Founder’s Day, a day to honor the legacy of Isaiah V. Williamson and celebrate what would have been his 220th birthday, featured a keynote address by trustee James Obermeier, the bestowing of the board of trustee’s C.W. Schrenk 4W9 Young Alumnus Award and the Isaiah V. Williamson Award, and the Sons of the American Revolution’s William J. Yearsley 4W1 Award.
Obermeier, speaking to the senior class in the Clara Schrenk Memorial Chapel on Feb. 9th, said “I want to tell you what I have learned about all of you. I know many Williamson graduates and there is one thing present in everyone. You all have integrity.
“You had integrity before you came here, but your 1,000-day journey has helped nurture and grow it, and make it a part of your very own fiber. Integrity is what is going to see you through the challenges of your life, the really difficult challenges. I know each of you is always going to do the right thing even when no one is looking. You guys are going to make the world a much greater place, I know it.”
Obermeier began his talk addressing the freshmen by saying, “Like you guys, I had my first day at Williamson. I toured the campus and felt the positive energy and enthusiasm of the place. A few days later, William Bonenberger, the board chairman, asked me to join the board. I had never served on a board and I felt a certain sense of trepidation, anxiety, apprehension, and fear. I joined the board and went to my first meeting, and then more meetings, and I joined a few committees. I suddenly realized, ‘Maybe I do belong here.’ I was believing in my faith in God and my faith in myself.
“I’m sure each of you had that moment when you decided to come to Williamson and had your first day and felt trepidation and anxiety and wondered if you belong here. You probably leaned into your faith in God and yourself.
“What I learned in my five years as a trustee is that with each day and meeting I had and each effort I put into the school, I was a little more comfortable. My trepidation, anxiety, and fear started to melt away and was replaced by confidence. I was confident that I belong here. I know if you guys keep your faith in yourself and God that every day you are here you are going to get a little bit stronger and more confident and feel like you belong here.”
He then addressed the juniors, saying the school teaches its students to be tradesmen, but that the most important thing taught is to be respected and productive member of society.
“You learn that here and that’s what makes this place so special. That’s what makes you special. I learned that there is one thread that runs through the entire organization and that is diligence. Everyone who works here is diligent to the mission of creating leaders and productive members of our society. That’s what they get up for every morning to do for you.
“I believe that each of you has that same mission. Each of you diligently attends to your academics and responsibilities. You guys stand tall. You don’t make excuses. You diligently work at your efforts. What I find most impressive is this ‘leave no man behind’ mentality. Please don’t ever lose sight of that diligence or of this school.”
In his introduction of Obermeier President Michael Rounds said, “Since joining our board in 2017, James Obermeier has been an amazing asset. He brings a passion for our mission and limitless energy and enthusiasm in addition to over 40 years of experience in the construction field.”
As a trustee, he serves as chair of the Facilities Committee, vice chair of the Education/Student Affairs Committee, and as a member of the Executive/Finance Committee.
He is president and CEO of CYMA Builders and Construction Managers, of Blue Bell, Pa. Coming from a long line of family builders, he has had a passion for the construction industry most of his life. He began working with his father at the age of 13 and gained his father’s high standards.
He began his career at Bala Consulting Engineers as an on-site project manager and owner’s representative and then became a project manager at Willard Mechanical. He then became an assistant project manager at W. H. Myers Construction and a senior project manager at P. Agnes Construction Managers.
In 1999, he began his time with CYMA Builders and Construction Managers as executive vice president and director of construction operations. In 2006, he became a senior partner and soon after acquired the company.
He studied construction management at Spring Garden College and is a Philadelphia master plumber and has a contractor’s license in California, Texas, Alabama, and Virginia.
At the conclusion of his talk, President Michael Rounds presented Obermeier with the cube award, a metal cube manufactured by Williamson machining students.
