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May 2012


The New


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May 2012


The New


Cover Photo: Steve Perkins


Susan Corbran ’73 (814) 824-2090 We’d love to hear from you. Send your story ideas, suggestions and comments to or mail to Editor, Mercyhurst Magazine, 501 E. 38th St., Erie, PA 16546.

Contributing Writers Meghan Corbin ’06 Susan Corbran ’73 Deborah Morton

Art Direction/Design

Steve Perkins (814) 824-3340

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Debra Tarasovitch (814) 824-2392

Director, Alumni Relations Ryan Palm ’07 (800) 845-8568 (814) 824-3320

The Office of Marketing and Public Relations publishes Mercyhurst Magazine. Send changes of address to: Mercyhurst Magazine Mercyhurst University 501 E. 38th St. Erie, PA 16546

contents 2



What a year it’s been!

Dr. Gamble reflects on a momentous year for Mercyhurst.

Our changing image

Recalling a few symbols that have represented Mercyhurst over the years.

New status positions Mercyhurst for future

The change to Mercyhurst University may be among the biggest things that have ever happened to this institution.


What does the new structure look like?

Colleges of Baccalaureate Studies, Associate Degree Programs and Graduate Studies.


Timeless campus landmarks seen in new light

Old Main illuminated and a new steeple atop the Queen’s Chapel.


What changes can I expect?

New name, new logos, new signage and new apparel.


Year of the University


Beginning in late May with commencement ceremonies for the first graduating classes of Mercyhurst University.

New projects revitalizing Erie campus

The new Center for Academic Engagement, the Mary Garden, new seating area and pavilion for athletics.


Erie-Dungarvan relationship grows closer

Mercyhurst opens its first international center in Dungarvan, Ireland.

10 Kids bloom at Carpe Diem Academy

A unique after-school enrichment program changes the world for youngsters.

12 Alumni team hits 13 cities on 1st ‘Road Trip’

Travels around the nation on a “Road Trip” to celebrate Mercyhurst’s new status as a university.

14 Billy Byrnes ’02 still living Mercy mission

Not everything has gone according to plan since Billy and Kristin arrived in Nicaragua.

16 The Three Amigos

The three ’79 grads, fast friends, have maintained close bonds.

18 Laker Notes 21 A Perfect Match

Bone marrow drive honors ’73 Mercyhurst alumna.

22 The Profiler 24 From The Hill 24 Alumni remain key part of ‘Hurst team

What a year it’s been! As we bring the 2011-12 academic year to a close, I am reminded of all that has happened to best position Mercyhurst for the future. On Jan. 23, we received word from the Pennsylvania Department of Education that Mercyhurst College is now Mercyhurst University. As you can tell from the photo on the cover, current students are pretty excited about our new status as Mercyhurst University (and, obviously, so am I!). In the months since we announced our new title, I’ve been pleased to discover our alumni have been equally delighted by the news. We have had record attendance at our alumni events as a renewed energy and vibrancy has spread through our ’Hurst family. When I talk with alumni, like those featured in this issue, I’m struck by how often the same themes are repeated. They’re grateful that Mercyhurst gave them more than book learning – that they were allowed, encouraged, even required to apply their knowledge in real-world situations. They’re proud that they learned not only job-specific skills, but also the ability to think critically and creatively and to communicate effectively.

They appreciate the close bonds they developed with their teachers, faculty members whose first priority was always undergraduate teaching, and many report that they’ve stayed in touch long after leaving campus. They’re inspired by the Sisters of Mercy who founded this university and continue to live out their mission of service. The great thing about receiving the university designation is that the proper label has finally been given to what Mercyhurst had already become. We already had graduate programs, associate degree programs, a diverse population of traditional and non-traditional learners, and we have been exploring – and continue to explore – the possibility of doctoral programs. However, at the heart of Mercyhurst remains the four-year undergraduate college you know and love. On campus, our staff is putting the final touches on a strategic plan to guide us through our first years as a university. We’re not quite ready to spell out the specific goals we’ll target during this period, but I can tell you that the basic characteristics of a Mercyhurst education are not going to change. Really, while our name is slightly different, we are still the same Mercyhurst you know and love. We’re also planning a whole series of events to celebrate university status, and we hope that you’ll be able to join us for some or all of them. In particular, I’d invite you to join the Mercyhurst crew that will be building a home for a deserving Erie family this fall. The Class of 2016 will kick off the job when it arrives in late August. This first class of freshmen to enroll at Mercyhurst University will work at the building site during their traditional Freshman Day of Service. Then alumni, faculty, administrators, staff and other friends of the university will get to work. The goal is to finish the home within four weeks – and to present the keys to the home to its new occupants during halftime of the Homecoming football game. It’s a challenging assignment, but in the spirit of the Sisters of Mercy, I’m sure we will succeed! God Bless,

Thomas J. Gamble, Ph.D. 2

President, Mercyhurst University

Our changing image A new Mercyhurst University logo has begun to appear on publications, ads and stationary. Designed in traditional blue and green, the shield incorporates the Mercy Cross, the motto “Carpe Diem” and the year of Mercyhurst’s founding (1926). Below we recall a few other symbols that have represented Mercyhurst over the years.

New status positions Mercyhurst for future The change to Mercyhurst University may be among the biggest things that have ever happened to this institution, but it’s brought surprisingly little noticeable change to campus. That’s because Mercyhurst has been functioning like a university for many years; the new status just puts a more accurate name on what we’ve been doing all along and positions us well for the future. The decision to become a university has earned as close to unanimous support as one could hope among our many stakeholders. Students excitedly shared the news through social media and used duct tape and markers to update the old college signs. More than 3,500 alumni, including some from graduating classes as early as the 1930s, ordered new Mercyhurst University diplomas. The Erie community welcomed another addition to this “university town.”

In the U.S. there’s no standard definition for the term “university,” though most would agree the word confers a bit more prestige than college. Overseas, the distinction is more pronounced as college refers to what Americans call high school, and university refers to post-high school study. As we recruit more and more students from abroad, and as American students seek out jobs and further education all over the world, the new designation indicates clearly what we are. While Mercyhurst’s enrollment has grown fairly steadily since its founding in 1926, current plans call for the undergraduate student body at Erie to remain relatively stable. Mercyhurst needs to grow, of course, but the growth will

be centered in the populations of associate degree students and graduate students. Dr. Gamble, addressing hundreds of Erie area alumni as Mercyhurst kicked off its celebration of the new development, outlined what Mercyhurst University might look like in the not-too-distant future. “By 2020 Mercyhurst will be an eclectic, Catholic university in the Mercy tradition,” he told the group. “We’ll have more than a dozen programs with strong regional reputations, at least a half dozen with national and international reputations, more than 600 graduate students, and even two or three Ph.D. programs.” 

Most who expressed reservations worried that the close-knit learning community they had enjoyed here would somehow be lost. President Dr. Tom Gamble was quick to dispel that fear. “Our focus at Mercyhurst will continue to be on academic quality. We’re still going to offer every student hands-on learning experiences guided by a strong teaching faculty. The strong bonds that unite our students and their teachers today aren’t going to change,” he promised. Recruiters have long told students Mercyhurst offered them the best of both worlds – the small classes and personal attention of a college coupled with the broader opportunities usually offered by a university. That’s still true. And, as Mercyhurst’s reputation for academic quality increases, the value of a Mercyhurst diploma also increases – not only going forward but also for those who earned their degrees many years ago. Thomas J. Gamble, Ph.D.

President, Mercyhurst University


What does the new structure look like?

Timeless campus landmarks seen in new light

The College of Baccalaureate Studies

The campus around them has changed dramatically over the years, but views of Old Main, the O’Neil Tower and Christ the King Chapel resonate with graduates of all ages. These photos capture unique perspectives of those iconic buildings.

