It’s a sunny spring day as Dr. Nicholas Neupauer ’89 Com gives a tour of Butler County Community College (BC3) and points out campus improvements that have occurred in recent years.
To one side is the new Student Success Center that houses the campus admissions office, a learning center, the campus newspaper room and the bookstore. Beside it are the buildings where all of those offices were previously located. They are now being renovated into more classroom space for the expanding student body.
Neupauer is proud of BC3. He should be; he’s been president there since 2007, and he’s overseen multiple campus improvements such as the new Student Success Center and a campus-wide beautification and safety project.
But ask Neupauer where his heart is, and he’ll tell you: Penn State Beaver.
“I mention (Penn State Beaver) at any opportunity I get,” he said.
“For me it was important that I got my feet on the ground academically, and Penn State Beaver did that for me,” he said.
Neupauer was a first-generation college student. Many of the men in his family before him, including his father and grandfather, had worked in the mills.
“Although my parents wanted to help as much as possible, and actually did financially even though my dad was laid off, they didn’t necessarily know what advice to offer,” he said.
After graduating from Lincoln High School in Ellwood City in 1985, Neupauer picked Penn State for a simple reason: football.
“Forever I wanted to graduate from Penn State, probably because mostly I was a Penn State football fan,” he said.
Neupauer cited multiple faculty members at Penn State Beaver, including the late Harvey Kelly, a theater professor, and Director of Academic Affairs Dr. Donna Kuga ’78 H&HD, then a kinesiology professor on campus, as major influences on his life.
“I remember him being very driven when he first started college,” Ed Matuga ’89 Com said. The two met while they were freshmen at Penn State Beaver and later became roommates.
After his two years at Penn State Beaver, Neupauer moved to University Park to complete his undergraduate degree in print journalism with a minor in English. When he graduated in 1989, he moved back to Beaver County and became a sports writer for The Beaver County Times, where he had been a correspondent during his years at Penn State Beaver.
“I wanted to go to Penn State University and I wanted to be a sports writer, and I did that,” he said.
After the Beaver County Times, Neupauer worked for the New Castle News for about a year. It was while working there that he had the opportunity to interview Joe Paterno, head coach of the Penn State football team.
“It was an honor to interview Joe — a guy I admired growing up as a Penn State football fan,” he said.
Neupauer quickly pulled out a picture from the interview that showed him as a young, mulleted reporter and JoPa looking the same as ever.
In 1991, Neupauer embarked on a career change by enrolling in Clarion University’s graduate program. He majored in communications with a focus in training and development and worked as the campus’s assistant sports information director.
After graduation he looked for a job in sports public relations, but he also applied for one doctoral program.
His career path was determined by one phone call and a pact with his future wife. Their agreement was simple: He would choose the career path that called first.
“It was a Monday and at about noon I received a call from West Virginia University accepting me to a Ph.D. program,” Neupauer said. “Fifteen minutes later, I received a call from Northeastern Illinois University to get a job as their sports information director.”
If the phone calls had been reversed, Neupauer said, it would have “absolutely altered the course of my life.”
When he was applying for the WVU program, Neupauer turned to an old professor for help.
“Harvey (Kelly) played a major role in helping get me into my Ph.D. program,” he said.
While at WVU, Neupauer earned a doctorate in education in communication and instruction and won two teaching awards, Outstanding Graduate Teaching Assistant and Outstanding Professor.
From there, Neupauer began a career in the academic world. He was a visiting professor at Bethany College in West Virginia before working at Marist College in New York. During his time at Marist, Neupauer helped to create a sports communications degree and became chair of the communications department. He also received the award for School of Com¬munication Faculty of the Year twice and was honored for his efforts for students with disabilities.
“I had a chance to come back to Penn State Beaver in 1998 as an assistant professor (of communications). However, I was promoted to chair of the Communication Department at Marist College at the same time. This introduced me to higher education administration. Therefore, I stayed at Marist,” Neupauer said.
“Although it was tough to pass on coming back to Penn State Beaver, it was the right decision and ultimately set the path toward being a college president.”
“I was pleased he was interested in a faculty position (at Penn State Beaver),” Kuga said. “He was involved here as a student, and he took that level of excellence into the classroom.”
Neupauer decided to return to the area a year later as dean for humanities and social sciences at BC3. His father was in bad health, and Neupauer wanted to be closer to him. He stayed in that position until 2004, when he became vice president for academic affairs. In 2007, Neupauer became the youngest president of BC3 and the first internal hire for the position.
“He is very supportive of us as faculty,” said Susan Seibel, an adjunct faculty member and adviser of the campus newspaper. He “always finds time to give a quote” to the student reporters.
Since moving to the Butler area with his wife, Tamatha, and their two daughters, Paige and Meredith, Neupauer has become an active member in his community. He writes occasional opinion pieces for the Butler Eagle and once a month participates in a morning radio show.
But it’s BC3 that claims most of his time, and this spring day some of that time is spent in the classroom.
Although he has been president of the campus for the past three years, Neupauer has continued teaching an introduction to public relations class every spring.
“That’s absolutely my favorite part of the day,” he said.
His students, staff and faculty speak highly of him. “You definitely can tell he is driven,” said Tiffany Day, one of his students. “He said most of it came from his background growing up.”
“He is the best (professor) I’ve had,” said BC3 student Larry Sniezek.
Despite his pride in BC3, Neupauer is still drawn to Penn State Beaver and credits it as a big part of his success.
“I really caught the (academic) bug at Penn State Beaver.”
Originally written by Dana Sklack for the Penn State Beaver Nittany News alumni magazine, Spring 2010
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