O'Pake Institute for Economic Development and Entrepreneurship

As a Franciscan institution, the university's mission compels Alvernians to be like St. Francis and serve as a source of transformation for students, the institution, and the community. The O'Pake Institute for Economic Development and Entrepreneurship celebrates the Catholic and Franciscan tradition and plays a pivotal role in educating students for participation in a global economy.


Through Reading CollegeTowne, the O'Pake Institute continues its mission of transformation. The institute serves as a catalyst for educational and business expansion, including a student-centered business incubator in downtown Reading.


Recognizing the importance of economic development and entrepreneurship, Alvernia continues to educate from its mission-based perspective, forming ethical leaders with moral courage to do well and do good.




The O'Pake Institute for Economic Development and Entrepreneurship is envisioned as a catalyst in the development of entrepreneurial programs and economic growth in both the Reading community and in higher education.  


Dr. Rodney Ridley, associate provost and vice president, is the chief operating officer of the institute.

Ridley has more than 28 years of higher education experience and has held myriad positions from research assistant and engineering professor to his current role as executive director of The Allan P. Kirby Center for Free Enterprise and Entrepreneurship at Wilkes University. He also has served in numerous private sector engineering capacities, earned numerous awards, including the 2017 Pennsylvania Acceleration Educator of the Year and holds 27 U.S. patents.

Ridley earned a doctorate in engineering science and mechanics and a master's degree in electrical engineering from Penn State University as well as a bachelor's degree in physics from Lincoln University.

Academic Programming

In collaboration with the Berks County Community Foundation and the Greater Reading Chamber Alliance, Dr. Ridley will lead efforts to develop a student-centered business incubator with O'Pake, which will provide training and support to help new and startup companies. Dr. Ridley will also explore applied engineering and business programs to be located in downtown Reading. These initiatives will enhance the growth of Alvernia and stimulate economic redevelopment.


The concept of "centers" at Alvernia emerged as a result of campus discussions and meetings with local community leaders during late 2005 and early 2006. At that time, it was announced that Alvernia would develop two centers: the Center for Community Engagement and the Center for Ethics and Leadership.  

In 2007 the Center for Ethics and Leadership was created. During the period from its founding into 2011, the center was headed first by Theology Professor Gerald Vigna and then by Biology Professor Spencer Stober. 

In late 2010, Alvernia Trustee State Senator Michael O’Pake died, leaving a generous bequest to the university, which was endowed to support the center. In 2012, in honor of Senator O’Pake, the center was renamed The O’Pake Institute for Ethics, Leadership and Public Service and R. David Myers was appointed director. The scope of the institute was expanded to include a focus on public service and public policy and its orientation was adjusted to include an additional emphasis on the broader community outside of Alvernia.  The institute became more engaged in community development work and was instrumental in forming the Berks Alliance, the collaboration of nearly two dozen anchor institutions in the region.

In 2019, the institute transitioned to the O’Pake Institute for Economic  Development and Entrepreneurship to expand its scope, support the Reading CollegeTowne strategy for redevelopment in downtown and strengthen experiential learning opportunities for students. Dr. Rodney Ridley has been appointed as associate provost and vice president and chief operating officer for the institute. Ridley begins his new appointment in January 2020.


Contact us

Dr. Rodney Ridley
Associate Provost and Vice President / Chief Operating Officer for the O'Pake Institute

Donald Schalk
Director of Business and Corporate Development / Director for the Center of Entrepreneurial Leadership

Tracie Koch
Coordinator, O’Pake Institute for Economic Development & Entrepreneurship
610.796.8302 external
X8302 internal

Community Engagement
Dr. Rodney Ridley
Institute Expands Scope
O’Pake shifts focus to economic development and entrepreneurship, serving as a catalyst for educational and business expansion.
Campus Opening Plan
Understanding your Alvernia Bill
Entendiendo la Cuenta Estudiantil de Alvernia
Tips & Tricks Before You Move to Campus
Lifeview/Workview Workshop