The traditional, largely residential undergraduate college on The Hill in Erie will continue its commitment to a strong liberal arts core, excellent undergraduate teaching, small class sizes and a focus on faculty-student relationships. The College of Associate Degree Programs The headquarters for our one- and two-year programs will continue to be at Mercyhurst North East, where enrollment now tops 1,000. Classes will also be offered at the Girard and Corry campuses, at the inner-city Booker T. Washington Center, and – perhaps – in other sites yet to be developed. These programs serve not only high school graduates seeking a college with an affordable price and open enrollment, but also non-traditional students needing high-quality practical programs to upgrade their skills or change careers. The College of Graduate Studies More on-site master’s-level programs are likely to be added to the seven we already offer: administration of justice, anthropology, applied intelligence, exercise science, organizational leadership, secondary education and special education. You can also expect Mercyhurst to take master’s degree and graduate certificate programs right to work sites and into high-density metropolitan areas, allowing students to complete their course work with lower cost and without having to leave their jobs and homes to reside on the Mercyhurst campus. The Department of Intelligence Studies has taken the lead, offering certificate programs in northern Virginia and launching Mercyhurst’s first completely online master’s degree program.


Old Main – like buildings around the world from the Empire State Building to Saudi Arabia’s Kingdom Tower – was bathed in bright blue light on April 2 to mark World Autism Awareness Day. In 2008, Mercyhurst launched AIM, the Asperger Initiative at Mercyhurst, to serve the growing number of students with Asperger Syndrome and other Autism Spectrum Disorders seeking a college education.

A January wind storm toppled the steeple atop the Queen’s Chapel. Though it was damaged too badly to be repaired, a replacement steeple was crafted using measurements and patterns from the original. The wooden frame has been replaced with an aluminum skeleton clad in copper. It will no doubt take years for the copper to weather to the patina that had developed on the old steeple since it was installed in the 1930s.

What changes can I expect? Several months into life as a university, we’re still adjusting to our new name. Determined to avoid waste, we’ve continued to use up stores of brochures and stationery that still say Mercyhurst College. College logos on vehicles, podiums and other sites have remained in place until they were due to be replaced.

Year of the University The “Year of the University” begins in late May with commencement ceremonies for the first graduating classes of Mercyhurst University.

But the transition is happening and the new title will become more and more visible in coming months.

Plans are in the works for a variety of other celebrations. Watch for details!

A new sign package is being designed and will be rolled out over the next few years.

Reunion Weekend – June 1-3

A new Mercyhurst University website will debut this summer. (Social network sites like Facebook and Twitter have changed over.) A whole new line of apparel and other merchandise bearing the university name is available through bookstores in Erie and North East and through the online store at Most of the remaining Mercyhurst College merchandise was snapped up as mementos. Outgoing Mercyhurst Student Government President Meghan Hess (the 2012 Carpe Diem Award winner) and incoming MSG President Richard Molloy.

All alumni are invited to return, but special gatherings are planned for the Classes of 1962, 1966-68, 1972, 1987, 1991-93 and 2002, as well as hockey, cross country and wrestling alumni and those who majored in English, history or religious studies.

Dedication of the new Center for Academic Engagement – August See page 6 for an update on the newest building on the Erie campus.

The House That Mercy Built – August-September The entire Mercyhurst community – alumni, students and staff – will come together to build a Habitat for Humanity house for an Erie family.

Homecoming/Family Weekend 2012 – Sept. 21-23 All the usual fun of a Homecoming football game weekend, plus some very special additions to recognize our new university status.

Academic Symposia – Fall & Spring Terms Mercyhurst hosts a pair of nationally recognized speakers.


New projects revitalizing Erie campus Erie’s unseasonably mild winter was a godsend for crews working on the new Center for Academic Engagement, which is slated for completion by July and occupancy before fall term. Most of the building’s exterior brickwork was already done by the time masonry work would ordinarily begin in the spring, noted Dr. David Livingston, vice president for advancement. “The weather definitely cooperated, and our contractor was able to continue working both inside and out all winter long.” The 30,000-square-foot building will offer four floors of space, with the ground level cut into the rolling hill that slopes from Hammermill Library toward 38th Street. The ground floor, housing state-of-the-art kitchen facilities, opens out to a patio overlooking the city and Lake Erie. Visitors will enter the building from the south and almost immediately encounter huge expanses of windows to capitalize on that one-of-a-kind view. An open area on the main floor will serve as a student lounge on a daily basis but can also be converted into a banquet facility. The versatile space, with a two-story atrium and a wall of north-facing windows, will accommodate about 250 for dinner and about 400 for receptions.


The Intelligence Studies Department will occupy the second and third floors. Offices on the second floor will overlook that open area, while the third floor will connect via overhead walkway to the top floor of Hammermill Library. The walkway will become a unique study area, with stools in front of a shelf lining the glass wall to the west, again allowing visitors to enjoy a different perspective on campus and the surrounding community. As an added bonus

during inclement weather, the walkway will enable students and faculty to walk all the way to Egan Dining Hall under cover. The new building also includes expanded facilities for the Mercyhurst Center for Applied Politics, including 32 telephone polling stations; offices for the Evelyn Lincoln Institute for Ethics and Society; and a board room/presentation space with three tiers of seating surrounding the podium. Also completed this spring was Mary’s Garden, a new gathering space in front of Old Main. The marble statue of Our Lady of Mercy, which was installed there in the 1950s and was once the centerpiece of the traditional May Crownings, has undergone a restoration to repair a half-century’s worth of weather damage. Originally installed facing Mercyhurst’s main entrance, the statue has now been turned around to welcome guests coming through the front gates.

The statue is surrounded by a small reflecting pool, seating areas and new landscaping. Faculty members quickly discovered that the new space is an ideal outdoor classroom. When football season opens this fall, you’ll be able to enjoy yet another new project – a new seating area and pavilion on the hill south of Tullio Field, home to Laker football, lacrosse and field hockey teams. Alumni, parents and friends of Mercyhurst Athletics set out to raise $100,000, and will earn matching funds from the university. John Melody ’90, director of athletic fundraising, said the idea was to enhance the game day experience by adding bleacher seating, picnic tables, grills and a sound system. Visit to make a gift online, or contact John at (814) 824-2902 or


The Erie-Dungarvan Sister City relationship just got a bit closer. Mercyhurst, a key player in creating the Sister City bond in 2006, has opened its first international center in Dungarvan, a thriving market town on the southeast coast of Ireland and the county seat of County Waterford. For Mercyhurst, which traces its roots to Ireland via Catherine McAuley and the Sisters of Mercy, it was the perfect place to establish its first brick-and-mortar presence overseas. The new center was unveiled March 23 with nearly simultaneous events on both sides of the Atlantic. President Dr. Tom Gamble was in Dungarvan to celebrate the new venture not only with Irish leaders, but also with the 25 students and six faculty members spending spring term in Ireland. They’re already using the new facilities in a refurbished historic building on Lower Main Street in the heart of Dungarvan. Michael Noonan, T.D., Minister of Finance for the Republic of Ireland, who offered the keynote address at the lunch, welcomed the new campus and reinforced the Irish government’s interest in working with Mercyhurst as the Dungarvan initiative moves forward. Back in Erie, Gamble made the announcement in a pre-recorded video that also included scenes of the picturesque town and of students in classes there. Many of the 11 Irish students now enrolled at Mercyhurst were on hand, along with American students who lived and studied in Dungarvan during the previous two spring terms. Mercyhurst has been actively recruiting students from Ireland since 1985, but began

seriously contemplating a permanent center in Dungarvan in 2010 when it first took a group of students and faculty there for a 10-week term. The program was so well received and the Dungarvan experience so rewarding that later groups were filled to capacity within days. Now incorporated in Ireland and with a building to call home, Mercyhurst hopes to offer both fall and spring terms in Ireland. In addition, Irish students who plan to study in Erie may one day be able to start by taking core courses at the Dungarvan center. Besides classrooms and office space, the new center includes dedicated space for the Center for Intelligence Research, Analysis and Training (CIRAT), an arm of Mercyhurst’s internationally known intelligence studies program. CIRAT, which hosted Global Intelligence Forums in Dungarvan the past two summers, expects to use the city as its European base, expanding its online graduate certificate offerings as well as research and training opportunities with European partners in both the public and private sectors. Mercyhurst is also pursuing academic partnerships with European educational institutions, including the Waterford Institute of Technology. Dr. Heidi Hosey, dean of international education, directs the Dungarvan initiative and calls it a win-win for all involved. “Mercyhurst Ireland is a major advance in internationalizing our campus and an exciting challenge as we play a part in growing Europe’s new knowledge economy,” she said.


