Muhlenberg College Honors 2020 Retirees

Spanning many decades of combined service, the following Muhlenberg faculty and staff completed their service in 2020 and entered well-deserved retirement.

By: Megan Sciarrino  Thursday, January 14, 2021 11:24 AM

Flor Maria Buitrago joined the Department of Languages, Literatures and Cultures faculty in 2002, serving as a Lecturer in Spanish.

Professor Buitrago taught Spanish for institutions in Canada and Kansas prior to being called to the Lehigh Valley and finds it fitting to describe herself as a “true citizen of the world.”

In the 1990s, she became very involved in the Lehigh Valley Association of Independent Colleges (LVAIC), and through her consortium connections, Professor Buitrago taught at Lafayette College, Lehigh University and Moravian College before joining the faculty at Muhlenberg.

She remembers falling in love with Muhlenberg soon after she parked her car in the quad for her interview. A friendly student who helped her find Ettinger Hall, and went so far as to walk her to the office door, made a strong impression. Professor Buitrago knew immediately that Muhlenberg was a very special community. She considered every day on campus to be a beautiful gift, and truly enjoyed the dynamic energy of her peers.

She found it very rewarding to develop the Business Spanish course that involved bringing business majors and Spanish minors to the New York Stock Exchange and the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, noting it was an experience unlike any other.

As a past LVAIC coordinator of summer study abroad programs, Professor Buitrago has wanderlust in her blood. In retirement, she looks forward to visiting France, Italy and New Zealand with her husband, along with enjoying lots of time to read.

Mary Constant Byrne
joined the Biology Department in 1997, serving as a Lecturer in Biology.  

Residing in Allentown because of her husband’s position with AT&T Bell Laboratories, she taught part-time at the local community colleges while raising their young family. Later, an open search landed her at Muhlenberg, where she would spark new thinking about teaching and learning science.

Senior Associate Vice President of Development Deb Kipp interested her in outreach work with local schools and her inspiration for what that would look like was close to home, to say the least. When Byrne’s son shared that he was not having a positive experience with middle school science, she was moved to make changes for educators and their students.

Byrne spearheaded a number of initiatives focused on science knowledge and teaching techniques, from teacher workshops and trainings to acting as host and coordinator of the Governor's Academy For Urban Education. Her proudest moments involved her efforts supporting Allentown, Bethlehem and Easton School Districts.

She misses her own students very much, noting they were a special ground of kids and that she loves nothing more than receiving emails from them to say “Guess what I’m doing!”

With family in California and Ohio, Byrne looks forward to future visits and altogether spending more time with family and friends.

Karen Bydlon
joined the Trexler Library in 2011, serving as the Administrative Assistant.

Bydlon grew up in the Lehigh Valley and remembers driving down 24th Street and admiring the iconic tower of what is today Haas College Center, along with the beauty of Muhlenberg’s campus. After all those years, she was thrilled to experience it personally as a member of the College’s professional family.

Bydlon came to Muhlenberg from Lehigh Carbon Community College, where for a decade she helped administer the institution's teacher education program.

She immediately loved the energy on campus, noting it was an environment of welcome, compassion, celebration and genuine care for its students from day one.

Staff Development Day, Faculty/Staff Recognition Luncheon and the Holiday Gathering are among the events she enjoyed most, along with the friendly competition of the Walking Challenge, Trivia Nights, especially ones dressed in costume, and the opportunity to support multiple volunteer projects.

Muhlenberg’s first-ever alumni author reception at Trexler Library is among Bydlon’s proudest moments. It involved a great deal of planning, and was met with the support and collaboration of her director, who Bydlon says championed creativity and independent thinking.

Bydlon looks forward to an Alaskan adventure with her family sometime in the future. She has been getting outside for lots of bike rides and is trying to master something new: pickleball.

Barb Claypool
joined the Career Center in 2012, which later became part of the Office of Advancement, serving as the administrative assistant.

Claypool is an experienced higher education professional who’d grown accustomed to frequent moves for her husband’s career. So, when she landed in the Lehigh Valley, literally just three doors down from the President’s house, she was fated to become part of the Muhlenberg community. She started the very day after moving into her new home.

