As industry changes and evolves to meet future needs, so does Johnson College. This year, northeastern Pennsylvania’s only two-year, hands-on, technical college will look to the future as our campus prepares for significant improvements that will change the landscape of North Scranton. The College is preparing to construct a new building to replace Richmond Hall. As our plans move forward it is important to recognize Richmond Hall’s significance in our history.
The William H. Richmond estate, which included a part of Richmond Hall, was donated more than 100 years ago to create Orlando S. Johnson’s dream of establishing and maintaining a trade school, where young people can be taught useful arts and trades that enable them to make an honorable living and become contributing members of society. While students and alumni didn’t spend as much time in Richmond Hall as they did within the walls of their academic program buildings, it was the first building they walked by or drove past when they arrived on campus. In turn, it became a symbol as the gateway to their future careers.
Since Richmond Hall was first utilized by staff and students in 1912, the mission of Johnson College has remained unwavering. We provide real-world hands-on learning in a caring environment that prepares graduates to enter into or advance their careers. We partner with industry to ensure that students get the education and skills needed for in-demand, essential careers.
At Johnson College, we play an important role in the higher education space, filling a critical niche with career-focused, technical education. We balance industry’s immediate need with where it’s headed. Students learn skills they can apply at their current job and at jobs that have yet to be created. The quality and type of education that Johnson College provides works, as evidenced by our graduate’s high placement rate and constant employer contact asking for more skilled graduates to fill their positions. At Johnson College, we are innovating to educate our students fast enough to meet employer demands, without ever sacrificing the quality of education for which we are known.
From our humble beginnings as a finishing institute offering only three courses of study, Johnson College has grown to become a two-year, accredited, non-profit college providing the best technicians and technologists to the region. Beyond academics, the College has been ranked number one for immediate return on a graduate’s investment for education among local institutions based on a 10-year return in a recent Georgetown University study; was ranked number 10 on Forbes’ Top 25 Two-Year Trade Schools in 2018; and our graduates earned pass rates above 94% on national level exams. Johnson College students are introduced to industry when they walk on campus for their first class or lab, and a majority of them start their career in their field before they walk across the stage at commencement.
As we continue to grow, our campus will change. Preparation for the new space that will replace Richmond Hall will begin soon and construction of the new building is scheduled to start later this year. To honor the original building’s legacy, parts of Richmond Hall will be repurposed throughout campus.
While the structure that is Richmond Hall will no longer stand, the symbol of Johnson College’s gateway to the future will remain. This new building will celebrate the intersection between higher education and industry; carry Orlando S. Johnson’s legacy forward; and be a space where prospective students will begin with the end in mind: their future career. It will offer classroom and lab spaces where students will get to see and use equipment they will utilize out in the workforce, meeting space that will be used by the college community and industry partners, and student-facing offices such as academics, enrollment, and financial aid. Employer and industry partners will be featured throughout.
Today, Johnson College is much different than it was in 1912. We stick to our roots, even as we evolve and grow. As President and CEO, I am extremely proud of our past, and I am excited that Johnson College graduates continue to be an essential asset to Northeastern Pennsylvania’s industries.
With so much uncertainty in the world, Johnson College remains a constant. We will always work to produce the skilled technicians needed for the workforce. Richmond Hall will be missed, but our commitment to our region remains strong. This is what will pave the way for the next 100 years, and beyond.
This is a guest op-ed written by Katie Leonard, Ed.D., President & CEO of Johnson College that was submitted to local newspapers the last week of January 2021.