Kids bloom at Carpe Diem Academy When Amy Bauschard left her longtime job teaching first grade at Our Lady’s Christian School to help organize the Carpe Diem Academy, she got a touching good-bye note from one young student. “Miss Bauschard I will miss you so so so so much, but I have to let you go because you are going to change the world.” The Carpe Diem Academy was the brainstorm of Dr. Leanne Roberts, chair of Mercyhurst’s Education Department, who likewise believes that this unique after-school enrichment program can change the world for youngsters in schools with high poverty rates and lagging test scores. She helped secure a three-year, $1.5 million federal grant to launch the program and named it for the motto that Mercyhurst has lived by for 86 years – Seize the Day. Then she invited parents at several Erie schools to help their kids in kindergarten through second grade “seize the day – and all their tomorrows.” Parents in large numbers accepted the invitation. Within a day after the Carpe Diem Academy was announced at Burton, Edison and Wayne Schools, all the slots had been filled and waiting lists were growing. There’s no charge to families, thanks to the 21st Century Community Learning Grant. Mercyhurst will continue to work with the Erie School District to introduce a summer program at several other schools beginning in July. At Burton School, a cluster of four classrooms morphs into the Carpe Diem Academy at 2:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday. Though they’ve already been in school for about six and a half hours by that time, the 60 youngsters in the program are eager to rush back into the classroom.

Certified teachers enrolled in graduate programs at Mercyhurst supervise each school’s operation, but high-level undergraduate education majors are also getting the ultimate in hands-on experience by staffing the classrooms. The teachers provide reading and math activities every day. But before dismissal at 5:30 p.m., the kids will also enjoy healthy snacks and a nutritious dinner, engage in strenuous physical activities, explore the arts with visiting artists, and even work with classroom sets of iPads. Roberts and Bauschard have lined up lots of community partners, including ArtsErie, Jump Bunch Sports, the Erie Art Museum, Spotlight Dance Studio and more. Wegmans supplies the snacks, with an emphasis on introducing new foods that children will find scrumptious, and Metz, the Erie School District’s food supplier, delivers dinners. The goal of the federal program that makes the Carpe Diem Academy possible is to improve performance on state assessment tests. The kids enrolled now won’t take the Pennsylvania System of School Assessment (PSSA) tests until third grade, so it will be a while before the Carpe Diem Academy’s impact can be measured in test scores. But Roberts is convinced the program will work. “Any enrichment you can provide to young children, anything you can do to get them engaged in and excited by learning, always has a positive effect. “We’re educating the minds and nourishing the bodies of hundreds of the youngest school-age children in our city.”

For information about the Carpe Diem Academy, contact Dr. Leanne Roberts,, or Amy Bauschard,


Alumni team hits 13 cities on st 1 ‘Road Trip’


The Alumni Road Trip Crew: Jeanette Britt ’94, John Melody ’90, Ryan Palm ’07, Dave Livingston and Liz Tobin.

Ryan Palm and Liz Tobin of the alumni relations department spent more time behind the wheel than behind their desks this spring as they traveled the nation on a “Road Trip” to celebrate Mercyhurst’s new status as a university. They took part in a March 1 kick-off event attended by hundreds of alumni and employees at Erie’s Sheraton Bayfront Hotel. Then they hit the road – joined at various times by Dave Livingston, Jeanette Britt and John Melody – to host alumni events in more than a dozen cities around the country.

Each event was unique, with locations ranging from Wegmans’ upscale Next Door Bar & Grill in Rochester to the Jerome Bettis Grille 36 in Pittsburgh. In Cleveland, those attending even had a chance to bowl a game or two at the Corner Alley. Whatever the venue, each gathering included not only food and drink, but a lot of reminiscing and networking. Many young alums turned out, as expected, but classes from the 1950s and ‘60s were also well-represented. Though the earlier graduates experienced a much different Mercyhurst than recent

students, they seemed equally excited by their alma mater’s new status and by recent developments on The Hill. At many locations, alumni partnered with the admissions department and also welcomed students expecting to enroll at Mercyhurst this fall. President Dr. Tom Gamble spoke to the group that assembled in New York City. The Road Trip had been envisioned as a onetime tour, but it proved so popular it appears likely to become an annual tradition. If they didn’t visit your area this year, they’d love to talk to you about organizing a stop near you in 2013.

Billy Byrnes still living Mercy mission Not everything has gone according to plan since Billy and Kristin Byrnes arrived in Nicaragua in September 2011. They had anticipated a two-year stay in the tiny town of Waslala, Nicaragua, a community they quickly grew to love. But after about six months, the situation at the institute where they worked grew more and more unstable. Facing the very real possibility that local bishops might close the institute, Billy and Kristin moved to an even smaller town in Nicaragua to continue their ministry. Though disappointed, they say they are eager to create a home for themselves, begin to work, and build a new community with the people of San Nicolas. Billy graduated from Mercyhurst in 2002 with a degree in religious studies and political science. He went on to earn a master’s degree in theology from the Franciscan School of Theology in Berkeley, Calif., and then taught in California high schools for several years. After he and Kristin married in 2009, they soon began to consider leaving the comforts of their Bay Area home for a missionary assignment. Billy says his years at Mercyhurst pointed him toward this work. “I can practically pinpoint the reason why I decided to volunteer,” he reflects, “and it was in Dr. Mary Hembrow Snyder’s class, Liberation Theology. We had studied the life of Archbishop Oscar Romero and the four North American churchwomen who were raped and murdered in El Salvador, and I wanted to be living my faith the way they lived theirs. I wanted to not just read about working with the poor and marginalized, I wanted to actually be doing it.”

Accepted by the Volunteer Missionary Movement, Billy and Kristin were assigned to Waslala, a town of about 7,000 inhabitants in an area that raises coffee, cacao and cattle. It’s only 100 miles from the capital city of Managua, but it takes an eight-hour bus ride to cover that distance. They taught English and theology at the Instituto Agropecuario, an agricultural institute that taught farming practices, lived on the grounds and helped out on the farm. Billy even milked the cows three times a week and learned to make cheese from the milk collected. Billy quickly learned that his students, ranging in age from 14 to 28, lived four, five or even six hours away from the institute. To attend their weekly class, some rode a horse for an hour, walked another two, and then rode the bus for three hours. On arrival they spent the night on a thin mattress in the classroom to be ready for class on Sunday. “I was humbled to be their teacher,” he says. “Each one of them sacrificed so much to be enrolled in this school and in my class, and it was in this moment I realized my vocation: to teach those who want to learn, much like my mentors at Mercyhurst did for me.” The memories of the time they spent in Waslala are vivid for Billy and Kristin. A few highlights: • helping inseminate the cows on the farm • killing the turkey they ate for Christmas dinner • taking the six-hour bus ride from Matagalpa to Waslala in an old Blue Bird school bus on a dirt road

the night the 29-year-old security guard at the institute died, and they went to the hospital to take care of his body and bring his casket to his family’s house

visiting the hospital after their friend Silvia gave birth and seeing a room full of young pregnant mothers sharing beds without sheets and with no family to support them