She loved the connectedness of her corner of campus. Being on the lower level of Seegers with the Academic Resource Center and the Office of Disability Services really created a communal feel and she was very fond of the students. From daily interactions and relieving finals-week stress with hugs to hiring and training student workers, Claypool’s reflections are rich with warmth. She celebrates lasting connections with these students and feels privileged to have seen them come into themselves and their careers.

One of her most gratifying experiences was being able to participate in alternative spring break trips that involved students in projects with Habitat for Humanity. She traveled with groups to Texas, Alabama and Florida.

A long-time piano teacher, Claypool continues to teach lessons three times a week to more than 20 students. She is looking forward to her husband retiring sooner than later, too, and is open to where their adventures will take them next, something she says learned through all their past moves.

Susan Clemens
joined the Department of History in 2000, serving first as a part-time Lecturer before going full time and later being promoted to Senior Lecturer.

Professor Clemens held a number of part-time appointments and admits that she readily realized that Muhlenberg was a very good fit for her. She was immediately struck by the institution’s exceptionally dedicated students, she felt surrounded by supportive peers and she felt valued for her contributions.

She describes Muhlenberg as a place of connection, community and commitment, where there is an abundance of good parts making up a very strong whole, and she says this is why it is incredibly challenging for her to focus on just one or two special memories.

In retirement, Professor Clemens plans to connect with her passion for writing. In particular, she wants to create a memoir for her children and grandchildren, so they have a historical past of her life to take forward in theirs.

Additionally, she is looking to bring closure to an oral histories collaboration with business professor Gail Eisenberg. Their project focuses on family-owned textile factories in the Lehigh Valley. To date, the marriage of their two different disciplines has collected 46 oral histories with 34 families.

Nancy Hirst
joined the Mailroom in 2002, serving as the Mail Clerk.

Following the shutdown of her family’s mill, based in Walnutport, Hirst was seeking employment, and a family friend helped connect her with the opportunity at Muhlenberg.

Hirst says the mailroom is where she met and made her lifelong girlfriends. From day one, the special women she felt privileged to call her coworkers took her under their wing, taught her the job and made her feel comfortable, including her supervisor at the time.

Hirst says her proudest moment is the day she helped her team beat the odds of a big snowstorm. She lived on Muhlenberg Street and was able to walk to campus and open up when nobody else was able to arrive at their regular start time, on account of the snow-covered roads. The staff really rolled up their sleeves that day and stayed late to successfully unload all of the packages. Hirst notes that the warm lunch that was brought in by Assistant Treasurer Jason Feierrtag that day was especially good. 

She misses seeing her dear mailroom friends every day, but shares that the group stays in touch. Hirst is enjoying extra time with her daughters and college-age granddaughters, two of whom are studying at Penn State University. She looks forward to joining them for college football games and visiting friends in Florida.

Constance Knopf
joined the Controller Office, now the Business Office, in 1999, serving as the Student Accounts Administrator of the School of Continuing Studies.

In her time with Muhlenberg, Knopf’s responsibilities grew in response to increasing enrollment and the evolution from paper- to computer-based processes. She remembers the College experiencing influxes whenever there were significant layoffs in the area.

The work was very steady, but more importantly, the people she worked with were absolutely wonderful. It was always more than a job for her, and 2017, when her husband received a very grave cancer diagnosis, Knopf learned what it meant to count coworkers as family. He was given two weeks to a month to live, and sought specialized care at the Hospital at the University of Pennsylvania.

Her Muhlenberg family supported her generously, preparing meals, calling, texting, sending cards and providing her some sense of normalcy during the months she was pulled away to be present for her husband.

She recalls the words “Anything you need.” and “How are you?” being said often, and notes that this kindness is what carried her as caregiver.

Her husband beat the odds and continues to receive care. Knopf misses the camaraderie and friendship of her peers and her leadership, and she is grateful for Facebook. She is enjoying her grandchildren and hopes to find herself at Candlelight Carols in the future.  

William (Bill) McGlinn
joined the Office of Advancement in 2012, serving as the Director of Corporate, Foundation and Government Relations.

As a career development and marketing professional, McGlinn is active with the Association of Fundraising Professionals Eastern Pennsylvania Chapter. This connection helped bring him to Muhlenberg, and as an enthusiast of the local arts, McGlinn had long been enjoying Muhlenberg’s lectures, dance and theatre productions.

