News at WilmU

Joe Pro: This President’s Now a Hall of Famer

The Pros: From left: Danielle Hudson, Joe Pro, Debbie Pro, Josh Pro

It seems that the title of “president” has followed Joe Pro around for most of his life.

At Chichester High School, in Boothwyn, Pennsylvania, he played football and was elected president of the senior class. Later, after he married and began raising a family, he was president of his children’s PTA. 

In 1998, he earned a master’s in Business Administration from what was then Wilmington College, joined the Alumni Association and became — what else? — president of that organization from 2006–2011.

The importance of the title ratcheted up a bit in 2006, when he was named president of Pennsylvania Machine Works, a company founded by Charles W. Lafferty in Aston, Pennsylvania, in 1931. Pro became the first person outside the Lafferty family to lead the company.

And now he has an even more impressive title: hall of famer. 

Last year, The Wholesaler Magazine named Pro its 2023 PVF Hall of Fame inductee. The honor recognizes his 40 years of dedication to the PVF (pipe, valves, and fittings) industry, including five years as president of the PVF Roundtable.

Pro started his career with Penn Machine in 1983, two years after graduating from Temple University with a degree in Business Administration with a concentra-tion in Accounting. The company manufactures forged pressure fittings, specializing in the marine, nuclear power, petrochemical, shipbuilding, cryogenic, and steel-making industries, as well as many other critical industrial applications. Besides its Aston head-quarters, it has a forging facility in Swedesboro, New Jersey, and a large sales and machining center in Houston. 

With a working-class, blue-collar background, Pro was a natural fit, and he climbed the corporate ladder quickly, moving from controller, to plant manager in Swedesboro, to operations manager, and finally to president.

It was during his time in plant management that he saw the need to acquire a master’s degree, and Wilmington College seemed to be the obvious choice for a man who had a demanding job in New Jersey and a busy family life at home in Bear, Delaware. 

“I’ve always felt blessed that I have the education and the experience to provide time and guidance to almost anybody who has issues.”

— Joe Pro

“Based on having talked to some people who previously went through the program, it was the most flexible schedule,” Pro says. “With classes at night and on weekends, it allowed me to continue working full time and also let me participate at home, where I had two young kids who were into every sport there was.”

He related to his classmates — “people just like me; people who were working, people trying to advance their careers” — and he was particularly impressed with the instructors.

“I had 12 professors who held jobs in the real world, experienced people who could share their experiences,” he says. “And you could share what was going on in your career and get tremendous guidance and mentoring.”

It turns out that the entire Pro family has a WilmU connection. Son Josh has a B.S. in Business Management and a master’s in Business Administration from the University, while daughter Danielle Hudson holds a WilmU master’s in Management with a Marketing concentration. And Pro’s wife, Debbie, who has been with the University for 21 years, is assistant to the vice president of Administrative and Legal Affairs.

Looking back on his career, Pro is especially proud of his involvement with the PVF Roundtable. As a past president, he serves on the board of directors for the organization, which, in addition to promoting the PVF industry, has raised more than $2 million in scholarships for students at seven trade schools and two four-year universities. 

“The Roundtable provides funding for skills that our industry is desperately in need of,” says Pro. 

The fundraising efforts resonate with the grandfather of five and his approach to life in general. “Be kind to others, offer yourself to anyone who needs your help,” he says. “I’ve always felt blessed that I have the education and the experience to provide time and guidance to almost anybody who has issues. It would be wrong not to share that with others.”

—Bob Yearick

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