• walking into a small mud house in the campo shared by a large family and being offered a sweet corn tortilla and coffee • seeing people ride up on their horses to come to mass on Sunday afternoon • participating in the protest at the parish when the bishops tried to close the Institute where they worked. San Nicolas is home to only 1,000 people and has just a few streets. No bank, no gas station, no post office, no supermarket. There are no taxis and only a handful of cars – villagers travel by horse and mule. Billy and Kristin are teaching English at the public institute and also helping out at the small Catholic parish in town. They’re visiting and working with residents of 32 other nearby communities. Billy also regularly travels an hour by bus to work at an organic garden and farm. Billy attributes his decision to volunteer to the commitment and values of the Sisters of Mercy that he was introduced to at Mercyhurst and to his many mentors at Mercyhurst (including both faculty and staff) and elsewhere. “The people who made me question the status quo, the ones who told me it was okay to challenge authority, the ones who helped me realize the disparity in this world, the ones who shared their wisdom and experience, and those who made me truly believe that I could change the world.” He hopes today’s students don’t limit their education to the classroom. “Their involvement with Student Government, participating in an alternative spring break trip, going on a retreat that Campus Ministry offers, becoming politically active, becoming an R.A. or an Ambassador, or going to mass in Christ the King Chapel, all of these enhance a Mercyhurst degree,” he reflects. “The faculty are wonderful and their courses open your mind in a way nothing ever will, but I would challenge

them to do more, like St. Ignatius’ magis. The opportunities are endless as a Laker.” He also encourages students to study abroad as he did, and to be open to the experience. “You can’t expect to live the same way or have the same things you are used to in your life in the States,” he points out. “That is the great thing about being part of another culture, as you get to see how other people worship, eat, cook, travel, live and work. There is more than one way to live.” When time – and computer connections! – permit, Billy and Kristin are sharing their Nicaraguan adventures on a blog. Check out their stories and photos at



Three Amigos On June 5, 1978, the Erie Daily Times documented the previous day’s graduation at Mercyhurst College. It was the school’s 50th commencement ceremony, and 248 students had received diplomas, including 136 women and 112 men. On the paper’s local page, then-President Dr. Marion Shane and guest speaker John B. Fisher are pictured congratulating a trio of students who earned top awards. George Venuto earned the Carpe Diem Award, the top award presented to an undergraduate each year; Patrick Weschler won the Archbishop John Mark Gannon Award for scholastic excellence; and Joe NeCastro took home the Leadership Award. The three young men, fast friends then, have maintained close bonds ever since. Here’s a look at what’s been happening with each of them. 16

Joe NeCastro always knew he’d be an accountant. His father had died when he was young, but he had two uncles who were CPAs ready to help him get started.

increasingly responsible positions with communication firms U.S.News & World Report, Reader’s Digest and Penton Media. In 2002, he joined the E.W. Scripps Company as senior vice president and chief financial officer. Today he’s chief financial and administrative officer of Scripps Networks Interactive Inc. and is also responsible for Scripps Networks International. Each step in his career has been driven, he says, by the chance to broaden his horizons. “I enjoyed accounting, but as an accountant you’re always looking backward, documenting things that have already happened,” he explains. “I wanted to be looking ahead and exploring more exciting industries, like media and telecommunications.”

Born and raised in Erie, he knew he needed to stay in Erie to help his family. He chose Mercyhurst because, even then, he sensed that it enrolled more students from other areas than other local colleges. An accounting major, he earned the highest score in Pennsylvania on the Certified Public Accountant exam a few months after graduation in 1978. Accepted by Harvard Business School, he deferred admission for two years while he got some work experience with his uncle, then enrolled and earned his MBA. Soon after, he went to work for MCI Communications, launching a financial management career that would include

Mercyhurst had a lot to do with the person he became and the growth he experienced, Joe says, so he recently accepted an invitation to join the university’s board of trustees. “I always wanted a chance to give back to Mercyhurst.” He’s especially glad to share that service with Patrick Weschler, one of his best friends since college days. Joe, Pat and George Venuto formed a bond at Mercyhurst that persists almost 35 years after graduation. Joe and Pat get together frequently now at trustee meetings, but the trio had been getting together at least twice a year all along, scheduling guys-only weekends and sharing family milestones.

As a student Joe was very involved in student government and even served on the College Senate, a powerful position in those days when the five student members had equal voice with the five faculty members and five administrators. He was also part of the committee that rewrote the Senate charter to include more faculty members while still preserving the student presence. Married for 23 years to Barbara Watt, he has three children: Peter, 20, a Butler University student; Grace, 18, a Marquette University student; and 12-year-old George. The family lives in Knoxville, Tenn.

Patrick Weschler was just a preschooler when he first announced he was going to attend Mercyhurst. The idea drew laughs, since the college was women-only at the time. “Turns out I knew what I was talking about,” he laughs now. “The school went co-ed five years before I started there.” He’d been visiting the campus for years to visit his aunt, Sister M. Charles Weschler. She graduated from the college in 1940, joined the Sisters of Mercy, and went on to a distinguished career on the Mercyhurst faculty, first in business and later in chemistry.

work a part-time job. He had a hand in some major projects, including the celebration of Mercyhurst’s 50th anniversary in 1976 (working with Mary Daly in the public relations office), and the first alumni phone-a-thon and Alumni College (with former President Sr. Carolyn Herrmann). Following graduation in 1978, Patrick entered law school at the University of Virginia and was slightly daunted by classmates who had come from major universities. As the sole member of what he calls the “Mercy-what?” group, he not only held his own with the “Harvard group” and the “Yale group,” but also did well enough to make Law Review at the end of the year. “I feel that Mercyhurst did a fantastic job of preparing me to participate (and participate well) in law school with graduates of the best schools in the country,” he reflects. Patrick worked with large law firms in Cleveland, Ohio, and Washington, D.C., before joining Buckingham, Doolittle & Burroughs, LLP, in 1988. The firm has offices in Akron, Canton and Cleveland, Ohio; and Boca Raton, Fla. He’s been a partner since 1991 and focuses his practice on trusts and estates and charitable planning. Within the next decade, his ambition is to earn a master’s degree in history and begin teaching. In 2010, he picked up where he had left off with service to his alma mater and joined Mercyhurst’s Board of Trustees.

He did consider other schools, but eventually chose the Hurst over schools like Northwestern and Ohio Wesleyan because of its small school environment with teachers who seemed to know the students individually and care about them. “Mercyhurst lived up to its promise,” he says.

Patrick’s younger son, Christopher, 17, is now looking at colleges. “I want Chris to make up his own mind,” his dad says, “but would be very proud to have a third Weschler generation attending Mercyhurst.” He also has a 20-yearold son, Alexander.

George Venuto still has a full head of hair. Or at least he did until March 16.

“It was a great place to go from a gawky, geeky freshman to a senior ready to head to law school,” Patrick says. “And I made the best friends I would ever make.”

That was the day the ’78 Mercyhurst grad finally capitulated and had his head shaved to benefit St. Baldrick’s Foundation, which raises funds to fight childhood cancers. “What would you look like bald?” its website asks. “You’d look like a hero for kids with cancer!”

He took challenging courses in his major (political science) and minor (math), but also enjoyed the breadth of liberal arts courses that rounded out his college work. He was able to intern with a local law firm, participate in Student Government and the Merciad, and

Women who are willing to lose their tresses can raise the most money, George says. “But at my age men who still have their hair do pretty well too,” he adds with a laugh. He set an ambitious goal of raising $100,000 for the cause and is well on his way to achieving it.

