Posts Tagged ‘Luzerne County Community College’

Teaching History with Respect for Our Veterans

Tuesday, October 13th, 2015

Highlights from the 24th Annual History Conference at Luzerne County Community College

Written by Tony Mussari, Sr.
Edited by Kitch Loftus-Mussari
Photographs by Kitch Loftus-Mussari
Copyright Mussari-Loftus Associates, LTD 2015
All Rights Reserved

You can’t be a full participant in our democracy if you don’t know our history. David McCullough

Our Face of America journey took us to the Conference Center at Luzerne County Community College on October 9, to screen History Conf 2015_Page_1_sm Four Days of Honor and Valor in Gettysburg and to learn about “Caring for Veterans in Northeastern Pennsylvania.” Little did we know when we arrived how poignant and powerful the sessions of the 24th Annual History Conference would be.

After he graciously saluted the veterans who were sitting in the audience and the faculty and staff who organized the event, Dr. Thomas P. Leary, President of Luzerne County Community College, caught everyone by surprise with his candid admission that the community college is not doing enough to acclimate veterans to the educational opportunities that are available at the school.

He thanked the veterans whose experience, perspective and wisdom enrich the classroom experience. He promised to create more opportunities for veterans to share their experiences in meaningful ways, and he promised that he and the members of his team would do more to streamline the admissions process for veterans.

Mark J. Riccetti, Jr., Director of Operations for the Luzerne County Historical Society, a co-sponsor the conference, reinforced Dr. Leary’s comments with ten words:

“This is probably the most important topic we have ever done.”


John Shalanski is a licensed clinical social worker. Because of IMG_5123_John 9_8_SMhis extensive experience, he was invited to deliver the keynote address, “Caring for Our Wounded Warriors: An Historical Overview.”

He told the audience that 1,000 veterans are diagnosed with PTSD every week, and 800 veterans are diagnosed with depression. Then he asked this question:
Historically, how have we treated our returning veterans?

Before he traced the history of this issue from the Revolutionary War to the present, he made his position very clear. We have a responsibility to give our veterans the best care, and history teaches us that we have not always lived up to that challenge.

Dr. Shalanski is not a wounded warrior, but his father, a World War 11 veteran, is his hero. His relationship with his father enabled him to better understand the complexity of the problems facing returning veterans, and their need for compassionate and competent care.

These are a few of the insightful comments presented by Dr. Shalanski:

1. We need to listen to our Wounded Warriors with humility and John_IMG_5125_smrespect;

2. We need to decompartmentalize the care and services available to them;

3. We must debunk the myths that reinforce the code of individualism that stereotype returning veterans in a negative light;

4. The horrendous experience of war for our returning veterans produces much more than exhaustion, shell shock, and combat fatigue;

5. Our veterans come home with moral injuries first described after the Civil War as Soldier’s Heart;

6. Our veterans return with “Moral Injuries” that can best be described as “bruises on the soul.”

Dr. Shalanski’s presentation was designed to present an accurate record of the past in an attempt to humanize the suffering of the 2,000,000 veterans who have gone to war since September 11, 2001.

He summarized the main point of his remarks with these words:

“We can do better. We have to do better.”

Perspective and Reality

When Dr. Bill Kashatus introduced Mark Kohn’s presentation, Mark_5253_smhe made a comment that caught everyone’s attention:

620,000 soldiers died during the Civil War. For every soldier who served, there was a 25 per cent chance of not surviving the war.

Mark Kohn picked up on that statistic with an equally gruesome number:

Of the 620,000 soldiers who died during the Civil War, two-thirds died from diseases like dysentery, typhoid fever, malaria, scurvy, pneumonia and tuberculosis to name but a few.

More than 413, 000 deaths were caused by poor hygiene, overcrowding, bugs, and contaminated water.

Kohn skillfully showed the audience all of the tools of the trade for Civil War physicians. Doctors relied heavily on opium, morphine and mercury to treat injured soldiers.

The field surgeon’s kit contained chloroform for the patient and Old Crow for the doctor. The whisky enabled the doctor to survive the 45-48 operations each day! Yes, some doctors were inebriated when they were treating patients.

