DUBOIS – A fondly-remembered former Penn State DuBois campus executive officer (CEO), Joseph Strasser, passed away June 21, in Voorhees, N.J. He was 78 years of age.
Strasser served as CEO, a title that has now been changed to “chancellor” from 1995-97 following his long military career. He was then named the first dean of the newly formed Commonwealth College at Penn State in 1997, which included the DuBois campus.
In this role, he oversaw 12 campus locations in what became Penn State’s largest college, with an enrollment of 14,000 students, 1,300 faculty and staff, and a budget of roughly $60 million.
While dean of the Commonwealth College, Strasser served as the principal academic leader and chief executive officer of the college. He was responsible for planning, budgeting, implementation, fundraising and the quality of teaching and research in the Commonwealth College.
As CEO at Penn State DuBois, Strasser was responsible for administering all campus programs. He spearheaded initiatives resulting in enrollment growth of 17 percent, fundraising in excess of $630,000, the introduction of the occupational therapy assistant program and a major upgrade in campus technology and physical plant.
Though his time at Penn State DuBois was short, Strasser made a measurable impact on those who worked with him. He is remembered as an incredibly kind person and highly successful leader.
“Dr. Strasser really made it his message and mission to have the entire campus own recruitment and retention. He made it a point to get to know campus staff and faculty and he truly cared about us,” said Enrollment Director Melissa Duttry.
“Dr. Strasser hired me as the admissions officer and he always wanted me to know that I was not carrying the enrollment by myself.
“He actually led tours at our Spend A Summer Open Houses. He enjoyed meeting our visitors and was incredibly enthusiastic about PSU DuBois.
“He was a man of integrity, a true patriot, kind, compassionate, incredible work ethic. I loved him. We stayed in touch over the years since he’s been gone.”
Professor of Chemistry Arshad Kahn said, “I had a chance to know and work with Joe Strasser closely, and had high appreciation for his integrity, sincerity and administrative skill.
“He generously provided support for faculty growth and development in the areas of teaching, research and service. Like many, I am indebted to him for his support toward our growth as faculty. On a personal side, Joe was a wonderful, soft-hearted person.”
In 1996-97, Strasser served on a University-wide steering committee charged to monitor and help guide the development of four new colleges; the Commonwealth College, Penn State Abington, Penn State Altoona and Penn State Berks-Lehigh Valley.
He also served on a design team charged to develop leadership and management curriculum, University-wide.
Strasser also served on the boards of the DuBois Area Economic Development Corp. and the DuBois Regional Medical Center, the advisory board of the Salvation Army, the executive board of the Boy Scouts of America, Bucktail Council and the business/industry advisory council of the DuBois Area School District.
Associate Professor of Communications Arts and Sciences and Associate Chief Academic Officer Mary Mino said, “Dr. Joe Strasser came to Penn State DuBois at the right time.
“He was a fair and sensitive leader who boosted the morale of faculty and staff and pointed the campus in the right direction. As the inaugural dean of what is now the University College, he made significant changes to strengthen the college within the university at a time when it was needed.”
Before joining Penn State, Strasser had a long and successful career in the U.S. Navy, where he attained the rank of rear admiral.
He was president of the Naval War College in Newport, R.I., between 1990-95, and as a Navy career officer, he served as senior commander and staff executive in a number of positions.
As president of the Naval War College, Strasser oversaw a budget of $22 million. During his tenure, the college realized a 25 percent growth in the student body and a substantial increase in the number of women and minorities in both the student body and faculty.
Strasser graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1963 with a Bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering. He received a Master’s degree in international relations (1969), a Master’s degree in international law and diplomacy (1970) and a Doctorate in political science (1971) from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University.
Dave Shaffer was director of University Relations at Penn State DuBois at the time Strasser arrived on campus. He recalls not knowing what to expect when the accomplished military veteran assumed leadership.
Shaffer said, “Many of us were initially apprehensive about what he might be like because he was a rear admiral in the Navy. We wondered if he would be rigid. That is until we met him.
“It turns out that Joe was perhaps the most sensitive person in terms of human relations that I have ever worked with. How he managed to raise the morale of everybody on campus and got everyone feeling positive is what amazed me the most. He made people feel like their input was valuable.”
Today, the person filling Strasser’s role at Penn State DuBois is Chancellor M. Scott McBride, who said, “I only wish that I could have known him. My current colleagues who also worked with Dr. Strasser during his time here have had nothing but praise for his leadership.
“Judging from their kind words, he must have been quite a gentleman and a leader. I know, first-hand, that his job was not a small one. To be remembered so fondly in that role is telling of one’s character.”
McBride continued saying, “We at Penn State DuBois offer our sincere condolences to Dr. Strasser’s family at this time.”
Strasser left Penn State in 2000, and returned to the Naval War College as foundation director until 2006. He remained active in retirement, volunteering for many boards and committees in his community and church. He was also on the Board of Directors of the United Services Automobile Association for 14 years.
Family and friends are invited to the viewing at Blake-Doyle Funeral Home, 226 W. Collings Ave., Collingswood, NJ 08108 on Monday July 1, from 5 p.m. – 8 p.m.
A Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated at St. Teresa of Calcutta Parish, St. John Church, 809 Park Ave., Collingswood, NJ on Tuesday, July 2, at 10:30 a.m. Burial will take place at a later date.
Remembrances are welcome at BLAKE-DOYLE.com.