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Artist distressed by Cal U's offer for windows

| Saturday, Jan. 26, 2013, 12:02 a.m.
Leslie Parkinson of California, a retired art professor at California University of Pennsylvania, says she was left ply in debt because the university has paid her only $10,000 of the $160,000 former President Angelo Armenti Jr. promised her to develop eight stained glass windows. Brian F. Henry | Tribune-Review

A retired art professor who was commissioned to make eight stained glass windows for California University of Pennsylvania said she was disappointed to learn on Friday that the school doesn't want the four unfinished panels.

Dr. Leslie Parkinson was offered $17,000 each — less than the initial $20,000 offered — for the four windows that are finished, she said after a meeting with Robert Thorn, vice president for Administration and Finance. The university does not want the four that are incomplete, she said.

“I never expected it to take this kind of a turn,” she said. “(Thorn) just came out and said, ‘We don't want the other four.' I'm really hurt by it.”

Thorn did not return a call for comment.

Parkinson, 73, said she tears up when she thinks about the years she has spent cutting, grinding and assembling pieces for the intricate windows. She considers them a way to leave her mark on the Washington County campus where she taught for nearly three decades, she said.

The $160,000 handshake deal for eight windows each fell apart when former President Angelo Armenti Jr. was fired in May.

Thorn did not indicate whether the four completed windows, which Parkinson is storing in her house, would be displayed, Parkinson said.

“There goes what I was thinking would be my legacy to the university,” Parkinson said.

Parkinson has said she is in debt because the university has paid her just $10,000 of the $160,000 Armenti promised. She said she incurred the debt buying the glass and other materials for the 9-foot-high windows that were to be hung in Cal U's administration building.“I was so proud,” Parkinson said. “And for them to consider them nothing ... it's like I didn't count for anything.”

Parkinson said she will take time to consider the offer. Her other options are to sell the windows or keep them for her home, she said.

University spokeswoman Christine Kindl previously told the Tribune-Review that Armenti “acted wholly without authority and without funding” in commissioning the windows.

“The university has made a good-faith offer to Ms. Parkinson for the work she has completed. We are still hoping to reach an agreement,” Kindl said in an email.

She declined further comment on the offer, calling it a “legal matter.”

Last week, Armenti defended his original agreement with Parkinson. He told the Tribune-Review that Cal U's official mission statement and Act 188, a law governing how the 14 commonwealth-run universities function, gave him the authority to commission the windows.

Through his attorney, Steve Toprani, Armenti declined to comment on the offer made to Parkinson.

Amanda Dolasinski is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-836-6220 or adolasinski@tribweb.com.

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