Keuka College Establishes the Wertman Office of Digital Education

The name change reflects the evolution of higher education and the initiatives of the College. 

Saturday, January 23, 2016

In 2008, Donald and Christine Wertman established the Wertman Office of Distance Education (WODE) to help Keuka College make its mark online. Initially, it geared its distance education offerings toward students who needed to add elective credits pursuing bachelor’s degrees through the College’s Center for Professional Studies (CPS) and Accelerated Studies for Adults Program (ASAP).

Since then, students taking classes in social work, nursing, criminal justice systems, and organizational management have benefitted from the Wertmans’ generosity. In a 2008 Keuka Collegemagazine article, Don said he and Chris “examined a number of new initiatives, and elected to support the creation of an Office of Distance Education.”

And now the Wertmans have again examined a new initiative, and at an Oct. 15 ceremony, the Wertman Office of Distance Education was renamed the Wertman Office of Digital Education.

“The name change reflects the evolution of higher education and the initiatives of Keuka College,” said Dr. Tim Sellers, associate provost for academic innovation. “WODE will lead the way in digital education across the instruction spectrum, from face-to-face classroom educational technology to online distance education.”

The once traditional boundaries of classroom and online learning are eroding in higher education, added Dr. Sellers, which means that how students learn and collaborate is changing.

“Digital technologies have become the interface between students and their academic content and skills,” said Dr. Sellers. “The new WODE positions itself to not only meet, but be a leader in, advancing these digital academic initiatives. WODE will continue to serve the distance education needs of CPS programs while also providing expertise in technology-based classroom and hybrid pedagogy.”

The WODE staff will work in conjunction with faculty across the College, including Digital Learning experts and information technology professionals to ensure technology is advancing learning and student success.

Over the past decade, the Wertmans have contributed frequently to Keuka College students’ well being, including supporting the Keuka Fund, the Katharine F. Wilhelm Scholarship, the Campaign to Save Ball Hall, the renovation of the College’s Phillips Lounge in the Dahlstrom Student Center, and the Adopt-A-Student campaign. They have also commissioned several sculptures created by Professor Emeritus Dexter Benedict.

“None of these could have been completed without their dedication to our institution,” said Keuka College President Jorge L. Díaz-Herrera.

And the Wertmans’ dedication to Keuka College continues with not only the new WODE, but with a gift to help establish the Keuka College Center for Business Analytics & Health Informatics, which will be housed in the new Keuka Commons building.

“The new department and degree program will keep students one step ahead of the ever-changing world of information and technology while simultaneously creating jobs and preparing future students for a world that needs savvy information users,” said Dr. Díaz-Herrera. “Don and Chris hope that their gift will inspire others to evaluate how they might share their resources in support of our Long Range Strategic Plan, and have an impact that will reach far beyond campus borders.”

And Chris and Don—who formerly served as the vice chair of the College’s Board of Trustees—have a long history of philanthropy with Keuka College. The former COO of Seedway LLC, Don is member of the Finger Lakes Health (FLH) Board of Directors, while Chris currently teaches in the Waterloo Central School District.

And the passion and altruism the Wertmans have is not limited to Keuka College, as is reflected in their extensive philanthropic endeavors and generous financial support of Finger Lakes Health, the American Cancer Society, the Bach Choir, the Smithsonian, Geneva Concerts Inc., and Sisters of Saint Joseph.