The head-shaving took place in front of a large crowd at Philadelphia’s Public House Bar. It was fun – but for a very serious cause. Since it was founded more than 10 years ago, St. Baldrick’s Foundation has raised more than $100 million to fund lifesaving research into treatments for childhood cancers, giving the gift of hope to thousands of young patients. George credits the Sisters of Mercy and the spirit of Mercyhurst with helping develop his desire to help the less fortunate. While a student, he served as president of Mercyhurst Student Government and was active on college committees. He’s proud to have seriously addressed issues of curriculum, campus life and student safety and earned credibility for his group’s agenda as well as its fiscal responsibility. He earned the Carpe Diem Award at graduation, the highest award Mercyhurst presents to a student. A business administration and marketing management graduate, George has spent most of his career in the reinsurance business, which provides insurance for insurers. Today he serves as director of casualty underwriting for Arch Reinsurance in Morristown, N.J. He still welcomes chances to help out Mercyhurst, most recently by representing the university at a college fair near his home. George and his wife, Sharon, have a daughter, Amy, 23. In addition, he says, he has an “adopted family” that he created while at Mercyhurst, including fellow ’78 grads Joe NeCastro and Patrick Weschler. “We formed an incredible bond,” he explains. “They are in all seriousness my brothers. They’ve always been there for me, and I hope they’d say I’ve done the same.” Patrick even drove from Akron to watch as he lost his hair. To make a contribution to St. Baldrick’s Foundation on George’s behalf, visit


LAKER NOTES Three members of the Class of 1957 have gathered annually for the past three years for lunch and a chance to discuss old times and new. Pictured in Ft. Myers, Fla., in 2011 are Patsy Klein Burton, Ann McGinnis Minnium and Bunny (Rita) Walters Weiss. Mary Patalon Schaaf ‘68 was elected Erie County Controller in November 2011. Christine Syguda Bailey ‘69 has retired after teaching for 40 years at Jefferson Elementary School in Jefferson, Ohio. Deborah Duda Gale ‘77 completed her second master’s degree with a Master of Arts in public policy and aging from King’s College in London, England. In 1981, she received an MBA from Santa Clara University in California. P. Kelly Tompkins ‘78 received the Champion Award for his longstanding commitment and dedication to the Alzheimer’s Association. Dina Lawson McKenna, Esq. ‘93 joined AvMed Health Plans in Gainesville, Fla., managing the company’s contract administration and regulatory compliance. She graduated cum laude with her Juris Doctorate from Florida A&M University. Robert Merski ‘99 was elected to Erie City Council in November 2011. Elicia Henry ‘01 was among 5,000 members of the public who became the first people to cross the London Olympic Stadium finish line in The National Lottery Olympic Park Run on March 31. They ran a 5-mile course culminating at the Olympic Stadium. Scott Platz ‘01 has accepted a position as corporate controller with the Cleveland Heart Lab. Trevor Murnock ‘02 has been assistant principal at Cathedral Prep High School in Erie, Pa., since 2009. Matthew Sacco ‘03 was awarded a doctorate in counseling psychology from Auburn University. Now a postdoctoral health psychology fellow at the Cleveland Clinic, he works in the Neurological Institute, Department of Psychiatry and Psychology, and teaches at Lerner Medical College of Case Western Reserve. Andrea Arbuckle Hoovler ‘04 is the special education administrator for the Lakeview School District in Stoneboro, Pa. Brendan Doran ‘05 was awarded a doctor of pharmacy degree in May 2011 from LECOM School of Pharmacy in Erie, Pa. 18

Sarah Wheaton ‘04 graduated from Combat Systems Officer School on Sept. 23, 2011. Her mother, Michele Wheaton ‘05, had the honor of pinning Sarah with her aviator’s wings. Sarah is stationed at Offutt Air Force Base in Omaha, Neb. Kristen Hudak ‘05 recently accepted the position of senior publicist at ESPN and relocated from Washington, D.C., to New York City. Howard Orton ‘05 received a master’s degree in public administration from Ashford University. Cory Tubo ‘08 has been named assistant vice president and associate relationship manager of PNC Financial Service Group Inc. corporate banking division. Benjamin Pratt ‘09 was nominated as a candidate for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s 2012 Man, Woman & Teen of the Year campaign.

Engagements & Marriages Kate Gulian McGrath-Weber ‘87 married Bill Weber May 21, 2011. They reside in Eagleville, Pa.

Elishia Gnage ‘06 married Marshall Wurst on July 16, 2011, in Warren, Pa. Katie Marsjanik ‘06 married Dylan Brown July 23, 2011. Bridesmaids included Carrie Karsznia ‘06, Beth Holman ‘06 and Debbie Dalsin ‘06. Heather Benny ‘06 married Jay Cattron on Sept. 10, 2011, at Presque Isle State Park in Erie, Pa. Danielle Reznik Hessler ‘03 was matron of honor and Shawn Lynch ‘11 was a groomsman.

Marc Gattie ‘06 and Stephanie Barker ‘08 were married on Oct. 29, 2011. The wedding party included Adrienne Hermes ‘06, Rebecca Whitmore O’Connor ‘07, Ryan O’Connor ‘06 and Eric Gattie ‘04.

Elicia Henry ‘01 and Carl Orsbourn plan to marry in September 2012 in Amalfi, Italy. Ryan Johnson ‘02 married Farzanah Rehmatwala on Sept. 3, 2011. The wedding party included best man Kevin Johnson ‘06 and Ford Mennell ‘02. Carlo Garofalo ‘03 married Immacolata De Rosa June 27, 2011, in Capua, Italy. They reside in Siena, Italy. Jessica Sessler ‘04 married Andrew Alesso in December 2009 in Port Canaveral, Fla. They reside in Erie, Pa. Eric Hollenbeck ‘05 married Anne Ferry on July 16, 2011, in Lima, Ohio. Brendan Doran ‘05 and Michael Graham ‘05 were co-best men, and Jake Meinking ‘06 was a groomsman. The Hollenbecks reside in Cleveland, Ohio.

Ashley Masi ‘06 married Eric Stahl Oct. 10, 2010, in Pittsburgh, Pa. The wedding party included Jessica Lamb ‘07.

David Stearns ‘06, ‘08 married Wendy Beveridge June 11, 2011, in Columbia, Md.

Sarah Arnold ‘07 and Greg Beckwith are engaged to be married in June 2013. Hilary Frantz ‘07 married Christopher Jonczak on April 9, 2011. Christopher had just returned from serving in Afghanistan. Judy Giglia ‘07 married Antonio Palomares on June 18, 2011, in Lake Seneca, N.Y. They now reside in Miami, Fla.

A degree in fashion merchandising – and especially the junior year she spent at New York’s Fashion Institute of Technology (F.I.T.) launched Mercyhurst alumna Amy Schmitt Seabolt ’98 into an exciting career that has now landed her in Hong Kong.

Maeve Kelly ‘07 and Sean Gavin are engaged to be married in June 2012 in Philadelphia, Pa. Patrick McArthur ‘07 and Jennifer Krupa ‘07 were married June 25, 2011.

Jessica Provenzano ‘07 ‘09 is engaged to be married to Chris Dearbeck in December 2012. Meghan Sauer ‘07 married Chris Aloshen ‘07 on May 28, 2011, in Fairvew Park, Ohio. Gina Christoffersen ‘07 and Sarah Beercheck ‘07 were bridesmaids and Nate Hoffman ‘07 was a groomsman. Leanne Wzontek ‘08 married William Chapin II on June 18, 2011, in Buffalo, N.Y. The wedding party included 2LT Brittany Wzontek ‘11, Kristen Blencowe ‘08, and Melissa Diethorn ‘08. The Chapins now reside in North Buffalo. Brittani DeVore ‘10 married Jeremi Hough on July 22, 2011. Jackie Hartz ‘11 and Chelsea Cox ‘11 were bridesmaids.

Births Marc Boeh ‘95 and Carmel Dougherty Boeh ‘97 had a son, Declan, on Jan. 31, 2012. Joanna Shirey Halenda ‘96 and husband Paul had their third child, Emerson Ann, on Aug. 19, 2011. She joins siblings Jenna and Caleb. Pat Klingensmith ‘96 and wife Holly had their first child, Landry Collin, May 28, 2011.

Heather Ryan ‘96 had a daughter, Jordan, on Aug. 28, 2011.

Melissa Brown Zarbo ‘96 and husband John adopted a 3-year-old boy, Andrew Charles, from the Ukraine in March 2011.

The F.I.T. experience led to jobs following graduation with Calvin Klein and Dolce & Gabbana, both in New York City. About four years ago, Amy interrupted her career in the Big Apple when her husband Chris accepted a finance job in Hong Kong. Just two weeks after arriving there, she had landed her own dream job with Lane Crawford, a luxury fashion specialty store. As director of PR and communications, she’s responsible for increasing brand awareness and organizing campaigns and events for both the media and the store’s customers. She has driven some key programs and projects for Lane Crawford, working with designers like Phillip Lim, Olivier Theyskens, Roland Mouret and Victoria Beckham; re-launching the store’s website; and opening stores in Hong Kong and China. The F.I.T. affiliation was a huge part of the curriculum, but Amy reports many other highlights during her Mercyhurst career. “I was able to do amazing internships, meet some incredible people and be part of some truly unique experiences, including a summer program in London, Paris, Venice and Milan,” she says. The fashion merchandising program was quite small when Amy was here, but she says, “I owe so much to Marilyn Smith. She really championed her students and pushed them to accomplish major goals.”

