Wilkes University celebrated the legacy of its second president, Francis J. Michelni – credited with shepherding the institution through the aftermath of the 1972 Agnes Flood — by dedicating a building in his name on Nov. 10. Francis J. Michelini Hall was dedicated in a ceremony led by Wilkes President Patrick F. Leahy and attended by Michelini, now a Mechanicsburg, Pa., resident.
The new Michelini Hall at 80 W. River St. was formerly Barre Hall, a student residence hall. It will continue to be used for the same purpose under its new name. In dedicating the building in Michelini’s honor, Leahy noted that Wilkes owes its post-Agnes existence to him.
“Today Wilkes University says thank-you to Dr. Michelini for his commitment to Wilkes and its students during his 20-year tenure, first as a faculty member and dean of academic affairs, and then as president,” Leahy said. “We are grateful for his courage and leadership that were put to the test after the devastation of Hurricane Agnes in June 1972.”
Michelini was the first Wilkes president to ascend from the academic ranks. He joined Wilkes in 1955 as the third full-time faculty member in the biology department. In 1963, he became dean of academic affairs, where he would leave his mark in the development of programs and majors.
After becoming president, Dr, Michelini – known to many as “Dr. Mike” — soon found himself dealing with the aftermath of the flood. He pitched in, using a boat owned by the University for research, and rescued Wilkes-Barre residents stranded by the flood.
After the flood, it was discovered that Wilkes had sustained damage to all but one of its 59 buildings and losses totaled more than $10 million. The library lost 53,000 volumes. Stark Hall sustained $500,000 in damages to scientific equipment and tools and the Dorothy Dickson Darte Center lost $100,000 in musical instruments. Michelini was the driving force behind what was known as ‘Operation Snapback,’ a recovery effort brought together students, alumni, administration and faculty to clear the mud and muck from buildings.