At one point in his presentation, Kohn asked a student to join him as he demonstrated how a procedure would have been done in a CivilIMG_5267_Mark 9_7_sm War hospital. Without question, this was the high point of his session. It was graphic, but realistic. By contemporary standards, it was primitive and dangerous.

At another point, Janis Wilson Seeley, the chairperson of the history department, joined Kohn in the front of the room to help him demonstrate how blockade runners smuggled medicine to Confederate doctors.

During his session, Mark Kohn shared several interesting points about military health care.

1. He debunked the “Bite the bullet Myth.”

2. Of the 30,000 amputations on the Union side, 75 per cent of the patients survived.

3. Because the Confederate doctors used boiled horse hair to bind wounds, they had fewer deaths from operations.

4. Unable to cope with the horrific conditions, there were doctors who committed suicide.

5. Before 1863 all nurses were male. Dorothy Dix and Clara Barton disproved the myth that women would not be able to endure the graphic conditions of field hospitals.

6. In many ways, the beginning of modern medicine began after the Civil War in the 1890s.

Looking backward at the conditions wounded warriors faced during the Civil War and after reminded me of something Rudyard Kipling said a long time ago:

“If history were taught in the form of stories, it would never be forgotten.”

Current Health Care for Our Wounded Warriors

The final event of the conference featured four members of a panel IMG_5285_A_9-7discussion: Atty. Siobhan Fuller McConnell, Kevin Ferris, Alberto Morales, and James Shovlin.

James Shovlin is the Coordinator of Veterans’ Education at LCC. He talked about the services available at the community college. He was quick to point out that veterans bring a strong work ethic, discipline and a willingness to serve others to the classroom. They are great role models for young students.

In response to a question about life lessons he has learned working with veterans, he shared this thought:

Veterans have to deal with problems for their whole life so try to be there for them for the long haul and let them know that you will be there for them.

Alberto Morales is a counselor at the Wilkes-Barre VeteransAlbrto_5311_sm Hospital. He was born and raised on the mean streets of New York. He served in the Gulf War, and when he came home he wanted to continue his service to others.

He made the necessary sacrifices to get an education, and today he has a job that requires that he be on call 24 hours a day. He is the only suicide prevention coordinator in the country that does this.

Morales believes that it takes family, friends and the community to save a life. It’s a difficult job and it takes a sense of humor to do it effectively.

Kevin Ferris is an Editor of the editorial page of The Kevin_book1Philadelphia Inquirer. Dava Guerin and Kevin co-authored “Unbreakable Bonds: The Mighty Moms and Wounded Warriors of Walter Reed.”

Kevin introduced the audience to 10 veterans and 10 mighty moms. These 20 people come from all over the country. They have two things in common. They know in very real ways the challenges wounded warriors and their parents face. They know the services provided at Walter Reed Army Hospital in Washington, D.C.

The mothers have another thing in common. They were not prepared to deal with their wounded child.

Atty. Siobhan Fuller McConnell is the mother of a wounded warrior. Without question, she provided the most compelling and poignant story of the day.

In 2011, she had two sons in the military. On July 23, 2011, sheSionhan_sm received a telephone call that changed her life forever. Her oldest son Derek was injured in Afghanistan. For several weeks the details of his injuries were sketchy. When she met him at Walter Reed, he had lost both of his legs. He had a fractured skull and a fractured jaw. His right arm was badly injured.

Derek spent 53 days in ICU. He had 36 medical procedures.

While caring for her son, Siobhan lost her job.

In March 2013, Derek was readmitted to the hospital with severe pain. One evening his body went into shock, and he never woke up.

There is much more to Siobhan and Derek’s story. A detailed account is available in ’ “Unbreakable Bonds.”

When I asked Siobhan what life lessons she learned from her experience. She did not hesitate to respond.

“Keep a sense of humor. Everyday laugh or smile about something. Always look for light and something to get out of bed for.”

In my opinion, Atty. Siobhan Fuller McConnell is a classic example of the Face of America at its very best. Her mission to tell her story and enlighten all of us about the needs of our wounded warriors personifies the beautiful message Stephen E. Ambrose shared with us when he defined history with these words:

The past is a source of knowledge, and the future is a source of hope. Love of the past implies faith in the future.

