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'No better story:' Former state senator starts his role as new LCCC president

John Yudichak became president of Luzerne County Community College this week.
Sarah Hofius Hall
John Yudichak became president of Luzerne County Community College this week.

Hurricane Agnes forced John Yudichak’s family to move to the hills of Plymouth Township in 1972.

From his home, the young boy could look across the Susquehanna River and watch as the new campus of Luzerne County Community College began to change the landscape.

Fifty years later, the son and grandson of United Mine Workers is the president of the college he watched grow as a little boy, and then supported while representing the region as a lawmaker in Harrisburg.

“So now, at 54, having an opportunity to contribute to the continued success, to continue to build on that success, is pretty special,” he said.

Yudichak, who spent 24 years in Harrisburg — 12 years as a state representative and 12 as a state senator — became Luzerne County Community College’s eighth president on Monday. He succeeds Thomas Leary, who retired after a 50-year career at the Nanticoke school.

The college’s board of trustees appointed Yudichak in the fall and approved his five-year contract in March, with a starting salary of $195,000 per year.

The Swoyersville resident served in the Senate until 2022, when redistricting moved the seat to the Lehigh Valley. He became a senior adviser to GSL Public Strategies Group, a government consulting and communications firm.

He has experience with both the region, and the office.

“I graduated from Nanticoke High School in 1988 on Kosciuszko Street as the president of the senior class, and here I am just a little further down the road on Kosciuszko Street as president of Luzerne County Community College, he said.

From his new office in the campus center – next to the bookstore and across from the dining hall to be “front and center” with campus life – Yudichak spoke about his goals for the school.

As a state legislator, he served on the board of governors for the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education and on the board of the Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency. He sees the struggles higher education faces nationally, statewide and locally — the planned closure of Clarks Summit University, partnership plan at Keystone College, employee buyouts at Penn State campuses and recent mergers of state universities.

Demographics also have changed on the LCCC campus in recent years. In the spring, about 4,400 students took credit-earning courses. Over the last 20 years, the school has averaged about 6,000 students per semester. About 10,000 students take credit and non-credit courses yearly, and a majority of those students are part-time. He wants the school to offer more training and certifications for the workforce and adult learners.

Funded through tuition, state and county money, the school’s $42.9 million budget is in a “healthy position.” Yudichak says the administration will address some structural issues moving forward. He also plans to advocate for continued financial support of the school.

With most students and graduates staying in the region, the school serves as a major economic driver and adapts to needs of the community, Yudichak said. He says it’s a wise use of taxpayer money.

“That return on the investment is an educated individual who contributes back to their communities by staying, living and working in those communities,” he said.

There's "no better story" in Northeastern Pennsylvania than the story of Luzerne County Community College, with more than half a century of serving students who then make a difference in their community, he said.

“That's a story I'm going to love telling every day, and so I'm absolutely honored to have taken over as president of Luzerne County Community College,” he said.

Sarah Hofius Hall worked at The Times-Tribune in Scranton since 2006. For nearly all of that time, Hall covered education, visiting the region's classrooms and reporting on issues important to students, teachers, families and taxpayers.

You can email Sarah at sarahhall@wvia.org
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