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Citizens’ Ambulance Marks 50 Years

When Jerry Esposito ’66 started an ambulance service in Punxsutawney in the 1950s, he relied on friends and family to answer calls. In 1964, when he took over the Indiana business that would become Citizens’ Ambulance Service, he began drawing from a far more vast pool—the students of Indiana State College, soon to be IUP.

Citizens Ambulance Service group photo

This Citizens’ Ambulance Service photo, circa 1970, gives an idea of how the company relied on IUP students. In front, from left: Jim Woodard ’71, Rich Zelensky ’73, Chuck Sutton ’73, Tom Streams, and Richard Bartlett ’69, M’71. In back: Rick Spicher ’72, Gary McGee, David Rising ’72, Robert Mearns ’72, David Lindstrom ’70, M’74, Cliff Fleming, and Jerry Esposito ’66. Photo courtesy of Betsy Esposito

Hundreds of IUP students have worked for the ambulance service in its 50 years of operation, officials at Citizens’ say. And as they prepare to celebrate this golden anniversary September 12–14 at Chestnut Ridge in Blairsville, they hope to bring back as many of those former students as possible.

Given Esposito’s ties to the university, “the student body seemed like a natural pipeline” for help, his daughter Betsy Esposito ’72, M’77 said. Esposito, who died in 2003, was a World War II veteran and father of six when he started his college education at the Punxsutawney campus; he graduated from IUP at age 42.

The current chief operating officer, B. J. Pino, said Citizens’ has drawn a range of students, from those wanting to help people while building their résumés to those who became full-time emergency medical services providers to those who treated Citizens’ as an important step on their path to a related role. They have gone on to be physicians, nurses, EMS directors, university faculty members, and more.

According to Pino, the students were part of many innovations of national impact, such as the evolution of the ambulance from a hearse-style vehicle to a raised-roof, advanced life support van. “It was drafted, tried, and proved at this organization,” he said.

And, David Lindstrom ’70, M’74 was project director and coauthor of the first National Standard Curriculum for paramedics. He recently retired as senior research associate and director of emergency preparedness for Penn State’s College of Medicine.

In 1970, Lindstrom and Glenn Cannon ’71, now director of the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency, took the lead in establishing the Chi Alpha Sigma fraternity at IUP. “The link was completely and expressly [Citizens’ Ambulance Service], so we used the matching Greek letters as a back-door homage to the organization that brought us all together,” Lindstrom said.

That camaraderie and the many contributions of the students are why the anniversary committee, chaired by Dottie Postles Staffen ’78, M’81, is attempting to bring them back for the celebration.

“They need to understand the impact they’ve had,” Pino said. “Every one was critical to the success of the organization.”

For more information, visit the Citizens’ Ambulance 50th Anniversary website, or contact Staffen at dmstaffen@comcast.net.

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