Lehigh Valley Women's Journal | Feb 29, 2012
It was a proud moment in 1980 when DeSales University graduated its first class of ACCESS students.
Unlike traditional college graduates, these were adults with jobs and families who had entrusted their futures to a bold new initiative in higher education: the Lehigh Valley’s first accelerated bachelor’s degree program.
Among the ACCESS graduates in that class was Denise von Funk ’80, an Allentown native who,after four years of hard work and sacrifice, was receiving her bachelor of science degree in accounting and business. Yet even buoyed by her brightest aspirations for future success, Denise had no idea just how far-reaching her DeSales ACCESS experience would prove to be.
“I had been working as a bank teller and it became very apparent that my co-workers with college degrees were the ones getting the promotions. So I decided I needed to earn my bachelor’s degree,” Denise recounts. “Other local colleges had night school programs, but only ACCESS had the courses and schedules to ensure that I would graduate in four years. My father, community business leader Carl Feichtel, was very familiar with DeSales (then called Allentown College of St. Francis de Sales) and he encouraged me to apply for the new ACCESS degree program. Dad always believed that a quality education was important,” she smiles, “and, as usual, he was right.”
The ACCESS academic regimen was rich with “real world” experiences from educators who were also leaders in accounting, finance and other business disciplines. The serious nature of the ACCESS adult learning experience agreed with Denise … and, looking at her career success, what she learned has obviously agreed with the business world. Armed with her DeSales diploma and a considerably supply of personal determination, Denise wasted no time in forging a successful career in the banking industry. While climbing the corporate ladder, she also managed to earn an MBA from another university while working full-time. “Because of the fundamental strengths of my DeSales undergraduate education and business experience, I had no problem transitioning to the MBA program,” Denise recalls.
Today, as senior vice president and credit monitoring manager for Sovereign Bank, Denise oversees a department responsible for monitoring the $77 billion institution’s commercial credit portfolio in New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and northern Maryland. Razor sharp time management skills are essential in her executive duties, and Denise credits ACCESS for her proficiency level. “As an ACCESS student, to succeed you had no choice but to develop strong time management skills. This ability to prioritize and accomplish many things within aggressive time frames has carried throughout my entire career.”
So, is the rest of Denise von Funk’s ACCESS story history? Not quite.
Her daughter, Julie, is now looking forward to a future in forensic accounting when shegraduates in May 2012, with a DeSales University bachelor of science degree in accounting earned through the ACCESS program. What compelled her to follow in Mom’s academic footsteps? “I have a full-time job, so I really like the 8-week courses and meeting one night per week for classes. I also enjoy the family atmosphere at DeSales and the fact that every professor knows your name within the first two classes,” she explains. “Plus, my grandfather has made it very clear that a quality education is important. And he’s always right about these kind of things.”