Amy encourages today’s students to explore everything that Mercyhurst has to offer to discover their true passions. “For example, I tried out a journalism class,” she notes. “I not only found a hidden interest but also ended up taking additional courses and writing a few stories for the Merciad. Those courses really benefited my current career.” She’s also grateful Mercyhurst enabled her to continue dancing, something else she was passionate about. Amy and Chris have a 2-year-old daughter, Emerson, who was born in Hong Kong and is already learning Mandarin. “Sadly, I think her Mandarin is better than mine,” Amy adds. Nearly 8,000 miles now separate Amy from her alma mater so she’s not able to stay involved much with Mercyhurst these days, but she remains close to many of her college friends. ”I really enjoyed my time at Mercyhurst and key memories are the people. My friends are the first things I think of when I look back on my years at Mercyhurst.” Of university status, Amy remarks, “It will still always be Mercyhurst College to me, but becoming a university really puts it on the map.”


Colleen Kinney Cancellieri ‘97 and husband Jude had a daughter, Theresa Marie, on Nov. 4, 2010.

Matthew Konieczki ‘97 and Diana Rapacki Konieczki ‘03 had a daughter, Stella Rae, on Dec. 15, 2010.

Amy Kosmack Izbicki ‘00 and Justin Izbicki ‘04 had a son, Grant Harrison, on Nov. 11, 2011. Megan Zuza McHale ‘00 and husband Bill had their second son, Colin Dominic, on Oct. 24, 2011. Colin joins big brother Brendan.

Amy Smoulder Watson ‘00 and husband Malcom had a daughter, Finnley Marie, on Jan. 25, 2012. Shaun Nave ‘01 and Maria Nave ‘02 had a daughter, Ariana Maria, on Jan. 4, 2012. Erin Koskoski Magorien ‘02 and Joseph Magorien ‘01 had a daughter, Nora Jane, on June 24, 2011. Philip Annibale ‘03 and wife Angela welcomed a second son, Cole Anthony.

Lauren Brechtel Pura ‘03 and husband Creg had a son, Cooper Michael, on May 10, 2011.


Andrea Arbuckle Hoovler ‘04 and husband Jason had a daughter, Karissa Ann, on Oct. 26, 2010.

Stephanie Dulaney Lehman ‘04 and husband Philip had a daughter, Isabella Anne, on Jan. 5, 2012. Lindsay Hornyak Corr ‘05 and Patrick Corr ‘01 had a son, Liam Patrick, on March 22, 2011. Kathleen Lynch ‘05 had a daughter, Addison Elizabeth, on June 6, 2011. Her uncle is Timothy Knecht ‘09, ‘11.

Kristen Wanner Mekota ‘05 and husband Chris had their first daughter, Ava Marie, on Nov. 11, 2011.

Gloria Emberger Oxford ‘05 and husband Sean had a son, Noah David, on Jan. 12, 2012. Megan Turi Roperti ‘06 and Joseph Roperti ‘05 had a son, Daniel Joseph, on Aug. 29, 2011.

Anthony Stranix ‘03 and Francesca Ravasio Stranix ‘04 had a son, Joseph Quinn, on Nov.17, 2011.

Hilary Frantz ‘07 and husband Christopher Jonczak had a son, Christopher Michael, on April 24, 2011.

Brian Capellupo ‘04 and Shannon King Capellupo ‘04 had a son, Anthony John, on Jan. 16, 2012.

Ellen Karstedt Zittel ‘07 and husband Jason had their first daughter, Molly Jane, Sept. 4, 2011.

Jason Colbert ‘04 and Robyn Mast Colbert ‘05 had their first son, Braden Neil, on Nov. 13, 2011.

Nadine Zinram Bower ‘09, administrative assistant in student life at Mercyhurst, and husband Nick had a daughter, Lily Anna, on Oct. 13, 2011.

Deaths Alumni Regina English Ingram ‘44 Rosemary Held Schitea ‘45 Virginia Walsh Braun ‘46 Mary Lou Costanzo ‘47 Corrine Braun Beck ‘49 Frances Rossi D’Ambrosio ‘49 Marilyn Fregelette Detzel ‘50 Patricia Royer Schloss ‘54 Maryann Cunningham Cavanaugh ‘58 Judith Gordon Fredette ‘60 Kathryn Reese Guhl ‘63 Sister Ann Prisco, RSM ‘65 Margaret Sandle McBride ‘66 Mary Ann Crowley Celli ‘77 Edward Flood ‘77 Kristin Louise Pelfrey ‘07 Megan Wells ‘07 Husband of: Elaine Brown Schuster ‘45 (James L. Schuster) Patricia Narby Stevens ‘56 (David H. Stevens) Ann Kleindinst Abbate ‘65 (Salvatore Abbate) Janet Boling Glassmacher ‘68 (Joseph Glassmacher) Mother of: Barbara Sislowski Ester ‘58 (Agnes McCoy Sislowski Seib) Mary Fisher Yonkers ‘69 (Leona Irene Dechant Fisher) Catherine Becker Kane ‘87 and Marian Becker Toy ‘90 (Martha D. Becker) Antonietta Tripodi Quinn ‘92 and Maria Tripodi Gill ‘94 (Rosemary Tripodi) Megan Ostromecki ‘07 (Nancy Ostromecki) Father of: Carrie Ruggiero Landis ‘96 (Carmen Ruggiero) Father and father-in-law of: Tom Richter ‘73 and Sheila Richter ‘77 (William A Richter, Sr.) Grandmother of David Quinn ‘90 (Rosemary Tripodi) Friends of the College Ruth Dwyer Baldwin Betty Crandell Carol Doran Hill Anthony D. Sala, D.O.

A Perfect Match

Have a question about the U.S. House of Representatives? Odds are good that Erin Lloyd Hromada ’98 has the answer. And if she doesn’t, she knows how to find it.

Diagnosed with acute myelogenous leukemia early in 2010, Sherry Cipolla ’73 needed a bone marrow transplant. No one in her family was a match, nor was any registered marrow donor anywhere in the country. By the time a possible donor was located in Europe, Sherry was too ill to undergo the procedure. She died Dec. 16, 2010. Sherry was determined to improve the odds that other patients would find the marrow donors they needed. “Whether I make it or not, would you organize a marrow donor drive?” she asked her friend and fellow ’73 alumna Cathy Heintz Dudenhoefer. The answer, of course, was yes. Cathy joined forces with Sherry’s aunt, Doris Cipolla, to stage the drive in Sherry’s memory. It’s set for Saturday, June 23, from 1 to 4 p.m. at Erie’s St. George Church, 5145 Peach St. Cathy hopes many in the Mercyhurst community will turn out to assist the cause – and pay tribute to her friend. Registering as a bone marrow donor is quick and easy, she says, requiring only an oral swab. There’s no cost to the person registering. However, it costs about $100 to process each sample and add it to the registry maintained by the Be The Match Foundation. So Cathy and Doris are also encouraging cash donations in Sherry’s honor. Those 60 and over or otherwise not eligible as marrow donors can still help increase the number of potential donors and, the number of life-saving marrow transplants. Visit to learn more or to make a gift. You can also contact Cathy directly at (814) 866-0888 or Sherry, a biology major, eventually became a registered nurse. Doris Cipolla writes: “Sherry regarded friendships as special gifts and collected friends like one would collect special seeds from California to Texas, Chicago to Orlando, Mercyhurst College, West Virginia University, work friends from the PA Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Home, hobby friends from pottery to stained glass classes. She was a lover of plants and life; she was humorous and her generosity knew no bounds. This Be The Match drive is in the spirit of Sherry’s generosity.”

