Feb. 14, 2023 — Dr. Dale-Elizabeth Pehrsson, founding president of Pennsylvania Western University, announced today that she is transitioning to a new role with the State System office as President-in-Residence and CEO for PennWest Investment. She will begin the transition now and will assume the role full-time on July 1, 2023, at the conclusion of her five-year presidential term. In her new position, Pehrsson will focus on securing the support PennWest and PASSHE needs to meet the higher education and workforce needs of Pennsylvania.

“I have been honored to lead California, Clarion, and Edinboro universities through their transition to becoming PennWest, and to see our new university reach this critically important point,” she wrote in an email sent to all PennWest students, faculty, and staff.

“I love PennWest and have given it my all. As we look toward the future, I firmly believe now is the right time for me to make this transition and focus on mobilizing the resources PennWest needs.”

Pehrsson called it “the privilege of a lifetime” to serve as founding president of the new university, which launched July 1 and recently began its second semester.

“We are so pleased that the State System will continue to benefit from the valuable contributions Dr. Dale brings to the table as she concludes her service as president,” said Dan Greenstein, PASSHE Chancellor. “In her new role in my office she will bring an important, university-level perspective to decision making in support of our mission to provide pathways to the future for so many who otherwise might be shut out of higher education altogether.”

Greenstein has recommended that the PASSHE Board of Governors name Dr. Laurie Bernotsky as interim president, who will lead the university until a national search for its next permanent president is completed. “Dr. Bernotsky has been serving as PennWest’s chief operating officer since 2022 as a loaned executive from West Chester University, and is deeply enmeshed in the university’s operations,” said Greenstein. To ensure a seamless transition, Pehrsson will delegate presidential authority to Bernotsky on March 1 and will focus on finalizing the transition and drafting a plan for securing additional long-term investment in PennWest.

“We are grateful for the leadership ‘Dr. Dale’ has provided to our universities, especially during the integration process,” said Edinboro alumna Kathy L. Pape, chair of PennWest’s Council of Trustees.

“It takes someone special to bring people together and create a new institution. Dr. Dale approached that task with extraordinary focus and compassion. As trustees, we thank her for her vision, her hard work, and her insistence on always putting students first.”

Pehrsson joined PASSHE in 2018 as president of Clarion University. She was additionally named interim president of Edinboro University in December 2020, and of California University of Pennsylvania in July 2021. She was the presidential lead for the Western Integration Project that united the three universities to create PennWest and served as Founding President since its official launch last year.