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LCCC board picks reflect diversity

New trustees include Latino and African-American as county sees changes.

The Luzerne County Community College Board of Trustees is becoming more diverse.

Retired ophthalmologist Dr. Agapito Lopez of Hazleton and J. Toure McCluskey, a Harvard University graduate, are believed to be the first Latino and African-American trustees to serve on the board, according to county and college officials.

For the last two years Lopez has served on the Governor’s Advisory Commission on Latino Affairs as a representative from Luzerne and Lackawanna counties. Lopez said he’s happy the college is working to become more diverse.

“This is a big step for the Luzerne County Commissioners to have a board that is diverse serve an example to other boards in the county. All boards, commissions, councils, authorities or governing bodies should have an adequate representation of the community they serve,” Lopez said Thursday afternoon.

McCluskey, 32, said he was honored and excited to serve. Originally from Indiana, he relocated to the Wyoming Valley and founded a health-care consultation company here.

“I think my diversity goes beyond me being African-American. My age and entrepreneurship are also important. That is also a representation of the diversity the commissioners are looking for,” said McCluskey, who has a master of business administration degree from Stanford University.

Commissioners Maryanne Petrilla and Stephen Urban have been vocal in the last few months about trustees serving on the board being more representative of the county’s changing ethnic makeup.

LCCC’s Middle States Self-Study Core Team submitted a report to commissioners in 2000 stating the board of trustees should “include a student, alumnus, faculty emeritus, public school representative and racial, ethnic and gender diversity reflective of the composition of the community.”

Lopez and McCluskey will join Lynn Marie Distasio, John Kashatus and Elaine Cook as newly appointed trustees on the board. The commissioners appointed the new officials during Wednesday’s meeting. All appointments are for six-year terms.

Distasio, of Mountain Top, is a chief operating officer and clinical director of a physical therapy/fitness center in Plains Township. She taught a physical therapy course in the spring 2007 at Misericordia University.

Kashatus, of Nanticoke, retired from the Greater Nanticoke Area School District in 2000 after spending 37 years as health and physical education teacher, coach and administrator. He said he hopes by serving he can use his teaching expertise to benefit the college.

“I thought it would be a great way for me to give back to the educational community after serving so many years in public education,” said Kashatus, 66.

Cook served six years as an Exeter Township supervisor starting in 1998. A Drums resident, she’s worked as registered nurse, medical paralegal and attorney. She served as a partner with the Dougherty, Leventhal and Price Law Firm in Kingston for eight years. In 2002 she opened her private practice.

Trustees continuing to serve on the board include: County Commissioner Greg Skrepenak, Michael Tigue, Elaine Curry, Mahmoud Fahmy, Paul Haslesey, Joseph Lombardo, Thomas O’ Donnell, August Piazza, Thomas Pizano and Joseph Rymar.

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