In his opening remarks, Rounds said “Founder’s Week is a special week. We honored Isaiah Williamson at his tomb and had a different chapel speaker each day speaking on our core values. This is a time to celebrate what Mr. Williamson did for all of us. His legacy is generosity. Thousands of ‘Williamson Men,’ including those sitting here today, have benefited from his generosity and have left Williamson to make the world a better place. We gather tonight to say ‘thank you’ and remember him.”
In her welcoming remarks, Dr. Michelle Williams, vice president of academic affairs and CAO, said “I am honored to be part of this phenomenal community and to stand before you as we celebrate the life and the legacy of our great founder Mr. Isaiah Williamson who operated in diligence, excellence, and in service and who had faith and integrity to envision an institution that would support the development, growth, and success of young men. This institution has been honoring the intentions and vision of Mr. Williamson by ensuring that all of our students have the opportunity to learn, to grow, and to be successful.”
Next came the presentation of the Sons of the American Revolution’s (SAR) William J. Yearsley 4W1 Award by Bill Baker, president of the SAR’s Philadelphia-Continental Chapter, to Alex Whiteman, a power plant technology junior. With Baker were Steve Kopsick, first vice president, and Frank O’Donnell, president emeritus.
Whiteman is his class’ vice president, is a Student Ambassador, is on the Safety Committee, and recently founded the Fire Fighting Club. He is a member of the Twin Valley Fire Department and the Middletown Fire Co. He has a GPA of 4.0.
In his student tribute, senior class president Jason Minch, said “Mr. Williamson’s vision was not only to build strong people for the trades, but also to build young men of character so they can be successful in their field and life. We thank Mr. Williamson for giving us the opportunity to become Williamson Men.”
In his alumni tribute, Chris Moran 9W9, president of the Williamson Association of Alumni (WAA), said “Williamson is a special and unique place. It’s one of a kind. For over 134 years, with the core values, Williamson has been preparing young men to lead successful careers and to be active and engaged in their community, all while stressing the importance of helping one another. We are all part of the Williamson team and for that we have Isaiah Williamson to thank.”
Moran then explained what the newly formed WAA is all about. “Our mission is to advance the mission of the college and enrich the lives of the students and fellow alumni. As a student, the relations we form are timeless. As alumni, the relations continue to grow. The WAA is a tool that every student should have in his tool box. There is an external network of alumni who thrive on mentoring and building relationships with students. After you graduate, we welcome and encourage you to participate with the WAA and continue to give back the gift of Williamson that so many of us have received.”
William Bonenberger 7W9, board chairman, presented the Clarence Schrenk 4W9 Young Alumnus Award to Ronald Vann 1W7. Vann, an assistant superintendent at CBG Building Co. and, at Williamson, a founding member of the Young Alumni Advisory Council, which is under the leadership of the WAA, and an alumni mentor, said he enjoys giving back to the school for what it has done for him and believes that if the programs to help students that have been instilled since he graduated had been here when he was a student, some of the students who didn’t make it to graduation would have.
“I often speak with students to, hopefully, make their time here a little more enjoyable. I do enjoy helping all of you.”
Bonenberger then presented the Isaiah V. Williamson Award to Thomas Wisneski, assistant pastor at Faith Reformed Baptist Church in Media, Pa. Earlier, he served at Williamson from 1990 to 2022, beginning as instructor of communications, then serving as vice president of education and chief academic officer, and, from 2015 to 2020, as vice president of research and assessment.
Wisneski said, “As you drive off after such a long career, you can’t help but wonder, ‘Was it worth it?, Did anyone even notice that I made a difference? Thank you for this honor. It is truly humbling. I came to Williamson to educate, little did I realize how much Williamson would educate me. The school taught me a huge lesson in diligence and perseverance. The one lesson the school taught me the most is the value of looking outside yourself to care for others. The relationships you make, you value the most.”
Mark Specht 7W7, chaplain, opened the program with the invocation and closed it with the benediction. The Artisans, led by Sherre Gaerter, led the singing of the alma mater. The evening began with dinner in the dining room.