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Lorna Milkovich Abernathy ’83

Lorna Abernathy '83

Lorna Milkovich Abernathy grew up in Beaver, Pa., and attended IUP from 1979 to 1983, graduating with a degree in Finance. She began her career as a bookkeeper for a small engineering firm in Pittsburgh, and then relocated to Washington, D.C., in 1986. There, she continued in finance with Chevy Chase Bank, followed by Time Life Books.

At Time Life, Lorna expanded her responsibilities beyond finance—into advertising and marketing. She left Time Life in 1995 to take a position as creative director at AOL, for which she developed television commercials, online banner ads, direct-mail pieces, and other marketing materials. In 2001, she left AOL to start a family, but stayed active as a marketing consultant.

Today, Lorna is building a startup apparel company, House of SIA, committed to creating a modern clothing line for women ages thirty-five to sixty-five. She is currently working on the sketches for the first product line, which she plans to launch during the next year.

Lorna and her husband, Justin, currently reside in the Friendship Heights neighborhood of Washington, D.C. They share a home with their newly adopted daughter, Tenley Addison, and their two Hungarian vizslas.

What led you to attend IUP?

To be honest, I wanted to attend Virginia Tech, which is where my brother went. But my parents thought that a smaller school would be better for me—and also a state school due to the cost. My father was a mill worker. They encouraged me to choose a business degree because I’d have a lot of career flexibility with it. I wasn’t thrilled with the idea at first, but IUP turned out to be a great experience. My parents were definitely smarter than I was at eighteen.

Tell me a little bit about your time at IUP as a student. How involved were you in and out of class?

I would say that I had the typical IUP experience. I had a very active social life and hardly ever went home. I studied in the library and joined the Sigma Kappa sorority. I got good grades and generally loved being at IUP.

My closest friendships to this day were formed when I was at IUP. It’s not one specific memory that is a favorite, but the experience overall—especially the people.

How often do you return to IUP? Have things changed much? And is there anything you miss or tend to revisit when you’re back in town?

I return twice a year for Foundation board meetings. There are four a year, but two are conference calls. It’s funny—in some ways IUP has changed a lot. Esch, the dorm where I lived on campus, has been torn down, along with a number of other buildings to make room for the new dorms. But in other ways, it’s exactly the same. It’s still small-town Indiana.

When I’m back, I like to visit the houses where I lived and to eat at Pizza House. As a student, I lived nearby and ate there all the time. I revisit a couple of the bars, too, and also spend time at Eberly, though Eberly hadn’t actually been constructed when I was a student.

You mentioned the Foundation for IUP board of directors. What do you do in that capacity?

I’m currently entering the final year of my second three-year term. I serve as head of the Development Committee, which is the fund-raising arm of the board. The board provides input and support to the development staff, who work to raise funds for the university through a variety of outreach efforts, including phonathons, direct mail, e-mail, alumni events, and one-on-one contact with students, townspeople, parents, and alumni. My role is partly to make sure all this is getting done, but is mainly to report to the board how the efforts are proceeding, what’s been accomplished, etc.

I have also provided input and support for the Legacy Gala, an annual fund-raising event that was held in the Pittsburgh area. We just held our third one in April. The goal is to raise funds for the university, but it also helps to get alumni in the region reconnected with IUP.

And are you also involved in events around D.C.?

There is a huge contingent of IUP alumni in the D.C. area. I don’t attend the regional events as much as I used to, but I still help with networking. Every so often, IUP will bus in current students for a meet and greet, to get them area contacts they can use when job hunting.

What would you want other alumni to know about your experiences in these positions or about giving back to IUP in general?

IUP gave me such a great foundation and was a rewarding experience. Just as my parents looked out for me, students today need to be told what IUP offers, so that they can have the same opportunities.

One way my husband and I try to make these opportunities available is through scholarships. About five years ago, we established three four-year scholarships that we offer through the college of business. We will be increasing it to four scholarships soon. I come from a blue-collar background, and was a first-generation college student. This is the demographic our scholarships tend to support.

Do you have a favorite moment or memory related to your service in these positions?

The interesting thing about the Foundation board is that we not only help bring in funds for the university, but we also get a voice in how those funds are spent. A good example is getting the new residence halls built. The new suite-style living is now one of the main reasons IUP is chosen by students. When they arrive, they also get the benefit of a great academic life. Both those things—making IUP more attractive for students and making sure we have quality professors to teach them—are accomplishments I get to advocate for as a board member.

Profile published on 11/4/10 

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