an intern for Governor Tom Ridge’s Policy Office for Community and Economic Development. He continued his education at the University of Pennsylvania, where he earned a Masters of Governmental Administration Degree.
Reed ran for the State House of Representatives at the age of 24. When first elected, he was the youngest member of the State House, and through hard work, forging positive and collaborative relationships, he was twice elected by his peers to become the House Majority Leader.
At the conclusion of his eighth term serving in the House of Representatives, Reed chose to join First Commonwealth Bank as their Regional President for the Pennsylvania Community Markets, a position he currently holds.
Reed serves on the board of directors of the Indiana County Community Action Agency and the Greater Pittsburgh Chamber of Commerce. He enjoys coaching Little League baseball and youth football. Reed and his wife Heather, a 2013 master’s degree graduate of IUP and a member of the IUP Alumni Association Board of Directors, live in Indiana with their son Joshua, and their daughters Gracie and Elliana.
Robert Cook, a 1964 graduate, made his first multi-million-dollar philanthropic investment to establish the honors college in 1993. The first class entered in 1996 and graduated in 2000. Cook also established the Cook Honors College Achievement Fund, which provides assistance for the college’s students to study abroad, participate in internships and research, and undertake enrichment activities.
Of IUP’s 16 student Fulbright Scholars, 10 have been Cook Honors College students, as have IUP’s nine Goldwater Scholarship recipients and many of IUP’s 19 Gilman Scholars.
IUP’s Imagine Unlimited is a $75-million comprehensive campaign, which currently has gifts totaling over $62 million. The campaign will enable the IUP community to reach its shared vision and step forward as a national leader, distinguished by new thinking that has no limits and that cuts across traditional academic boundaries.