The Village Voice
Paula Panchuck on Living and Learning
Lasell Village opened in 2000 with 14 apartment buildings and Paula Panchuck at the helm as Dean. A mere six years later, there were 16 buildings on the 13-acre site. Why the building boom? "The growth was due, in part," Panchuck tells Leaves, "to the popularity of the living and learning philosophy that distinguished the Village from its peers. And still does." With the opening of that 16th building in 2006, Panchuck became Executive Director and Dean. And the rest, as they say, is award-winning history in the annals of senior housing communities.
As Lasell Village marks its 15th anniversary this year, Panchuck is retiring, taking off the two hats she wears so well: President of Lasell Village, Inc. and Vice President for Lasell Village at Lasell College. She leaves the Village on strong financial footing and with a waiting list of interested seniors. Her successor, Anne E. Doyle, began her tenure in late March. Leaves sat down with the beloved Panchuck in the celebrated Town Hall dining room-action central for the 200-plus Village residents who traverse the enclosed walkways and gather there daily to break bread, commune and relax.
Where do you conduct your non-Village life? I was born and still live in Natick, MA. In 30 years of working in Newton at the College and the Village, it sometimes felt like Newton was home, so one of my retirement goals is to reconnect to Natick as an engaged "townie."
What part of Italy are your parents from? Gino and Guerina DeAngelis lived in a tiny village called San Michele al Fiume in the municipality of Mondavio, within the Province of Pesaro, in Le Marche region near Tuscany.
Have you visited there? Three times in the last six years! The second trip was just after my daughter was married. We had her marriage blessed in the tiny San Michele church where my parents were wed, then hosted a luncheon for our dozens of Italian cousins.
Family info? I'm married to my college sweetheart Michael Panchuck whom I met in 1967 at a fraternity/sorority party at UMass Amherst and wed in 1971. He retired as a public school guidance counselor a few years ago and now works for Campus Bound. Our daughter Melissa is on the staff at Newton's Fessenden School; her husband Blake Roper works for State Street. They are the parents of Sage Vitaliana Hartness Roper, the youngest member of our large Italian family. Sage met her namesake and the clan's matriarch, my late mother's 93-year-old sister Vitaliana Pettinelli, on our third pilgrimage to Italy last summer . . . beautiful!
Education: I have a BS in secondary education and an MS in early childhood and elementary education from UMass Amherst. My PhD from Lesley University is in education and public policy, with a concentration in adult development and aging. My primary research interests include the impact of intergenerational exchange on older adults and college students' attitudes toward older adults.
Hobbies/passions? Precious time with friends and family, gardening, my granddaughter Sage, time at our Cape house, traveling to Italy. Retirement is a time to discover and rediscover our passions, and I can't wait!
Books currently on your night table? I'm a non-fiction fan lately, and I have three books going at the same time: Ron Suskind's Life, Animated: A Story of Sidekicks, Heroes, and Autism, Mimi Baird's He Wanted the Moon and Rhonda Byrne's The Secret. I've loved going to the library since childhood and still like to hold an actual book in my hands.
Plans for post-Lasell Village life? My plan is to flip the balance of work and community service, to lots of the latter and less of the former.
Will you continue teaching online courses? I hope to, especially in my current role working with graduate students as they navigate their internships and the challenges, doubts and achievements that come with that phase of their degree work. Online interactions can be very satisfying, but I've had to initiate multiple phone conferences with students to strengthen our connection. Next stop . . . Skype or online conferences throughout the semester.
What has been the highlight of your Lasell Village life? The amazing, challenging and satisfying community experience of leadership in a setting where both the 200 or so residents whom I served, and the 200 or so employees with whom I served them, were "under the same roof," so to speak, and part of my everyday experience. The sense of team that is possible under those circumstances, as well as the sense of community between and among staff and residents, will always be unforgettable. It has been like family!