She has spent nearly her entire career on the House staff since graduating from Mercyhurst with a major in history and a minor in political science. From an entry-level position as a staff assistant, she worked her way up to the post of Manager of Historical Services in the Office of the Historian. Her office is in the final stages of writing Hispanic Americans in Congress, the latest in a series of books/websites mandated by Congress (earlier installments included Women in Congress and Black Americans in Congress). Erin is the lead project manager on everything from the Biographical Directory of the U.S. Congress to the newly launched Oral History of the U.S. House of Representatives website. The office is currently working to overhaul their six websites and create one site. The websites are full of interesting historical information about Congress and those who have served there, as well as tips for teachers trying to pique student interest in American history. “My favorite part of the job is uncovering the little nuggets of House history,” Erin says. “I love discovering the first time something happened or proving that something is not novel.” These findings are likely to end up in the “Weekly Historical Highlights” section of the House website. One of Erin’s favorite topics is

the medals Congress has awarded over time, like the Congressional Life Saving Medal or the Congressional Gold Medal presented to the 1980 Olympic team. Dick Kubiak, the advisor who also taught her research methods, would be proud. Erin completed a dual master’s program in history and library science at the University of Maryland in 2004. She married Lou Hromada on New Year’s Eve 2005, and they live in the Maryland suburbs with their two sons, Lucas and Owen. A rower for four years at Mercyhurst, she enjoys keeping tabs on the Laker rowing team, especially the recent medal-winning performances by the women rowers. She also stays active herself and has completed two marathons. Erin wasn’t surprised by Mercyhurst’s decision to pursue university status, calling it “a chance for the school to expand.” The only problem is she has to revise her standard answer when asked where she went to school – “a small liberal arts college in Erie, Pennsylvania.” Editor’s note: To explore some of the projects Erin has worked on, visit



Danielle enjoyed the warmer climate and decided to stay in the South, moving on to the Louisville Ballet and then to the Nashville Ballet, working her way from the corps to solo numbers to principal roles including George Balanchine’s Serenade, Steven Mills’ Red Roses and James Canfield’s Equinox. She was most noted for her performance in Nashville Ballet’s premiere of Salvatore Aiello’s highly acclaimed Satto.

As a young dancer in northern Virginia, Danielle Quill Thienel ’95 recalls how impressed she was by photos in Dance Magazine of the magnificent Mercyhurst dance studio. It was enough to draw her to Erie for a tour, where the Mercyhurst community made her feel so wanted she decided to stay on the Hill. When she graduated, she had a lot of performing experience on her résumé, not only with the Mercyhurst Dancers, but also with Lake Erie Ballet and their annual production of The Nutcracker. Current Dance Department Chair Tauna Hunter arrived at Mercyhurst for her senior year, and Danielle says Tauna and husband Michael Gleason used their extensive network of dance contacts to help her secure her first job after graduation with Kentucky’s Lexington Ballet.

When Danielle was beginning her performing career, she says it was somewhat unusual for a young dancer to pursue a college degree. Most dancers opted to join a company first and perhaps returned to school after retirement. Danielle not only had a degree in dance but also had a business focus and achieved a marketing minor from Mercyhurst, so she was well positioned once she retired from the stage. She first worked for a large commercial real estate company, then embarked on several successful entrepreneurial endeavors. Most recently, she founded her own Pilates company after receiving certification from both Balanced Body University and the Pilates Method Alliance. In addition, she has returned to the Nashville Ballet as director of its ballet school, overseeing a children’s program, an academy division, and a community division for adults that welcomes anyone who’s inspired to dance.

Most branches of America’s military just call their civilian employees “civilians.” The U.S. Marine Corps, though, calls them “civilian marines.” Mercyhurst grad Zac Huber ’07, honored recently as 2011 Civilian Marine of the Year for the Marine Corps Intelligence Activity (MCIA), says the title is truly an honor. “But

Hunter enjoys bringing successful alumni back to work with current students. While Danielle was dancing with the Nashville Ballet, Hunter invited her to bring a modern work to campus for the dancers’ spring show. Hunter paired her with rising star Brendon LaPier, who traveled to Nashville to rehearse with her. Brendon impressed Danielle so much while working with him that she recommended him to the artistic director of Nashville Ballet and he was then offered a job after graduating from Mercyhurst in 2002. He’s still dancing with the company. Today, thanks to both Danielle and Brendon, the Mercyhurst dance program is on everyone’s radar and Danielle says she doesn’t hesitate to point out to potential ‘Hurst students “what Tauna can do for you.” University status can only improve the school’s reputation, she adds. “I was so excited for the new status. I was probably the first alumna to order a new diploma.” Danielle has been married to Mark Thienel for 12 years. Their 7-yearold twin daughters, Ava and Vivian, are now studying at the School of Nashville Ballet. Son Hudson, 5, is more interested in soccer.

it’s extremely humbling,” he adds, “because of the sacrifices they have made that they would never expect me to make.” The award recognized him for providing support to Marines in the fleet. Zac earned his master’s degree in applied intelligence in 2007 and did competitive intelligence for a private media company called Bulletin News before joining MCIA, where he’s now the southern Africa analyst.

When he arrived at Vanderbilt, Cody discovered how unique his Mercyhurst experience had been. Most incoming graduate students had never been solely responsible for a research project, he says.

It didn’t take long for Cody Smith ’07 to make a mark in the biomedical research field, and he credits the head-start he got at Mercyhurst for his quick progress. “I worked with Steven Mauro for two and a half years studying the presence of bacteriophages in Lake Erie,” he explains, “and I think that experience is largely responsible for my success at Vanderbilt.” A biology graduate, Cody will earn his doctorate from the Cell and Developmental Biology Department at Vanderbilt University in June and head to the University of Virginia to continue his research on development of sensory neurons. The student-faculty ratio helped draw Cody to Mercyhurst. “It allowed me to interact with professors much more than I would have been able to at a larger school.” He adds, “Steve worked with me and taught me how to critically think about biological problems. Besides teaching me the necessary laboratory skills, he helped me develop independence in a research setting.”

He was drawn to Mercyhurst by the reputation of the intel program, then convinced by the tight-knit community feel of the campus and the relationships with the professors. He credits Jim Breckenridge, his primary thesis advisor, and Kris Wheaton, who took on “the arduous challenge of converting me from verbose English major to concise intelligence professional.” A pair of hands-on projects also shaped his career. He was part of

Steve Mauro proudly notes that he and Cody co-authored two journal articles during his undergraduate years, including one that received cover placement. Cody has continued to publish, including a widely cited paper in Developmental Biology that also received cover placement and another in the highprofile journal Nature Neuroscience. He has presented his work at conferences all over America, and he’ll speak in Switzerland next year as well. Cody is especially pleased when the travel allows him to reconnect with old ‘Hurst friends, and he’s been back to campus twice to talk with biology students. His primary message: Get into a lab and try out research. “I spent a lot of my time in the lab wondering if something was ever going to work,” he says. “But when you find something that no one else in the world knows and you become the expert of your field that quickly, it is worth all the failed experiments.” Cody thinks university designation is great for the Mercyhurst community. He laughingly adds, “I also think it’s cool because all my old Mercyhurst College gear is an artifact. But I’m a little worried people will think my diploma is fake because Mercyhurst College doesn’t exist anymore.”

a group contracted by the Department of Defense to create intelligence projects. Then, in the Strategic Intelligence class, students created an unclassified National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) for the National Intelligence Council (NIC). “Working through the NIE process from start to finish with real NIC personnel was invaluable experience and a great primer for understanding national-level intelligence coordination,” he says.

Lisa Kirschman ’07 recalls the day when Interior Design Department Chair Kathy Weidenboerner assured her, “you’ll be in a magazine someday.” It was a lofty goal, but it actually didn’t take Lisa very long to achieve it – designs by the ‘Hurst graduate graced the pages of the April 2012 issue of VMSD magazine. The journal featured the new looks being adopted by some fast-food giants in an effort to convince customers to linger longer. Lisa is a project designer for McDonald’s USA, LLC. Based in Chicago, she’s on the Retail & Interiors Team in U.S. Restaurant Development. The company is now rebranding and remodeling more than 7,000 restaurants across the country. Lisa designs and manages the interior portfolio packages available to the franchise operators. “Few brands as established as McDonald’s get the opportunity to reinvent themselves,” she notes. “It’s exciting to watch your designs go from concept to execution on such a massive scale.”

