Dunmorean of the Month: Maria MacDonald

Maria MacDonald 1By Steve Svetovich

Dunmore’s Maria Pane MacDonald, program director for interior architecture at Marywood University School of Architecture, was named executive director of the national nonprofit, Center for the Living City.

The Center for the Living City was founded 15 years ago by friends of urban journalist and community activist Jane Jacobs who grew up in Dunmore.

Daughter of Michaelene and the late Francis Pane, MacDonald is a lifelong Dunmore resident and very proud of her roots in the borough.

“I see a lot of great architecture in Dunmore,” she said. “We have some great buildings and homes. But it is the community of Dunmore and the people in it who stand apart. All of the great things that are said about Dunmore and its citizens are true. This a borough I grew up in and never left.” 

MacDonald, who grew up in the same block in Dunmore as Jacobs, will become only the second director for the Center for the Living City organization. 

She replaces the center’s founding executive director, Stephen Goldsmith, who is stepping aside to focus his time on advancing the Center’s global Observation and Action Network. Goldsmith will remain on the center’s board of directors.

MacDonald is the founder of the Marywood University School of Architecture.

She continues to work as a practicing architect and specializes in adaptive reuse, preservation and restoration projects.

The Center for the Living City is a United States based nonprofit launched in 2005 by a group of activists, practitioners and teachers. It holds the distinction of being the only urbanist organization founded in collaboration with Jacobs.

The center’s governing board selected MacDonald from a strong field of more than 70 applicants.

Well versed and thought provoking, MacDonald received bachelor of arts degrees in both architecture and interior architecture from the University of Rhode Island School of Design, where she received the Excellence in Design award for her work on the “Reclamation of Forgotten Spaces.”

She utilizes a holistic, integrative design approach that aims to strengthen the relationships between the allied design disciplines and people and and the environments in which they live.

“I am thrilled to have been selected to work with the center’s board and staff to advance the mission,” MacDonald said. “This is an exciting time for Dunmore and Scranton and all of the universites and nonprofits.” 

MacDonald throughout her career has been team leader for many significant community projects. As an educator, her intense focus is on service and community outreach, providing community-based, experiential learning opportunities for her students and the people in the communities where they work.

She served for the past 15 years as Interior Architecture Program Director at Marywood University. She steered the program successfully through two full NASAD accreditations. 

“I am very proud to be a Dunmorean,” she said. “Jane Jacobs grew up on Monroe Avenue in Dunmore and I grew up and still live on Clay Avenue in Dunmore. She is an internationally known Urbanist and I am grateful to follow in her legacy.”

MacDonald has two sons. Her older son Neil MacDonald, 26, is a chemical engineer. Her younger son Ethan, 21, is a senior aerospace engineering major at the University of Maryland. Both are Scranton Prep graduates.

Her mom is a lifelong and proud Dunmore native. Her late dad died when she was young.

“We have a lot of great buildings in Dunmore,” MacDonald said. “that we can renovate and live in.

“We are now recognized both locally and on the international level. I think that is pretty great. We should be proud to maintain our identity. I am very proud to be a part of the Dunmore community my entire life.

“It is not a myth that we all know each other and you look out for your neighbors in Dunmore. We in Dunmore give back. There is a reason I never left Dunmore.”

The Marywood University School of Architecture is accredited with over 350 current enrolled students, MacDonald said.

MacDonald is a 1985 graduate of Dunmore High School. 

Marywood Social Work Students Serve Area Communities

Marywood University master of social work (MSW) students, at both its Scranton and Lehigh Valley locations, were able to meet their course requirements while serving community members. By providing vital services for needy individuals, families, and children in their communities, students taking the “Social Work Practice with Communities and Organizations” course in the School of Social Work transformed their class experience into humanitarian action.

This graduate-level course requires students to engage in a community change project. Every student needs to identify a change that is needed in their community and then plan, organize, and implement an action to either remove or resolve the identified issue. The difference during this term was that students were also faced with dealing with the restrictions put in place as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Sister Angela Kim, IHM, associate professor of social work at Marywood University, said, “These amazing students used their brilliant creativity and impressive humanitarian action for the common good during a global crisis.”

Utilizing her employment-based project: “Wayne County Children & Youth Services Response to deliver breakfast and lunch to school children during the COVID-19 pandemic,” Heather Schariest, Scranton MSW student, along with her co-workers, organized a team of volunteers to pick food up from local schools and make deliveries at each child’s home. In some instances, workers also delivered homework assignments for children who didn’t have internet access. 

Christine Bazur, Scranton MSW student, helped employ a volunteer “Grab and Go” volunteer effort at Riverside School District, which served bag breakfast and lunches to families. She initially volunteered daily at the school district and then, when the program effort expanded, she assisted with packaging food that would encompass three days’ worth of meals.

Ashlee Sakowski, Scranton MSW student, organized a “Go Fund Me” by setting up and reaching out to her coworkers and families and friends to collect baby food and supplies for lower income mothers in her community. Ms. Sakowski’s “Baby Baskets,” which included items such as diapers, wipes, baby formula, etc., provided more than ten different new mothers with much-needed baby supplies. 

Aimee Smith, Scranton MSW student, also organized and set up a “Go Fund Me” to purchase books for Helping Hands Society, Hazleton, Pa. Helping Hands Society serves 150 intellectually and developmentally challenged children, ages 3-10. Ms. Smith was able to purchase 150 children’s books as a result of the fundraiser. The books will be delivered following the lift of restrictions put in place as a result of COVID-19.

Recognizing the need for mental health resources as a result of the pandemic, Gerry Lynn Butler, Scranton MSW student, provided two mental health resource links to help during the current crisis. The target population for the project includes school-aged children, from kindergarten through high school, as well as parents and professionals. The Coping Crisis resource link has had 520 visitors in 144 locations, including 17 different states, as well as Washington, D.C., Puerto Rico, and Ireland. 

What began as a project at the Women’s Recovery House to assist women to build a sense of purpose and to help foster positive connections in the community as women move through the recovery process, was transformed by Corey McCann, Lehigh Valley MSW student, into a Community Garden Project. Due to the stay at home order, the project helped the women at the recovery house to find their personal strengths, and it promoted team work to promote a sense of ownership.

The goal of “Leaving No One Hungry,” inspired Stacie Searle, Lehigh Valley MSW student to reimagine her initial project of finding ways to ensure that the homeless and less fortunate population in her community were properly nourished during the pandemic. Originally, Ms. Searle had planned to align larger organizations and groups of youth to work to build resources for local soup kitchens, but, with COVID-19 restrictions, she adjusted her plan and continued to work with the local soup kitchen, as well as utilizing a social media application to reach out into the community to raise donations that enabled the kitchen to run throughout the week. 



Marywood Architecture Students Win International Awards

Marywood design awardMarywood University senior Interior Architecture students were recently notified that they received three of the top 10 international design awards from Formica Brand Corporation.

Pictured are Interior Architecture Students who designed their pieces as part of their Comprehensive Studio Design Project under the director of Maria MacDonald, director of undergraduate interior architecture studies, including, first row, from left: Reva Pettaway, Allison Plunkett, Thomas Gongliewski, Shop Manager; Courtney Mackrell, and Natalia Colasurdo.

Second row, same order: Peri Sheerin, Emma Johnson, Brandon Freely, and Brooke Ann Jennings-Takach, Dunmore. Absent was Jessica Reid.