Alumnus continues to find inspiration from late Penn State Hazleton professor

Two men in side by side photos. The one on the left is standing on a stairway in a dark blue Penn State hoodie holding a piece of a motorcycle. The right is a man in a dark suit, blue shirt and tie.

John M. Nonnemacher (left, holding a piece of his old motorcycle with original Penn State Hazleton parking registration sticker) and Nick Skimbo (right) formed a bond that lasted even after Nonnemacher graduated from the University in 1979.

Credit: Penn State

HAZLETON, Pa. — Penn State Hazleton alumnus John M. Nonnemacher has no shortage of fond memories from his time at the campus. He made friends. He learned how to square dance and play tennis. He gained the skills that set him up for a successful accounting career. Most importantly, he said, he found a mentor in a former faculty member whose memory he honors to this day. 

Nonnemacher, a 1979 Penn State graduate with a bachelor’s degree in accounting, first met finance and accounting professor Nick Skimbo when Nonnemacher was a first-year student in 1975. It didn’t take long for Skimbo to become a central figure in Nonnemacher’s education and, ultimately, his life. 

“Everything I learned from Nick has carried through to my career to this day because I’ve tried to mentor many accounting students and young professionals the way he helped me and take an approach that there are many things you just can’t put in a textbook,” Nonnemacher said. 

Skimbo died in 2013 at the age of 85. At his funeral, Nonnemacher delivered the eulogy. A decade later, Nonnemacher continues to honor his impact by crediting him for the long career he’s had as a certified public accountant (CPA) at Snyder & Clemente in Sugarloaf. Nonnemacher manages the location and is a principal in the firm since 2010. He has provided accounting services for individuals, corporations, nonprofit organizations and government agencies. 

“I’m now in my 37th year with the firm,” he said. “Many of the things Nick taught me helped me get here and climb the ladder faster.” 

Professional accountability, questioning things, study skills and never saying “I don’t know the answer,” were some of the life lessons Skimbo taught him, Nonnemacher said. He also valued Skimbo’s incorporation of his own professional experiences into his teaching. 

“He’d always give us real-world examples of concepts being learned in our textbook,” he said. 

Skimbo was a faculty member from 1969 to his retirement in 1988. Prior to teaching, he was a financial management executive at Merck & Co., a pharmaceutical firm in Rahway, New Jersey, according to his obituary. There, he managed financial services for the firm’s manufacturing and marketing divisions. He often shared his knowledge and expertise as a presenter at business seminars throughout the state. 

Even more than his teachings, Nonnemacher said he appreciated Skimbo’s guidance. Even after transitioning to the University Park campus to complete his degree, Nonnemacher and Skimbo stayed in touch, with Skimbo offering input on Nonnemacher’s courses and overall progress — the type of one-on-one attention that drew Nonnemacher to Penn State Hazleton in the first place. 

“You’re of course trying to study and work independently, but there are times when it was very accessible to go to professors and ask to meet, and they always did,” he said. 

That sense of community has motivated Nonnemacher to support Penn State Hazleton, he said. He served as power of attorney and eventually, court-appointed guardian, for donor Evelyn Adams. After her death in 2020, helped with the estate plans of her and her late husband, Joseph, which included a $900,000 gift to the campus. The gift helps support Penn State Hazleton students pursuing business degrees. 

A sense of community is a pillar of the Penn State Alumni Association, Director of Development and Alumni Relations Desiree Voitek said. Currently at over 775,000 members, it offers invaluable support and resources to its members. 

"Being part of the Penn State Alumni Association is like having a built-in community,” Voitek said. “It's all about the connections and relationships that endure long after graduation, creating a valuable network that supports and enriches each other's lives." 

Nonnemacher has also seen the campus’ impact on his own family. His youngest son, Christian, graduated from Penn State Hazleton in 2019 with a bachelor’s degree in rehabilitation and human services. His oldest son, Jonathan, spent two years at the campus before earning a bachelor’s degree in elementary education from Penn State Harrisburg in 2005. Jonathan even met his future wife, Rebecca, at Penn State Hazleton. She graduated from University Park campus as well with a bachelor’s degree in elementary education. Son in law Joe Natale graduated from University Park in 2007 with a bachelor's degree in secondary education history. 

"My belief is that Penn State’s campuses have made a world-class education possible for countless students who would not have been able to attend college otherwise,” Nonnemacher said.