On March 1st, LDG Project Manager and Landscape Architect Chris Keiser was honored as the 2018 Pennsylvania College of Technology Alumnus of the Year.
His comments at the event provide an illuminating glance into the professional that he is—hardworking, humorous, and always humble. Read them below.
First, I’d like to thank Dr. Gilmour and everyone at the College who had a part in this. I am truly humbled and honored. Thank you.
I think back nearly 25 years ago to an 18-year-old kid hitching a ride to the College’s Earth Science Center with my father. His commute started at 7:00 a.m., which meant my commute started at 7:00 even though class didn’t start until 8:00 or 9:00. The only thing I was sure of was that I was unsure. Not unsure of the present, but unsure of the future. I knew I was going someplace in life and I knew I needed Penn College to help me get there.
And that, to me, is what makes Penn College so special; it can be so many things to so many people. Whether it’s an Associate’s in Applied Science, a Bachelor’s Degree in Civil Engineering Technology, or simply taking courses for college credits and industry certificate programs, the College has an ability to help individuals get one step closer to their goals. Or, in my case, to help me identify what my goal was.
Early in the Spring semester of ’95, my professor, Rich Weilminster, mentioned two words that changed my life—landscape architect. I certainly had a passion for both, but I had never heard those two words mentioned together before. Now for those of you who know Rich, he’s a true plant nurseryman – a plant purist – so when he spoke about landscape architects, believe me, it was not out of fondness. Even still, the more he spoke about the profession, the more certain I was that it was my path to a career and not just a job.
After graduating in late 1995, I enrolled in the Landscape Architecture program at Temple University in Ambler, PA. I chose Temple-Ambler because it had much of the same feel as Penn College; it was a small campus with much more interaction between student and professor. Without my experience at Penn College I’m not sure I would have made that choice, or even known that it should be an important consideration in my choice.
Following school, internships, my first full-time work experience, and a baptism-by-fire with a south Philly contractor at the Merion Golf Club, I knew I was ready to move on. So, after a few hand-delivered resumes, it turned out to be a meeting at a Chamber PM Exchange between Keith Kuzio and a now senior VP of operations at Little League Baseball that helped make the connection. And in October of 2004 a new chapter of my career began at Larson Design Group.
That said, I would be remiss if I didn’t also take the time tonight to thank the Chamber. It certainly played a role in that meeting and helped me get to this spot this evening. Early in my start at LDG, I quickly noticed that nearly all of the managers and directors (a.k.a. “the moustaches”) in the office shared something similar. The class years varied, but they all had a Leadership Lycoming plaque on their wall.
After learning more about the program and the requirements to participate, I began to lobby for a spot. As with Penn College, I knew the program would be important in my professional development, but I wasn’t sure how. Completing the program in 2008 helped me to develop an even greater appreciation for Williamsport and Lycoming County and the businesses and people who keep it moving on daily basis—from education, to government, to the arts, you get an understanding of the impact each has on the region. At the completion of the program we were told that we would soon be courted by various groups seeking new board members.
Well, they were right. Some asked and I said yes, and some asked and I said no. But when I was approached by the Penn College Foundation Board in 2013, I was ready to say yes instantly. In my mind, it only seemed like a few years prior that I was at the Earth Science Center, hiking through feet of snow for one of Rich’s plant ID courses. And now I’m being asked to help with the College’s growth and development. It’s truly an honor.
Fast forward a few years to December 2015, when I was approached by Keith and asked to chair LDG’s next scholarship initiative. To help celebrate LDG’s 30th anniversary we wanted to add another endowed scholarship to the College in Ken Larson’s name. Ken realized the importance of the College and how the College could impact the growth and development of his vision – to grow an architecture-engineering firm in central PA and do it with local talent. By the spring of 2016, LDG staff contributed half of the required $25,000 to make it happen. I can honestly say that this was one of the most rewarding experiences for me to date; being able to contribute to the college that helped me build my own foundation with fellow employees who shared this value, and to do it for the individual whose goal it was to keep young people in the area, it was truly humbling.
Again, I am extremely honored by this and want to thank everyone at the College. It’s an honor to be recognized like this by one of the three education jewels we have in our city. Most cities our size would be fortunate to have one, and we have three. Thank you, again!