Ron Tomalis ’84
Dimension: Engage the World
Photo by Carl Socolow '77
Secretary of Education
Pennsylvania Department of Education
Major: Political science and American studies
What I love most about my work: Two things—first, I am humbled by having the ability to impact the educational opportunities for so many students in the state. Second, the complexity of the task; very few issues are simple, and most are so interconnected with a whole range of things that rarely something can be accomplished without a lot of effort.
Major challenges: Keeping your eye on the ball, which is improving educational opportunities for students. It’s too easy to get distracted by special-interest politics (there are a lot of so-called stakeholders who are only in it “for the children”).
How a Dickinson education prepared me: Few people are able to plan their life to go directly from point A to point B. Life throws you a lot of curve balls. Being able to adapt, to take on new challenges, to constantly reevaluate along the way—all are skills that Dickinson helped hone. It’s not what you learned in that 100-level course or that senior seminar—it’s the package.
Why I chose Dickinson: I wasn’t 100-percent certain which direction I wanted to go in life when I was leaving high school; Dickinson provided the greatest latitude to explore.
My favorite professor: The hard ones, the ones who called us out when we didn’t rise to the occasion. And the ones who, regardless of their own ideological perspective, didn’t try to get you to mimic their perspective on the world but rather challenged the students’ belief systems.
What I’m most proud of: My three daughters, one of whom faced unbelievable challenges and stood tall the entire time.