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York Water Company and York College: A rooted history looking toward the future

Previous alumni, JT Hand, posing in front of brick building

JT Hand ’19 remembers sitting in one of his classes at York College of Pennsylvania when a younger classmate looked over at him and jokingly asked, “Why are you putting yourself through this?”

Hand laughs at the memory. His gray hair and company title certainly made him stand out among the others in the room.

Not long before, York College had presented an opportunity for a cohort with the York Water Company so several of its employees could pursue an MBA together. Hand knew he had nothing to lose.

“I spent the better part of 30 years investing in my employers, whether that was when I was with the military or this company,” he says. “I spent 30 years growing my family and investing in their needs, getting my own three older children to college. I realized at some point I needed to invest in myself. I found that investment at York College.”

Not your typical MBA candidate

After a distinguished 22-year career with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Hand spent the next 12 years of his career at York Water Company. With the prospect  of his transition to President and CEO in sight, he may not have needed  an MBA to help his career grow or to give him another credential, he says.

“I was doing it for my own benefit,” Hand says. “I could challenge myself as much as I wanted. I could dive deeper into things that really mattered to me. The York College faculty recognized I was in a different place than a lot of the other MBA students, and they worked with me on that.”

York College professors helped Hand tweak assignments so he could apply his research or work more toward his role with York Water Company. But, sitting in the classroom also gave him perspective. Here, Hand worked alongside his younger colleagues and classmates, seeing how education and learning had changed over the decades since he’d been in a classroom.

It also gave him a unique opportunity to see the college experience his children were having without infringing on their lives. “This was a blessing for me,” Hand says. “It was an experience that allowed me to learn for learning’s sake. That’s a gift.”

A continued relationship

There are over a dozen current  York Water Company employees who boast York College degrees. “If people attend York College and they have a positive experience and want to stay in this community, those are the types of employees we’re looking for,” Hand says. “It’s a great cultural fit.”

A self-professed connoisseur of community history, Hand sees the correlation of innovation that York Water has pursued since 1816, aligning with the College’s drive to do the same. One of the original York Water pumping stations was at Kings Mill Road, right across from where the new Knowledge Park will call home in the former Schmidt & Ault Paper Co.

That synergy of pursuing innovation led the York Water Company’s board of directors to recently approve a $75,000 gift to York College to help bring the vision of Knowledge Park to life.

“There’s a pride we have in being a member of this community with the College,” Hand says. “We at the York Water Company have gotten more than we ever deserved from the College. We don’t see this as us giving to the College; it’s us acknowledging that we’ve gotten more than we could ever give in return.”