Before the conference came to a close, Dr. Bill Kashatus IMG_5245_ Bill 9_8_SMsummarized the most important lessons learned during the sessions:

1. Dr. John Shalanski took us on a journey that expanded our view. He effectively made the case that woundedness is more than physical. It is psychological, moral, and emotional;

2. Mark Kohn provided a graphic picture of healthcare during the Civil War. In so doing he made a case for competent, compassionate and humane treatment for veterans;

3. Four Days of Honor and Valor in Gettysburg presents inspirational models of integrity, humility and selfless service;

4. The members of the panel shared compelling stories that prove there is a lot of work that needs to be done to help our Wounded Warriors;

5. We need to find effective ways to thank our veterans for their service and sacrifice.

The 24th Annual History Conference was a day of learning, thinking and growing in compassion for those who risked their lives for our country.

It was a reminder of the past and a blueprint for the future.

An adaptation of the words of T.H.White applies

Learning is the only thing which the mind can never exhaust, never alienate, never be tortured by, never fear or distrust, and never dream of regretting.

Thank you, Luzerne County Community College for hosting the event.

Thank you, Luzerne County Historical Society for co-sponsoring the conference.

Thank you, Luzerne County Community College Food Service Department. Lunch was excellent.

Thank you, Luzerne Community College support people for all that you did to make everyone feel welcome.

Thank you Matt Hall and Matt Popecki of PCNTV for the courteous and professional way you recorded the conference.

Thank you, Dr.Bill Kashatus for continuing this wonderful tradition.

Please provide feedback to:


Teaching History with Heart

Friday, October 18th, 2013

Teaching History with Heart at Luzerne County Community College

Written by Tony Mussari, Sr.
Edited by Kitch Loftus-Mussari
Photographs by Kitch Loftus-Mussari
Copyright Mussari-Loftus Associates, LTD 2013
All Rights Reserved

History cannot give us a program for the future, but it can give us a fuller understanding of ourselves, and of our common humanity, so that we can better face the future. Robert Penn Warren

My journey to the 22nd Annual History of Northeastern Pennsylvania Conference at Luzerne County Community College began in 1967 in apgm_sm classroom at the University of Iowa in Iowa City. I was listening to a lecture, and I thought to myself some pictures, film or sound would greatly enhance what the teacher was trying to convey.

A few weeks later I was overwhelmed by the powerful message of gratitude in Lulu’s classic song and Sidney Portier’s magnificent performance of Mark Thackeray in To Sir With Love. That movie and its title song forever changed the way I looked at teachers and teaching. It gave me a model, it provided a method, and it reminded me that at the core of every effective teacher is the ability to awaken in the student a love of learning by treating students like adults.

As with everything in life, the film was not without its critics. Some dismissed it as sentimental non-realism.


I embraced the film. For me, Mark Thackeray gave me a roadmap to follow. He was idealistic, demanding, honest and always prepared. He cared about his students. The most important lesson he taught by his example. Respect must be earned with discipline, hard work and gratitude. He refused to accept marginal work and boorish behavior. No one was entitled to anything. Everyone was challenged and encouraged to be the best that they could be.

To enrich the learning experience, Thackeray took his students outside the classroom. Those scenes gave this 25-year old teacher an example of experiential learning at its best.

Over the years I embraced and refined the principles of experiential learning. Whenever I could, I took my students outside the classroom to experience things in real time. The night before I left Iowa to accept a teaching position in my home town, several students who had participated in those trips, pasted a huge crepe paper heart on my apartment door. The inscription read: “To Sir with Love.”

Fast forward 46 years. Kitch and I are making our way to theT Leary_sm conference center auditorium at the school affectionately known as “LCC.” The first person I met after we entered the building was a distinguished looking man in a dark suit. When our eyes met, a smile filled his face, and then, as I recall the moment, he spoke these words. “Hello Dr. Mussari, I am Tom Leary. You taught me history in 1972. I loved that class. It made me want to become a teacher.”

Tom Leary is the President of Luzerne County Community College.

During his welcoming remarks, Dr. Leary made reference to his days in my classroom.

For an old teacher, it doesn’t get any better than that.

