Meetings are a regular part of the routine for Wilkes University administrators, so it wasn’t unusual when President Greg Cant and Mike Wood, special assistant to the president, traveled to Washington, D.C. this fall for a series of meetings with legislators. The trip featured far more than conference room chats, however. The duo and their spouses were also treated to a personal visit to the White House and a once-in-a-lifetime invite to the South Lawn arrival ceremony for Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese.
Wood worked with government relations firm McAllister & Quinn to line up the legislative visits with Congressman Matt Cartwright, Senator Bob Casey, Senator John Fetterman and Congressman Dan Meuser. These meetings were designed to help make the lawmakers more aware of the University’s capabilities and to position Wilkes as a resource for Pennsylvania. For example, one of the many topics of conversation was how programs in the Passan School of Nursing could help alleviate health care staffing struggles in the state.
With these meetings firmed up, Wood owed a return a call to a contact at the White House. Since President Biden’s visit to Wilkes in August of 2022, his staffers had been hoping to return the favor. “When we hosted the President, the White House staff was so impressed with the hospitality of Wilkes,” says Wood. “At each hurdle, Wilkes was able to respond and I think it really resonated with the White House advance team. For me, it demonstrates the things we sometimes take for granted here about how we do things and how we step up as a team.”
With schedules finally aligned, Cant and his wife, Angela, and Wood and his wife, Kim, were treated to a private White House tour, including a stop at the Oval Office. Though pictures aren’t allowed in the West Wing, they did have a chance to meet Chief of Staff Jeff Zients. The excitement continued when the Wilkes team was welcomed to the South Lawn the next day for the arrival ceremony for Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese. While the pomp and circumstance would have been impressive in any case, the day held special meaning as the Cants are originally from Australia.
“This visit was an expression of appreciation on the part of the White House in recognition of the outstanding effort put forth by Wilkes in August 2022. They were so impressed by the resources we dedicated to President Biden’s visit — our people, our time, our facilities — that they afforded us this very special opportunity,” says Cant. “While just a small group of us were able to travel to Washington D.C., the entire Wilkes community was recognized by the White House staff members. I could not be prouder of everyone who contributed to this milestone in the history of Wilkes University.”
“It was just serendipitous that these opportunities were extended to us. For all of this to unfold like it did is something that could never be repeated. I didn’t realize how special this was going to be and it was all shared with us due to Wilkes University’s extraordinary hospitality.”Mike Wood