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Assistant Superintendent, East Penn School District
Moravian helped her put the pieces together
The level of self-discovery Denise Torma, Ed.D. ’77 experienced while a student at Moravian College excites her even today. Exposed to courses she says she “never would have taken on my own” such as music theory, Jesus and the Gospels, philosophy and geology, Torma learned how to think critically. She learned what it means to be a human and about the commonalities we all share.
“I gained a broader perspective about what it means to be part of the human race in my Moravian courses, and what connects us as people,” she says.
While it was never a given that Torma would attend Moravian, she grew up in Bethlehem and knew several Moravian graduates who had excelled and who praised the College.
“Moravian had an excellent reputation; it was well-known for the quality of its education and the opportunities if offered students,” she remembers. And these opportunities opened her eyes to ideas and beliefs she had not previously experienced or anticipated.
“Not long after beginning my freshman year, I struggled to understand the interconnectivity of the disciplines,” she says. “I quickly realized how much I didn’t know.”
Over time, through her course work and interactions with professors and classmates, she began to learn how to think and write critically and form her own opinions. “This pondering … gaining a deeper understanding and questioning things was a challenge, and didn’t come easily for me,” she says. “The result was that I expanded my singular approach to a broader scope of my education. Rather than being myopic, I began to see the bigger picture, and learned how different viewpoints needed to be respected, understood and, at times, challenged. And challenges help you learn how strong you really are and how much you have yet to learn.”
Although she wasn’t an athlete in high school, Torma played three sports at Moravian—volleyball, tennis, and badminton—in addition to taking a variety of physical education courses. “I liked to keep active and I realized then, too, what an important role wellness and sports play in life. My involvement in sports helped me focus my time on academics and honed my organizational, time management, leadership and interpersonal skills—qualities I’ve used throughout my career.
“I call on my experiences at Moravian often, as I make decisions, plan projects and determine how many facets of leading an educational organization rely on each other, just as a team relies on each member to be high-achieving, so it can be successful.”
Torma remembers Dawn Ketterman Benner, tennis coach and professor of physical education, as her biggest influence. “She was my teacher and my coach, and still exudes a passion for teaching and learning that is unsurpassed by anyone I’ve met. She never lost sight of what it meant to successfully impact and care for her students and athletes. All qualities that I strive to emulate every day. She is an excellent role model for anyone who plans to teach,” says Torma.
Torma always wanted to be a teacher and earned her bachelor’s degree in social science and also got her teaching certification. Through her career, she taught social studies at the elementary level, and then at Phillipsburg and East Stroudsburg Area high schools. While teaching, Torma earned her master’s degree in educational science from Temple University and her doctorate from Widener University in educational administration. Today she is the assistant superintendent of the East Penn School District.
Since graduation, Torma has continued her association with Moravian in several ways. In 2002, she received the Robert M. Herbstman Award for her leadership and service after graduation from the College, and was inducted into the Hall of Fame. Torma also has served as a member of the Hall of Fame executive committee and of the executive committee of the Blue & Grey Club and chair of the selection committee for the Herbstman Award.
Another clear memory of her Moravian days is the course in medieval history she took during January term. “I never would have thought to take this course, but that’s one of the benefits of a liberal arts education. You can experience something unique, out of the mainstream,” she says.
“Together these things provided me with an overall experience that continues to impact me to this day.”
"I use the skills I gained at Moravian every day in my job. My experiences there, inside and outside the classroom, laid the foundation for my future education and professional and personal success."