During the events that followed, Kitch and I were treated to a cornucopia of historical treasures.

Dr. Randall Miller, a Civil War and Lincoln scholar, got the attention of everyone in the room with a keynote address that was practically perfect in every way. His remarks were rooted in hours of productive research. His comments were perfectly written, and he emphasized the importance of the human dimension in our national story. His portrayal of President Lincoln was thoughtful, realistic and compelling. He neither deified nor demonized this man who literally saved our union. He revealed his artful political astuteness and his caring, compassionate leadership.


Dr. Bill Kashatus, the person who organized the conference, provided the audience with many insights into Luzerne County and the northern coalfield during the Civil war. He highlighted the importance of coal and iron in the Northern war effort, and he did not shy away from a discussion of the many disturbances that took place when a mandatory draft was established to bolster the Union Army and suppress the Southern rebellion.

Mark Kahn a Civil War re-enactor, dressed in his Northern uniform and surrounded with artifacts of the war, painted a picture of what it was like to be a member of the 143rd Pennsylvania Regiment. Kahn enthusiastically described conditions on the battlefield. He alsomkahn2_sm described the long hours of preparation and the many ways both positive and negative soldiers passed time while they were in camp.

Martha Pezzino walked to the podium at 1:30 p.m. to tell the story of women in the Civil War. Martha teaches history at Luzerne County Community College. Several of her students were in the audience during her presentation. Her PowerPoint presentation provided a collage of images of women in the Civil War, and her narrative contained rich stories of pathfinders who paved the way for full citizenship and equality for women.

Later in the afternoon Jeff Schultz and Clark Switzer shared valuable insights about making history come alive for students.

NP article

Schultz teaches history at LCC. His presentation could have been titled “How to Reach Students between the Ages of 18 and 80.” To do this effectively he uses newspapers, photos, graphic novels, animated battle websites, slang, music, reenactments and maps.

Clark Switzer teaches history at Wyoming Seminary. He tries to reach the hearts and souls of his middle school students in similarHollenback Cemetery Wilkes Barre, PA ways. He believes that history is never black or white. For him it’s all about one question, “What actually happened?” To answer this question, he uses resources like artifacts, cemeteries, living historians and movies. He incorporates stories about the role Luzerne County citizens played in the Civil War, and he asks his students to answer questions about that time and place. For example, what would they do if they were faced with what their ancestors faced during the Civil War?

Our contribution to the conference was a screening of Walking into the Light at Gettysburg. The film is a story about the transformational power of an experiential learning trip to Gettysburg. It was our small contribution to Bill Kashatus’s big event.

October 11, 2013, was a day of community, a day of understanding, a day of hope and a day of good storytelling.

Thank you, Luzerne County Community College for hosting the event.

Thank you, Luzerne County Historical Society for co-sponsoring the conference.

Thank you, Bill Kashatus for making it happen.

The conference did not give us a program for the future, but it did give us a fuller understanding of ourselves, and of our common humanity, so that we can better face the future.

Please provide feedback to:

Sometimes Opportunity Is Only A Friend Away

Sunday, October 14th, 2012

Sometimes Opportunity Is Only A Friend Away
Written by Tony Mussari
Edited by Kitch Loftus-Mussari
Copyright 2012
Mussari-Loftus Associates
All Rights Reserved
The Face of America Project

"Fellow-Citizens, we cannot escape history." Abraham Lincoln

Reliving October 28, 1960

Bill Kashatus is a teacher, a writer and a friend.

He loves history, and he shares that love with everyone he meets.

He works diligently to organize an annual conference that helps students, teachers and guests better understand the history of our area. This year the conference focused on presidential campaigns. It was cosponsored by the Luzerne County Historical Society and Luzerne County Community College.

Dr. Thomas Baldino, professor of Political Science at Wilkes University, presented an interesting paper on the evolution of voting patterns in Northeastern PA. He identified six key or transitional presidential elections and he carefully explained how the political complexion of our section of the Commonwealth has changed over the years.

Tony Brooks, the Executive Director of the Luzerne County Historical Society, took his listeners on a journey from the very first presidential election to the 2008 election. Using a well-organized PowerPoint Presentation, he brought the candidates and the election results to life.