He’s not the only ‘Hurst graduate on the job. “I’m a loud and obnoxious member of the so-called Mercyhurst Mafia within the Department of Defense,” he brags. “I’m very quick to point out Mercyhurst’s success at producing high-quality intelligence analysts and innovative thinking to senior officials.” Zac married Jennifer Lee, who also earned her applied intelligence degree in 2007 and now works for the Department of Justice.

The updated environments are earning glowing reviews. VMSD Editor Ann DiNardo, in her introduction to the issue, said, “Food giant McDonald’s, the founder of the fast-food concept, is also investing heavily in a rebranding program that starts with its restaurant environments. Inside a host of new concept designs, customers will find primary colors replaced with graphic wallcoverings and stylish chairs and bar seats instead of a sea of fiberglass booths. The new McDonald’s interiors are refreshing, exciting and, dare I say, so not fast food.” As an undergraduate, Lisa completed an internship with Cogdell & Mendrala Architects, PC in Savannah, Ga., an invaluable experience that developed into a post-graduation job as an interior designer and marketing coordinator. “They were a wonderful group of architects and designers who were always teaching even if they didn’t know it,” she says, adding, “I would have never gotten that internship or position without the skills and knowledge I gained at Mercyhurst.” While in Georgia, she completed her Master of Fine Arts in interior design at the Savannah College of Art & Design. “It’s always a good decision to keep growing and moving forward,” Lisa says of her alma mater’s new university status. ”Mercyhurst always had the variety of programs to be one, and now it is official.” 

They just bought their first home in Arlington, Va. Zac adds that he thinks the change to university status is great. “I’m very proud to see the college I left behind strive for – and successfully earn – the title of university.”


From The Hill Following a national search, Dr. Kenneth Zirkle has been named chief operating officer of Mercyhurst University – The North East Campus. Zirkle, who had served as interim chief administrator at North East since last July, also assumed the role of associate provost for the university’s emerging College of Associate Degree Studies.

The Board of Trustees of Mercyhurst University has recognized the pivotal leadership of Mercyhurst’s seventh president, Sister Carolyn Herrmann, RSM ’38, and honored her posthumously with the title of President Emerita. Most noteworthy was her vision in spiriting the change from a 43-year-old college for women to a coeducational institution in 1969, a decision that likely paved the way for Mercyhurst’s award of university status some 43 years later. The trustees also awarded the lifetime status of Trustee Emerita to Jane Theuerkauf upon her retirement from the board. Myron Jones, a newly retired trustee with 25 years of service, was named Trustee Emeritus. Mercyhurst, which has offered a degree in art therapy for several years, has created a degree program in music therapy through the D’Angelo Department of Music. Craig Stevens directs the program, the first of its kind in the region.


Jamie Grady has been named director of the Mercyhurst Institute for Arts and Culture. In the newly created position, Grady will oversee the planning and execution of many of the university’s artistic and cultural events while developing a new academic program in arts management. Grady’s 25-year career in the arts includes successful leadership roles in major theaters, symphonies and academic institutions.

A new book by former Erie County Executive Judy Lynch, now an assistant professor of history/sociology at Mercyhurst University – The North East Campus, recounts the growth of this vibrant, successful institution. Mercyhurst North East – Building Dreams is for sale in Mercyhurst bookstores in Erie and North East.

Alumni remain key part of ‘Hurst team

Kristen Hudak ’05 is still a Mercyhurst Ambassador of Service. She marked Mercy Month in March by organizing Washington, D.C. area alums to visit nursing home residents on St. Patrick’s Day. After a move to New York, she joined Mercyhurst social work students to read to children at the Mercy Center in the Bronx and hopes to get New York alums involved in the future. By any measure, Mercyhurst University has a remarkable alumni base – and, like Kristen, many former Lakers remain connected with their alma mater long after graduation.

Mercyhurst alumnus John Langer ’95 has a voracious appetite for music, culture and the arts, a legacy for which he credits his mother, Maria. And, so, in her name and honor, Langer has chosen to sponsor Mercyhurst’s film series for 2012. A major economic development and tourism project in eastern Erie County is one step closer to completion, thanks to a gift from Mercyhurst University. Mercyhurst has donated the former bank building at 17 West Main Street to Downtown North East Inc. (DNE) to be renovated as a local products store and tribute to Welch’s heritage. For more information about these stories and many other exciting developments at Mercyhurst University, visit

Alumni participation in Mercyhurst’s Annual Fund has been climbing steadily, from 15 percent just five years ago to 22 percent last year. The rate is approaching 24 percent this year. That’s important because the alumni giving rate impacts U.S.News & World Report college rankings. But alumni assistance goes far beyond donations. Many alumni also reach out to current students preparing to launch their own careers - recruiting employees and interns at the annual job fair on campus, attending networking events, speaking in classes and serving as mentors (in person or via email). Others represent the Hurst at college fairs and recruitment events all over the country.

Want to get involved? Contact Ryan Palm ’07, director of alumni relations and annual giving, at or (814) 824-3320.

Studies in political science prepared Kristen Hudak ’05 perfectly for her current job as a senior publicist for ESPN. Actually, Kristen says, they really did. Kristen earned her degree in political science and immediately went on to pursue a master’s in politics from the Catholic University of America. She took her first job out of grad school at WebStrong, a PR firm in Alexandria, Va. , after answering an ad that read “must love baseball and politics.” Her clients ranged from political candidates to nonprofit organizations to law firms, but she gradually found her work focused with MASN, a regional sports network, and its battle to be carried on cable systems throughout its seven-state territory. She also worked directly for the network as a blogger and reporter covering the Washington Nationals. When the WebStrong partners went their separate ways, Kristen did some freelance writing and worked with the sports network SB Nation before relocating to New York City last fall for the job with ESPN. She helps meet the strategic communication needs of the network’s ad sales, affiliate, digital, marketing and research teams.  “I know it sounds like a dramatic departure from my past, but I believe that political science and the liberal arts tradition are a recipe for a versatile and rewarding career,” she says. “I learned how to think, read, write and communicate at Mercyhurst. I understand how to sort through complex problems, execute creative solutions and drive results. And the complex world of cable television and government regulation of media is a very important part of my role.” Kristen had already decided on another university before she accompanied a

dancer friend on a tour at Mercyhurst. “I know everybody says it, but when we drove through the gates, I just knew Mercyhurst was the right place for me. It was so beautiful. I can’t recall another time in my life when I experienced that same kind of immediate certainty.” Reflecting on her years on campus, Kristen says, “I really loved the seasonality at Mercyhurst - the brisk, beautiful fall; the snowy, Christmas-inspired winters; and the first warm day of spring. That’s something that really stays with you over time.” She says Dr. Randy Clemons and Dr. Michael Federici “supported me, challenged me, encouraged me and made me a better thinker, writer and person,” and continue to support her even as she “veers off the political track.” She also gained great insights from Dr. Brian Ripley and Dr. Joe Morris. She’s happy about the new designation of Mercyhurst University, and confident that her alma mater will preserve its most endearing quality - that student faculty bond. She encourages current students not to worry about making the kind of career switch she did. She suggests, “Be creative as you take steps in your career. Try new things, learn new skills and don’t worry so much about exactly what you studied. Let your passion drive you and then build up the skillset to match your passion. Mercyhurst prepared you for anything and everything you could encounter in the working world. Make the most of every opportunity. “


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Erie, PA Permit No. 10

Don’t miss the very first Homecoming/Family Weekend at Mercyhurst University

elebrate C ! The year of the university

Homecoming/Family Weekend

Sept. 21-23, 2012 All the usual fun PLUS some special additions to celebrate university status

Details coming soon.

Profile for Steve Perkins: Creative Director

Mercyhurst Magazine - May 2012  

Mercyhurst Magazine - May 2012