NANTICOKE — Children are often told by their parents and teachers that they can grow up and one day become president.
Michael Danilowicz, 35, of New Columbus, put a twist on that adage — he grew up and became president of Luzerne County Community College for one day.
Danilowicz was selected from the LCCC student population to trade places with President Thomas Leary for one day — Wednesday — and Leary, in turn, became a student who attended classes in place of Danilowicz. This is the first year for the program, Leary said.
“Michael will learn what it’s like to be the leader of a multifaceted institution, and I’ll get the student’s perception of what is good and not so good at LCCC,” Leary said. “At the end of the day, Michael and I will meet and exchange notes. And we will continue to meet going forward.”
Danilowicz has a degree in journalism and American studies, plus a minor in English, from Penn State University. He graduated from Penn State in 2002, came home and couldn’t find a job. He said his parents were ill and he helped care for them; his dad recovered, but his mom passed away.
Danilowicz got a job stocking shelves at Walmart and stayed there for six years.
“I guess I kind of got off track,” he said. “Last summer I had a moment — I decided I was better than this and I decided to go back to school.”
Danilowicz enrolled at LCCC; in December he will receive his associate’s degree in audio/visual communications. He then will embark on a job search in the field he loves.
“My family has a dairy farm — Dan Crest Farms — and my three older brothers work the farm,” he said. “I’m not a farmer. I am fortunate to be the first in my family to go to college, and I want to make something of that.”
As LCCC president for the day, said Danilowicz, he had a busy schedule ahead of him — several meetings on topics such as team leadership, student life and athletics and finance, then a luncheon meeting with Elaine Cook, chairwoman of the LCCC Board of Trustees.
“I gave up everything to come back to school,” he said. “I want to use this as a learning opportunity.”
Danilowicz said he was going to discuss an issue that apparently is growing at LCCC — making the campus smoke-free. The issue is being talked about informally but could become a serious debate soon, Leary said.
“There’s nothing documented at this time,” Leary said. “But there are many advocates around who want to see this happen. We haven’t had any formal discussions, but I expect it to come up as an issue soon.”
Danilowicz said he intended to discuss the issue during his one-day reign. “We have smoking huts on campus and they are in pretty bad shape,” he said. “I can’t see putting money into repairing those huts if we’re going to ban smoking on campus. If we become smoke-free, we would remove the huts.”
Danilowicz said he expects opposition from some students once the smoke-free issue goes public.
The average age of an LCCC student is 27, Leary said. “But we’re a two-year college and the student body has a quick turnover,” he said. “Incoming students would only know LCCC as a smoke-free campus.”
Sounds pretty presidential, but Leary said he will follow-up with Danilowicz to discuss the issue and others at LCCC.
“We see value in getting the students’ perspectives,” said Leary. “And that’s not blowing smoke.”