ed jeanne donlevy arnoldAfter 30 years, a distance learner comes home

Story by Joanne Bean, Vice President & Chief Advancement Officer

By any measure, Jeanne Arnold ’83 is a fabulous Saint Joseph’s success story. She was one of our early distance education pioneers, and has gone on to use her degree to advance patient care throughout the course of her career in healthcare administration. She is a noted philanthropist and continues to engage in cutting-edge health initiatives. Yet, like too many of our distance-learning graduates, her connection to campus was, well, distant. All that changed in spring 2015, when Jeanne came across Saint Joseph’s College Magazineand was inspired to put a check in the mail. When I called to thank her for her generous donation, a relationship blossomed. During a recent conversation with Jeanne, I asked her to share how she found her way back to Saint Joseph’s College all these years later.

“It transformed my career.”

Jeanne (Donlevy) Arnold doesn’t remember how she first heard about the Saint Joseph’s distance baccalaureate program for nurses. But she does remember thinking, “This could benefit my career path—an advanced degree on a schedule that works for me.”

As the newly appointed assistant director of nursing at the former St. Joseph’s Hospital in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, Jeanne had come a long way with the RN diploma she received from Rhode Island Hospital School of Nursing. But it was clear that nurses would soon need their bachelor’s degrees to remain competitive. “I had proven myself to be a good administrator and a leader,” she says. “They valued my clinical experience… But, you never know.”

Jeanne wanted to be sure that her lack of a degree wouldn’t be a barrier. However, as she reminded me, there weren’t many options available to single, working moms back in those days.

Fortunately, Saint Joseph’s had recently begun offering a BS in Professional Arts through distance education. It was tailor-made for nurses like Jeanne: “Saint Joseph’s counted a good chunk of my RN diploma credits toward my degree so I could earn my BS in just two years. Plus, I was able to continue working full time at the hospital.”

To speed her progress, she attended two summer sessions on campus. “It was beautiful being on Sebago Lake in Maine, although mostly I spent my time studying,” she recalls. In 1983, she achieved her goal, earning a BS in Professional Arts with a major in healthcare administration.

“The degree transformed my career,” says Jeanne, who was then able to advance steadily in her field. She held a number of senior administrative positions, culminating with her role as vice president of patient care at the Good Samaritan Hospital in Lebanon. It was there that Jeanne met her husband, Edward H. Arnold, chairman of the hospital board, and CEO of New Penn Trucking, Arnold Industries, and Arnold Logistics.

While very proud of her degree and her alma mater, Jeanne Arnold didn’t return to campus for 30 years.

Reconnecting in 2015

When I first called Jeanne Arnold last year, I discovered how much good she has done—and is doing—in the world. Now retired, she and her husband, Ed, are both dedicated philanthropists and community volunteers, active with Penn State University and the Hershey Children’s Hospital, Lebanon Valley College, Lebanon Valley Family YMCA, the Boy Scouts of America (BSA), and many other organizations.

“I support what touches my heart, but I’m not a person who just gives money to an organization,” says Jeanne. “I like to get involved, to know what’s going on.”

Jeanne and Ed have a particular soft spot for the Boy Scouts and have been major supporters of The Summit National Scout Reserve in Bechtel, West Virginia.

“I was very honored when Dr. Robert Gates, president of the Boy Scouts of America, invited me to serve on the BSA board,” says Jeanne. Recently, she was asked to lead a BSA task force on the prevention of childhood obesity. The only woman on the national board, Jeanne is now drawing on her nursing background to tackle one of the leading health crises facing our country today.

Finding A Common Cause

As Jeanne and I talked, we discovered many shared interests. Through my prior experience with the American Diabetes Association, I was able to introduce her to Dr. Christina Economos, director of ChildObesity180 at the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts. Dr. Economos would become an invaluable asset to Jeanne’s obesity prevention initiative with the Boy Scouts.

Jeanne also invited me to join the obesity prevention task force, and in turn, I invited her to visit us on campus. Jeanne was interested in the direction her alma mater was taking in the 21st century, especially in the area of healthcare education.

Jeanne and Ed Arnold visited us in December. They were welcomed at a reception hosted by Lynne Robinson, dean of admissions, and her husband Larry, both members of the President’s Society. Later, the group gathered for dinner in Portland, where they were joined by trustee Carol Seavor and her husband, Peter. During their visit, Jeanne and Ed toured the campus, met with the leadership team, reviewed our strategic plan, and spent time with the nursing faculty.

“I am excited about the initiatives that are being taken for the future growth and sustainability of Saint Joseph’s,” Jeanne says, reflecting on that visit. “I continue to be so grateful to this wonderful institution.

Jeanne subsequently made a significant gift toward the purchase of a high-performance spectrometer, a critical laboratory tool for nursing and science majors. With great excitement and enormous gratitude, we installed Jeanne’s gift on Friday, March 4.

As we re-engage with Jeanne Arnold after all these years, I am hopeful that she can help us build relationships with other distance education alumni who are out there doing great things. In the age of online learning, our aim is to create a tight-knit community that brings our virtual Saint Joseph’s family closer to home.