McGlinn felt readily welcomed by his colleagues and was motivated daily by the quality of the hearts and minds that make up the Muhlenberg family.

Budding and nurturing a relationship with the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the largest supporter of arts and humanities in the U.S., is among McGlinn’s most rewarding experiences. The substantial grant support that followed helped shape significant advancements in curriculum design. He also cherished the opportunity to take faculty to the annual Council on Undergraduate Research Meeting in Washington, D.C., celebrating the grant successes achieved through their collaborations.

In retirement, McGlinn is enjoying more free time with his husband. He looks forward to visiting family across the country, and stays in New York City and Philadelphia for ballet, classical music, theatre and museums.

He is volunteering with the Bradbury-Sullivan Bradbury-Sullivan LGBT Community Center, sharing his time and talent to support their advancement efforts, and McGlinn is also strongly considering resuming his high-school piano lessons.

Susan Norling joined the Office of Global Education in 1998, serving as the Coordinator of Global Education Programs for more than two decades.

Both Norling’s role and the office itself developed over the years as the volume and complexity of study abroad opportunities evolved, as the number of international students increased, and as government immigration regulations were established.

Norling celebrated special connections with her colleagues and the sense of community that runs deep at Muhlenberg. Too, the curiosity, enthusiasm and adventure-seeking spirit of the students she worked with energized her every day.

Norling recalls Muhlenberg being a very welcoming work environment, and how she immediately felt as though the College was a place where she belonged. She officially established roots in Allentown, and ultimately joined Muhlenberg, when her late husband, Professor Frederick Norling, became a member of the faculty. He served as a professor with the Department of Accounting, Business, Economics and Finance for 16 years. Both held prior positions with Penn State University.

In retirement, Norling enjoys spending generous amounts of quality time with her grandchildren, connecting with nature by regularly taking to the outdoors, and sharing her time and talent by volunteering with causes close to her heart. 

Anita Regan
joined the Office of Information Technology in 2002, serving as a Systems Analyst.

Regan is a career IT professional from Northeastern Pennsylvania. She had always really loved the Lehigh Valley, and officially landed here after graduating from college and accepting a position with Air Products. She later worked for Rodale before pursuing an opportunity with Muhlenberg.

With Muhlenberg’s positive reputation in the community, she was extremely grateful to be extended an offer and become part of the environment she describes as close-knit, supportive and pleasant.

Regan remembers being situated with a small group of programmers, all sitting in the same room, close enough to yell over their dividers, truly growing together and feeling at-home with one another. She enjoyed being there every day.

While many programmers are often isolated to their computers, Regan appreciated that this was absolutely not the case at Muhlenberg. She valued regular opportunities to work closely with other departments, including Advancement and Finance, noting that Muhlenberg’s familial-feel was campus wide.

She deeply misses the Muhlenberg community, but welcomes the newfound time to explore volunteering with a local nonprofit and traveling to spend time with family and friends. Some hopeful destinations include Myrtle Beach, Sedona, and her favorite, Disney World.

Elizabeth Strohl
joined Alumni Affairs and Career Services in 2005, serving as the Administrative Assistant.

Strohl lived in the Lehigh Valley most of her life, and she dedicated her young-parent years to raising her family. She considers herself lucky to have been able to do so, and when the time came to enter the workforce, she was deeply grateful that Muhlenberg took a chance on her. Fifteen years ago, it was the only position for which she’d applied. When she started, she supported advancement efforts, and she transitioned to alumni affairs in 2010.

Strohl liked Muhlenberg from the very start, and she credits Deborah Klinger, a peer administrative assistant at the time, with welcoming her and teaching her about the role. She enjoyed the hours she worked alongside strong and supportive team members, and she praises the leadership of supervisor Natalie Kulp Hand.

Her most cherished Muhlenberg memories are the rich and personal interactions she shared with alumni and the alumni board, along with being involved in events for homecoming and alumni weekend.

Strohl loves spending lots of time with her two granddaughters, and she is looking forward to a European river cruise with her husband, winters in Florida, and visiting family in Virginia. She is also an active volunteer with her church’s preschool board.