Spring on the York College campus

Scholarship News

By Mary Dolheimer
Jeff and Patti Stirk stand in front of York College backdrop for a photo.

As husband and wife, Jeff Hines and Patti Stirk share a love for a number of things. Their love of running, for instance, brought them together. They also are both alumni and active supporters of York College. They have combined their passion for the College with their shared commitment to supporting women as professionals, particularly in nontraditional industries like engineering (his background) and technology (hers), to establish the Frances Platt Hines Scholarship Fund at York College.

The couple donated $100,000 to establish the endowed scholarship, which is named in honor of Hines’s mother who passed away several years ago. “My mom worked at a New Jersey shore ice cream parlor during World War II,” Hines said. “She was the first woman to work there when all the men went off to fight. She later went on to work as a nurse. At that time, women who needed to have a career kind of had two options: teacher or nurse. This scholarship is our way of trying to give women more options, particularly in science and engineering.”

Beginning in fall 2019, any female student who enrolls in a major in the Kinsley School of Engineering, Sciences and Technology will be eligible for the scholarship. Preference will be given, if possible, to a resident of York City.

“We want to incentivize students to come to York College,” Hines said. “York has incredible programs in the Kinsley School, is very reasonably priced, and many programs require co-ops, which are a tremendous benefit for the student and the community. Our hope is that this support will bring talented students, particularly women, into the STEM programs.”

Patti Stirk was herself a first-generation student in a STEM major when she chose to study computer programming at York College in 1983. She first earned an associate degree in 1985, took time off for back surgery, and then went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in computer information systems in 1987. She returned to York and earned an MBA in 1999.

Stirk’s LinkedIn profile might best describe her career: “High-tech business development expert turned art house cinema startup creator. Angel investor. Freelance photojournalist.” She worked for a year as a software engineer for Automated Technology Associates in Indianapolis before returning to York to serve as director of commercial automation for Soft Systems Engineering, Inc., a position she convinced management to create.

In 1989, Stirk became her own boss, and her entrepreneurial vision led to the establishment of several IT consulting companies. She served as president and CEO of Star Systems Engineering, Inc., then sold that to Business Information Group. Her current passion is another start-up, Small Star Art House in downtown York, which presents feature-length independent, documentary and foreign films at their release dates. “My friends and I would leave town – and not spend our money supporting York – to see art-house movies,” she said. “I bought the building, which originally housed Star Systems, in 2002 when Jeff was deployed.”

In addition to her business venture, Stirk is also very active in the community and with her alma mater. She was appointed to the Pennsylvania Commission for Women by Gov. Tom Wolf in 2015. She serves on the board of the York County Community Foundation and the Rotary Club of York, and as board secretary of the York Industrial Development Authority and of Downtown York. She formerly served on the board of the Appell Center for the Performing Arts and as a member of the York College Collegiate Council. She is also founding chair of the Graham School of Business Dean’s Advisory Council and an advisor to the Graham Innovation Scholars Program at York College.

Hines attended Bucknell University on a ROTC scholarship, and graduated in 1984 with a degree in civil engineering. He served as a combat engineer officer for the U.S. Army and then spent 17 years in the U.S. Army Reserves. During his 30-year tenure with The York Water Company, he held several positions before being named President and CEO in March 2008. He will retire in March 2020.

Hines has been active in various facets of York College life. He has been a member of the Collegiate Council, Engineering Industry Advisory Council, Enactus Advisory Board and the Business Administration Campaign Steering Committee. He has served as a trustee for 10 years, and began serving as chair on July 1. He received a Distinguished Alumni Service Award in 2010.

Hines and Stirk definitely agreed the scholarship should honor Jeff’s mother. “She was an untiring advocate for women professionals and self-sufficiency,” Hines said. “We also look at this scholarship as our effort to help recruit and retain our community’s future leaders,” Stirk added. “We believe in York College, and we want to support women studying in the Kinsley School. And we have the opportunity to honor someone very special to us.”