Driscolls to Honor Distinguished University Professor with Gift to Support Jones White Writing Center

Posted on 6/15/21 12:41 PM

Michael Driscoll and Rebecca (Becky) Young Driscoll have made a $50,000 gift to Indiana University of Pennsylvania to support the Kathleen Jones White Writing Center at IUP and honor Distinguished University Professor Bennett Rafoth, director emeritus of the Jones White Writing Center.

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The funds will be used to establish the Dr. Bennett Rafoth Endowment, which will provide support to the director and to the mission of the Jones White Writing Center.

The Jones White Writing Center annually provides writing tutorials and one-on-one help to more than 4,000 students of all majors and levels. It was established at IUP as the IUP Composition Clinic in 1971; it became the IUP Writing Center in 1981. In 2015, David White made a gift to support the Writing Center in honor of his late wife, Kathleen Jones White, a 1956 IUP graduate and dean emerita of IUP's College of Human Ecology (now College of Health and Human Services).

In addition to his Jones White Writing Center director emeritus status, Distinguished University Professor Rafoth also is a professor emeritus of English. He began leadership of the Center as co-director in 1988, and then transitioned to serve as its director, a position he held through 2006 and again from 2009 to 2019. He retired from IUP in 2020. He was honored with the Distinguished University Professor Award in 2010.

Rafoth is known internationally for his work with writing centers, including research on how writing centers can serve international students.

Rafoth joined the IUP community in 1987 as an assistant professor of English, rhetoric and linguistics program. In addition to his work as a faculty member and with the Jones White Writing Center, he served as interim dean of IUP Libraries in 1997 and 1998 and directed the Continuing Improvement Project for Stapleton Library during that time.

He was the keynote presenter for the Northern California Writing Center Association in 2010 and a keynote panelist for the European Writing Centers Association in 2006. He also was a presenter for a number of international, national, regional and local conferences, and mentored students to present at many regional and local conferences.

In 2008, the International Writing Centers Association established the Ben Rafoth Graduate Student Research Award in recognition of his “many years of support for graduate student research in teaching writing and writing centers.”

He received the International Writing Centers Association Book of the Year Award in 2005 and a National Conference on Peer Tutoring in Writing Distinguished Leadership Award in 2002.

He was an active member of several professional organizations, including the National Council of Teachers of English, Conference on College Composition and Communication, American Education Research Association, the International Writing Centers Association and the National Conference on Peer Tutoring in Writing.

He is co-author of four books and author or co-author of 20 professional articles, 13 book chapters, 10 reviews and other publications. He is the recipient of more than $383,000 in grant funding for projects including Young Scientists for Pennsylvania and Rural Scholars Program and for travel, research and computer hardware and software.

Active in university and community service, he received a service award for his volunteer work with the Foundation for IUP and received the Point of Excellence Award from Kappa Delta Pi education honor society. He was the faculty writer for the 2016 Middle States Comprehensive Self-Study for IUP and has served on scores of university and department committees and advisory councils.

Michael Driscoll has served as president of IUP since 2012. Rebecca Young Driscoll, who holds a master's degree in English and taught freshman writing at the University of Alaska Anchorage prior to coming to Indiana, was a member of the volunteer staff of the White Writing Center from 2013 to 2015.

“During my time at the Jones White Writing Center, I saw the impact of our work, not only helping students to become better writers, but helping them to enjoy writing and to become more confident writers,” Becky Driscoll said. “Dr. Rafoth was an incredible leader for the program. He had a true gift of empowering student aspirations, not only as peer tutors, but as budding academics and researchers. Mike and I felt this was a fitting way to honor him and to continue to build on his legacy.”

“This university does many incredible things, and does them well,” Driscoll said. We've been fortunate and glad to support a number of IUP projects and programs, including many that provide immediate help to students, like the Student Assistance Fund.”

“The Jones White Writing Center at IUP is among the best there is,” he said. “The work the Center has done under Dr. Rafoth's direction has been exemplary. This student-centered work has continued after Ben's retirement. Communication skills, especially writing skills, are critical to student and career success. The work of the Jones White Writing Center is central to what we do here.

“Ben was an outstanding director and an outstanding member of the IUP community in so many different ways. It made sense to Becky and me to both honor him and support the ongoing mission of the Jones White Writing Center and directors there now and in the future,” he said.

The Driscoll's gift is part of IUP's Imagine Unlimited comprehensive campaign, designed to move IUP forward as a national leader by transforming the student experience through scholarship, program enhancements, and new and modernized facilities. The campaign, with a $75-million goal, closed in February 2021, six months ahead of schedule, and raised $81.36 million.