People of the Decade

Jan 06, 2020

We take a look back at some of the notable people who have left their marks on Cal U over the past 10 years.


It is no small thing to take the measure of a decade. How can anyone summarize 10 years of history or count the highlights of the past 3,652 days?

Yet as we look back at the “20-teens,” we know this for sure: More than anything, we are proud of the people associated with Cal U. We are proud of our students, so many of whom flourished as athletes, scholars and leaders during their time here. We are proud of our faculty for their scholarship and mentorship, and of our alumni for their dedication to their alma mater. We are proud of our donors, who never forgot the value of their education and have chosen to pay that forward.

So before we embrace the 2020s, let’s take one last look at a few of the people who made an impact during the decade past. Thanks to them and to everyone who has put their mark on the past 10 years.

1. President Geraldine M. Jones
The University’s first female African-American president was installed Oct. 14, 2016. Cal U has been part of her personal and professional life for decades, and she continues to propel her alma mater toward a more sustainable future. As her 45-year career shows, a commitment to high quality academics and student achievement never goes out of style.

2. Tom and Karen Rutledge
Their contributions include the largest gift in the University’s history of to establish the Rutledge Institute for Early Childhood Education; scholarships to Cal U students who are studying economics or raising a family while earning a degree; and the Rutledge Internship Awards to help southwestern Pennsylvania students pay living expenses when they take internships outside the area. Their generosity has made a world of difference for countless children, students and families.

3. Swimming and basketball champions
In 2011, Melissa Gates won the 50-yard freestyle at the NCAA Division II swimming championships. In 2015, the women’s basketball team put an exclamation point on a 32-4 season with an 86-69 victory over California Baptist at the 2015 NCAA Division II National Championship game. These champions, and many other successful student-athletes, set the bar high.

4. George Novak
Many Cal U alumni have devoted their careers to the University. A much more exclusive list can claim a 60-year career as faculty members. Novak, Class of 1955, began teaching at California State College in 1959 and retired in 2019 from the Department of Math, Computer Science and Information Systems. He received the Cal U Lifetime Achievement Award, the Alumni Association’s John R. Gregg Award, the Foundation for California University’s Dixonians Award and the President’s Faculty Award for Teaching. His impact continues through scholarships established during his long and memorable career.

5. Robert Eberly Jr.
Scholarships are more important than ever, and Cal U is grateful to all the donors who have support students in their quest for success over the past 10 years. One especially bright light is the Eberly Foundation, led by Robert Eberly Jr., which administers the Eberly Family Scholarship at Cal U. During the decade, the Eberly Foundation awarded over $1.7 million for more than 260 scholarships to Cal U students.

6. Fulbright Specialists
The expertise of Cal U faculty resonates around the world. Through the Fulbright Specialists program, Dr. Aref Alkhattar (criminal justice), Dr. Joseph Schwerha (business and economics), Dr. J. Kevin Lordon (secondary education) and Dr. Sean Madden (history and political science) shared their knowledge of curriculum, faculty development and institutional planning at academic institutions overseas. Alkhattar went to the United Arab Emirates, Schwerha to Malta, Lordon to China and Madden to Russia.

7. Endowed Chair and Fellow
Two Cal U professors earned these prestigious academic honors during the past decade. Dr. Katherine Mitchem was installed in 2009 as the Edith L. Trees Charitable Trust Endowed Chair in Education, and Dr. Diane Nettles received the Jeff and Beverly Berger Faculty Fellowship in Education in 2011. They join Dr. Kevin Koury, now the dean of the College of Education and Human Services, who was installed as a Berger endowed chair in 2004.

8. Honorary doctorate recipients
Over the past 10 years, the University has awarded honorary doctorates – a Doctor of Humane Letters or Doctor of Public Service, honoris causa – to individuals who have made significant contributions in their fields and to society. The distinguished honorees: LaDonna Harris, Carol Mitchell ’72, ’75, Craig Shoemaker ’09, Charles Pryor ’73, Muriel Summers, and Tom Ridge.  

9. Jennie Carter Award recipients
In 2009, Lynn Hayes-Freeland, a reporter at KDKA-TV, became the first recipient of the Jennie Carter Leadership Award, which honors the spirit of Jennie Adams Carter, Class of 1881, the school’s first African-American graduate. Since then, the annual award has been presented to alumni Aaron Walton ‘68, Cynthia James ‘02, Brian Johnson ’94, ‘96, Shujuane Brown Martin ’01, ‘’03, Dwayne Marshall ‘86, Shanita Carmichael ‘08, Alan James ‘62, Blayre Holmes Davis ’12, Paul Lancaster ’66, ’69 and Jesse McLean Jr. ’83, ’94.

10. Student members, State System Board of Governors
Cal U empowers students to take on a variety of leadership positions. One group that made a statewide impact: those Student Government presidents selected to serve on the Board of Governors for Pennsylvania’s State System of Higher Education. In the past 10 years, Ryan Jericho, Bonnie Keener, Chelsea Getsy and Shaina Hilsey gained valuable leadership experience in that role. (Ryan Gebley served from 2007-2008.) We’re confident that all our student leaders have the potential to make positive changes in their professions and their communities.