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Penn State Fayette mourns death of chancellor

Both Penn State Fayette, The Eberly Campus and the greater Fayette County community are mourning the unexpected death of the university chancellor.

Emmanuel I. Osagie, 58, died Tuesday afternoon from complications of an illness. He became chancellor of Penn State Fayette in February 2007.

Campus officials will schedule and announce a memorial service.

An announcement regarding campus leadership will be made in the near future.

A native of Nigeria, Osagie led the campus with energy and inspired the campus community with a vision that the Fayette campus would strive to become the region's premier student-centered university.

"Dr. Osagie was an enthusiastic and charismatic chancellor who brought enlightened leadership to Penn State Fayette," Penn State President Graham Spanier said. "The entire Penn State family mourns the loss of a very dedicated and dynamic champion."

In his three years at the helm, Osagie increased the programs at the campus and reached out to the greater community, both culturally and educationally.

Among Osagie's proudest achievements was the internationalization of the Fayette campus, including welcoming eight international students as part of the student body, the recently announced partnership with Saveetha University in India to help educate nursing students and the expansion of international travel opportunities for Fayette students.

He also was the driving force behind the recent addition of the physical therapist assistant associate degree program and the creation of a trading floor to provide an advanced learning environment for students.

During his time at Penn State Fayette, Osagie introduced a number of signature events to the campus, including the annual Coal and Coke Heritage Music Festival; the CEO Conversations speakers series; and the annual Blues and White Gala, which raises funds for student scholarships.

He also reached out to pre-college students with Science Forensics, a program to help underachieving eighth and ninth graders in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, as well as other academic initiatives.

John Romano, vice president for the Commonwealth Campuses, who oversees the Fayette campus along with 18 other Penn State campuses, praised Osagie as a "man of vision and passion."

"It is so very sad to lose a man like Dr. Osagie who led the Fayette campus for an all-too-brief period of time," Romano said. "His drive and his dedication to the Fayette campus were inspiring. He will be sadly missed by all of his Penn State colleagues."

Fayette campus leaders also praised Osagie for his dedication not only to the Fayette campus, but to the local community. He worked to partner with a number of areas to improve the economic viability of the entire region.

Susan Brimo-Cox, director of public relations, said, "He has, through a variety of initiatives, really vitalized this campus and the community. His vision will be missed."

Director of Academic Affairs Delia Conti, said, "Dr. Osagie was a remarkable leader for the campus. He led several initiatives, and he loved being chancellor, he truly loved the job. He loved the community and made many of his initiatives focused on Penn State Fayette's involvement with the community. He was deeply involved in every aspect of the campus."

Conti said the campus will continue in the direction Osagie led. "The campus leadership is dedicated to moving the campus forward and continuing his vision for the campus, community involvement and outreach, growth of programs and continuing his vision of a premier student-centered university vital to the Fayette community."

Students appreciated Osagie's commitment.

Osagie came to Penn State during the second semester of Alex Evans' freshman year. The Connellsville resident, who graduated in the spring of 2008 with a degree in liberal arts, remembered Osagie fondly. "I started in the fall of 2006. He came the next spring and seemed to have a hands-on approach with what he wanted to do. He hit the ground running. He wanted to remake the campus."

Evans recognized one of Osagie's goals. "He wanted to make Fayette more than a State College branch campus. I think he did so, through exposure and the quality of the academics. He seemed to genuinely care about the students. He was very involved and wanted to speak with the students directly."

Elizabeth Bartholow started at Penn State Fayette in the fall of 2006 and transferred to Penn State Altoona after two years, where she majors in communications and history.

"He had a lot of ideas and worked to bring new majors to the campus, to keep students there for four years," Bartholow said. "He wanted to make it feel less like a branch campus. He was always friendly."

Osagie was no less committed to the community beyond the campus.

Ron Sheba, education coordinator for the Fay-Penn Economic Development Council, said the community has suffered a great loss. "We really appreciated his science, technology, English and math initiative. Last year, we had the first countywide STEM conference, and will hold another one this year. He also created a summer youth program for borderline students to improve their scores.

"As always, it's always great to have a visible leader at Penn State who communicated with school superintendents. We thank him for his service," Sheba said.

Uniontown Area School District Superintendent Charles Machesky called Osagie's death, "very, very unfortunate to the educational community in southwestern Pennsylvania and beyond. Dr. Osagie came out and met to talk about his educational initiatives and asked, 'What can we do at Penn State Fayette to improve your schools?' I thought he was a good choice to lead the campus."

Osagie's wife, Pat, with considerable experience with schools in other states, worked with young teachers at Lafayette School.

When the state passed Project 720, to encourage high school students to take a college class a semester at a discount, "Penn State Fayette was so readily on it," Machesky said.

Machesky praised Osagie "for his commitment in coming to Fayette County and knowing no one outside the university and seeing that high schools and school districts could play a vital role in helping him expand programs at Penn State Fayette."

Osagie brought considerable experience to Penn State Fayette.

He worked in postsecondary education as a teacher, professor, director and administrator. He consistently was involved in local and community partnerships as a way of bridging the academic enterprise and the community.

He received his Ph.D. and master of science degrees in agricultural economics from Louisiana State University, and his bachelor of science degree from Southern University, graduating magna cum laude and as the "Most Outstanding Student Graduate." After graduation, he served as an assistant professor and later an associate professor in the Department of Economics at Southern University, Louisiana.

In 1996, Osagie was associate vice chancellor of the Office of Research and Strategic Initiatives at Southern University and A&M College. During this time, he founded and served as director of the Center for Economic Development. One of the highlights of the center was the preparation of an economic development plan for the tri-state delta community of Louisiana, Arkansas and Mississippi.

Osagie left Louisiana in 2000 to build and provide leadership to the research and faculty development enterprise at The College of New Jersey, first as director of sponsored research, and then as vice provost for research and faculty development. After serving as the vice provost and interim dean of The College of New Jersey's School of Business, he became full-time dean.

Osagie was a National Institute of Health Extramural Associate after a five-month residency training in research administration at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Md. He conducted regional grant-writing workshops for NASA, served as grants reviewer and taught fundamentals of research administration classes for the National Council of University Research Administrators. He published many articles and scholarly reports.

In addition to his wife, Osagie is survived by daughter Kim, son Kevin and other relatives.

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