Dr. Kashatus opened the afternoon session with an informative and thoughtful analysis of President Theodore Roosevelt and his many trips to our little corner of the world.

One of his slides caught my attention. It was designed to explain “TR’s” thoughts on religion. It read:

“To do justly, to show mercy, and to walk humbly before the Lord thy God.”

After I read the slide, I thought to myself, in 14 words, President Roosevelt said it all.

My moment came at 2 p.m., when I was given an opportunity to discuss our documentary JFK: One Day in October. Kitch and I produced this documentary without a budget in 2003 as a special edition of our What Is America? series. It was our attempt to explain the way JFK’s visit to Wilkes-Barre and Scranton on October 28, 1960, impacted 18-year-old kids like me. To be very honest, it was one of the more difficult assignments of my life, because that visit had a profound impact on my life.

Whatever anyone might think of John of Kennedy and his Presidency, one thing is certain, it made young people believe that a life in public service could be a life well spent. He made many World War II babies believe that we could make a difference, and he presented a face of America to the world that was admired around the world.

Throughout the presentation, I was thinking about my son who is in a very difficult place at the moment. I was thinking about my parents and the sacrifices they made for their children so we could have a better life. In return we felt an obligation to honor their sacrifices by making something of ourselves.

I was thinking about one of my classmates, Pat Mulloy, who became the Assistant Secretary of Commerce of the United States, and a well respected member of the Foreign Service. He is one of the 16 people who was featured in our documentary.

I was thinking about the accomplishments and the distinguished service of my high school debate partner Peter Smith, a hometown boy, who 52 years after Kennedy’s visit is a US attorney determined to root out corruption wherever he finds it in Northeastern Pennsylvania.

In my opinion, the first steps toward the noble accomplishments of Pat Mulloy and Pete Smith were taken that autumn afternoon on Public Square in Wilkes-Barre, PA, eight days before John F. Kennedy was elected President of the United States, and 100 years after his predecessor, Abraham Lincoln, won the presidency.

During the session, my eyes were drawn to a diminutive woman dressed in traditional Muslim attire. I invited her and her friend to stay for the session so I could introduce them to JFK the candidate, JFK the motivator, JFK the inspiration for thousands of young people who spent a lifetime “waiting for the snow” just like Thomas Scanlon who was one of the first young Americans to serve overseas in President Kennedys’ Peace Corps.

Tom Scanlon was a Peace Corps volunteer in Chile from 1961 to 1963. He coined the phrase waiting for the snow to describe his willingness to endure hardship to serve people in need.  

While speaking to a group of Peace Corps recruits, President Kennedy complimented Tom Scanlon, and he shared his story and his phase “waiting for the snow” to encourage Pease Corps volunteers to go out of their way to help people in need.

Tom Scanlon was director of the Public Welfare Fund for 34 years. During his tenure, its assets rose from $20 million to over $600 million.

He founded Benchmarks a unique consulting company dedicated to serving countries with innovative social development programs.

In 1996, Mr. Scanlon published a book entitled Waiting For The Snow.

Tom Scanlon’s hometown, Scranton, PA, was the final stop during JFK’s October 28, Visit. Without question, Tom Scanlon’s life reflects the light of an extraordinary Face of America on its very best day.

Before the conference ended, the students I asked to stay told me they were glad they did. They liked the message and the challenge of JFK.

At this conference, I saw past, present and future faces of America at its best. I experienced America thinking, learning, sharing, growing and coming together in community.

The teachers were filled with a wonderful spirit of giving. The students were interested, impressive and very interesting. They wanted to better understand what presidential politics is all about. More important was their desire to figure out what their role was in this vital process.

In a moment of absolute brilliance, one of the students, Michael Feeney, responded to a question from a speaker with these words:

“I don’t think I can give you an answer. I am just learning and forming my opinion.”

I saw the qualities of a teacher written all over Michael’s heart and soul, and when I got the opportunity, I was quick to tell him to consider teaching as a career.

Bill Kashatus and Tony Brooks are doing their best to preserve our history. They know that Abraham Lincoln was right, “We can’t escape history.”

In my opinion, Bill Kashatus and Tony brooks are examples of America at its best.

Please provide feedback to: