New Testimonials for CFB’s work

“I wanted to let you know I am hearing very good things about your work……… It’s very gratifying to know our search process works so well. Keep the head of steam into the new year”.

James D. Hostetler, Director Construction & Design Group, Bucknell University

“When a prospective student enters the new science building, his jaw drops. It is the WOW factor.”

Rev. Malachi Van Tassell, T.O.R., Ph.D., President, Saint Francis University


The Council of Independent Colleges held its annual Presidents Institute this past January. This event brings presidents of independent colleges and universities together for networking, problem-solving, and sharing of ideas among colleagues leading similar institutions.

Thomas C. Celli had the privilege of attending this annual gathering during which CFB was recognized for twenty consecutive years of support of the Presidents Institute.

CFB Team Honored for Winning MBA Building Excellence Award

On February 27, 2014, The Master Builders’ Association of Western Pennsylvania recognized Celli-Flynn Brennan along with PJ Dick for our work at Robert Morris University. The School of Business was the award winner for Best New Construction Under $10 million. You can view the complete list of winners on the Master Builders Association of Western Pennsylvania’s website, Master Builders Association of Western Pennsylvania’s website.

Click on the You Tube link to see a video of the School of Business. You Tube.

Mt. Lebanon High School Swimming Pool Opens!


We are proud to announce that the Mt. Lebanon High School Swimming Pool was officially opened on Monday, November 18th, 2013.  A ribbon cutting ceremony and celebration took place where a large number of students joined in for a mass group swim.  The pool is competition size with 8 lanes, the colors are bright and cheerful but carefully selected so that there is no glare on the water.  A large window in the Southeast corner of the space lets in natural light and provides a great view of science wing and school theaters.  Best of all, the school and its students love it.  We wish the school all the best and much enjoyment in their new pool facility.

Saint Francis University Dedicates the Natural Science Center

Bill Brennan was present on September 6, 2013 for the dedication of the new Science Center which was design by CFB! The new 70,000 square foot building houses the biology, chemistry, physics, environmental engineering, mathematics, and computer science departments. The building includes instructional laboratories, classrooms, student-faculty research laboratories, faculty offices, conference rooms, and other specialized rooms including a Vivarium and Marine Aquatics Lab. CFB is also designing an addition/renovation to Sullivan Hall which will be home to the Health Sciences on the SFU campus.

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To learn more about Saint Francis University click on the following link:

Celli-Flynn Brennan making a difference!

Colleges are beginning to adopt the CFB idea for buying back student debt!

This idea was introduced by Tom and Michelangelo Celli to several colleges in the fall of 2012 and Wilson College adopted the idea at their January 2013 Board meeting. The Chronicle of Higher Education published the idea in their April 8, 2013 issue which can be viewed by clicking on the following link The Chroncile of Higher Education.

College Planning and Management Magazine published the Wilson College story in their July 2013 issue. Click on the following link to view a copy of the article Recruit & Retain

Tom Celli lays bricks at $87 Million Mt. Lebanon High School!

In tribute to the craftsmen who build the buildings that we design, Tom Celli, a former apprentice in the Bricklayer’s Union, spent several days last week laying bricks on the Mt. Lebanon High School. The skill and precision of the bricklaying crew reinforced his understanding of the excellence that exists in PA construction workers.

The staff at CFB is encouraged to get out on construction sites to better understand the details required on the drawings that the office prepares. Our ability to produce accurate and buildable details has allowed the firm to continue its excellent reputation for complete and precise construction drawings.

The pictures show Tom on the brick line and the crew with whom he was privileged to work.

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Greensburg architect puts stamp on American University in Bulgaria

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Architect Thomas C. Celli puts stamp on American University in Bulgaria.

In May, 2010 Thomas C. Celli’s involvement with the American University in Bulgaria was featured in an article by the Tribune Review. Click the following link to read the full article:

Take a Tip from General Motors (By Thomas C. Celli, AIA and Michelangelo C. Celli)

(As published in The Chronicle of Higher Education, April 5, 2013)

Higher education, and particularly the small liberal-arts college, faces a difficult future in the pricing arena. Colleges are giving bigger discounts on tuition, as they compete for a shrinking number of 18-year-olds. Those students going to college will increasingly be immigrants and minorities, who traditionally need the most financial aid.

Now that Harvard, Swarthmore, and several other elite institutions have followed Princeton’s lead in awarding bachelor’s degrees tuition-free to low-income students and those in the middle and even upper-middle class, less-well-endowed colleges will have to find other ways to compete for students.

We believe there is a better model for pricing higher education, a model that will increase student retention, encourage more students to get master’s degrees, and allow less-well-endowed colleges to fill seats that are now going empty.

Many liberal-arts colleges are struggling—partly because their costs of attendance cannot compete with those of state universities, community colleges, and online institutions. Every week we are surprised by discount rates. How can a liberal-arts institution without much of an endowment survive when it makes an offer to a prospective student that represents a 50-percent discount on the published tuition?

Today the average student debt at graduation for someone with a bachelor’s degree is around $26,000. A larger debt is impossible to pay off for a someone with a bachelor’s degree in education who starts a teaching position at, say, $32,000. It may be somewhat easier for a nursing graduate who starts at $50,000.

What’s more, many colleges have retention rates that are appalling. So what to do?

General Motors has learned that the way to get you into a car (and get you back for 10 or 12 cars in your lifetime) is to get you into a car every three or four years. They do it by conducting their own financing and buying back your old car in order to get you into a new one. Colleges need to start thinking differently—just like GM— to help students manage and reduce debt.

We believe that we should refocus the recruitment effort. It should not be about the latest campus center or sports team. It should be about undergraduate debt, since that is the real concern of families.

Before the student enrolls, the college could establish what we call the incentive. The incentive expects that a student will still have to borrow $26,000 to get a degree in four years. In the admissions office, the college could enlist the parents and the ideal students (let’s call them Johnny and Sally) in a discussion of how performance can reduce debt upon graduation.

Each institution, having its own values, degrees, and clubs and activities, can vary the contents of the incentive, but the essence of the plan is as follows: If Johnny stays enrolled continuously, does well, and finishes on time, the college will buy back a portion of the $26,000 debt on the day that the first payment is due, four and a half years after matriculation.

For instance, if Johnny finishes in the top 10 percent of his class, is president of student government, and letters in football, then the institution will reduce his debt to $10,000 upon his graduation, a $16,000 buyback.

If Sally letters on the women’s basketball team, finishes in the top 15 percent of her class, and leads a club, then the college will reduce her debt from $26,000 to $15,000 upon graduation.

If an institution that enrolls 500 students in the freshman class loses 150, or 30 percent of them, after one year, the loss would be $2,550,000 (assuming an average tuition of $17,000, after discounts).

By keeping no more than 50 of those 150 dropouts, the college would save $850,000 in the second year, and $1,700,000 in the third and fourth years together. That sum would accumulate while Johnny and Sally are on campus and would be available for the buyback.

Why does this make financial sense for smaller colleges? The plan will fill some of the empty seats, since the promise of reduced debt will attract more students. And it will increase the number of students who graduate—some of whom will then pay full price for a master’s degree at the college. The college will collect tuition each year and earn interest on it for several years before having to pay down Johnny’s debt.

The plan also makes sense for parents because it gets them involved from the beginning in helping Johnny or Sally graduate in four years and with good grades.

Smaller colleges should realize that the competition they face isn’t only about campus centers and better residence halls. It’s also about outcompeting the community college and the state university while putting their own financial houses in shape to get people interested and to keep coming back. Just like GM.

The Price Isn’t Right (by Thomas C. Celli, AIA)

Market Pricing Dynamics To Kill The Small Private College
You can view this article by clicking on the following link University Business Magazine website.

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