Wilkes University


Wilkes University Founders Gala 2015 Set for May 30

Legendary Wrestling Coach John Reese To Receive President’s Medal

Wilkes University celebrates its heritage of educating first-generation college students when it holds Founders Gala 2015 on Saturday, May 30. Proceeds from the annual event support the First Generation Scholarship Fund, established to provide additional scholarship funding to first-generation students. The gala will be at 6 p.m. at the Westmoreland Club in Wilkes-Barre.

At the gala, the University will award the President’s Medal to an individual who has helped to enhance the student experience and advance the mission of the University. The 2015 honoree is Kingston resident John Reese, former Wilkes University athletic director and legendary Colonels wrestling coach.

Since its founding as Bucknell University Junior College, Wilkes University has recognized that helping young people attend college benefits the individual and the region. Established in 2014, the Founders Gala and First Generation Scholarship Fund ensure that the University continues to open opportunities that lead to success. The inaugural event sold out, raising $250,000 for the First Generation Scholarship Fund.

“Since its founding, Wilkes has been committed to educating first-generation college students,” says Wilkes President Patrick F. Leahy. “More than half of our incoming freshmen identify themselves as the first in their family to attend a four-year college. In establishing the First Generation Scholarship Fund, the University has made a commitment to support those students in their journey to be the first in their family to earn a college degree.”

In announcing Reese as the 2015 President’s Medal recipient, Leahy said Wilkes is recognizing someone who greatly contributed to student success. “The lessons that John Reese shared with his wrestlers helped shape their college experience as surely as their academic studies,” Leahy said. “He is one of the figures who truly was a founding father of this University.”

Reese, who was wrestling coach at Wilkes for 42 years, saw a career that included winning 500 matches, two national titles and five undefeated seasons.  At the time of his retirement in 1995, Reese held the record as the wrestling coach with the second highest number of wins in NCAA history. During his tenure, Reese coached 10 individual national champions, 61 MAC champions, and 46 All-Americans. In 1976, he moved Wilkes wrestling from Division III and MAC into Division I and the Eastern Intercollegiate Wrestling Association. Although it was the smallest Division I program in the country, under Reese’s leadership Wilkes produced 87 EIWA place-winners, including eight champions, the 1976 Outstanding Wrestler Jim Weisenfluh and five Division I All-Americans.