From left: Pat Osikowicz, Dave Gigliotti, Ron Ploucha with Punxsutawney Phil, and Jason Grusky (Photo courtesy of Ron Ploucha)
Those who follow Punxsutawney Phil’s annual forecasts may appreciate the IUP ties to the events of February 2. Six alumni are members of the Groundhog Club’s Inner Circle, the top-hat-wearing group responsible for carrying on Groundhog Day traditions each year.
In July, the Altoona Curve gave away this bobblehead, featuring Ron Ploucha with Punxsutawney Phil. (Altoona Curve photo)
An Inner Circle veteran, Ron Ploucha ’71 was elected into the club nearly 20 years ago. One of two handlers of Phil, Ron takes care of the celebrity groundhog and his extended family and takes Phil to his many appearances throughout the year. Ron’s role is appreciated: When the Altoona Curve welcomed Phil as the celebrity guest last July, the ball club gave away bobblehead toys in Ron’s likeness, with Phil in tow. That toy, along with a bobblehead of Phil’s other handler, John Griffiths, now appears in the National Bobblehead Hall of Fame and Museum in Milwaukee. Ron taught high school math in Punxsutawney for 37 years and has been retired since 2011.
Alumni joining Ron on the Inner Circle are Harry (Butch) Philliber M’84, retired businessman, who serves as the club’s historian and manager of the information building; local chiropractor Dave Gigliotti, an IUP student in the early ’90s, responsible for the four-hour stage show that precedes the forecast each year; A. J. Dereume ’03, an oil and gas employee, who makes sure Gobbler’s Knob facilities are ready for the big day; Patrick Osikowicz ’04, president of Made-Rite Concrete Corporation and the Inner Circle’s newest member; and Jason Grusky ’05, a high school math teacher in charge of Phil’s school-related activities and of communicating with the club’s chapters worldwide. Learn more on the
Groundhog Day website.
After Ron’s daughter Jillian Ploucha ’01 married Steven Knox in a church wedding in October, they headed to Gobbler’s Knob for the reception. Jillian is a patient care coordinator at Shirley Eye Care, and Steven is a pharmacist at Indiana Regional Medical Center. They live in Indiana.
Jillian Ploucha and Steven Knox held their wedding reception in October at Gobbler’s Knob. (Photo courtesy of Jillian Ploucha Knox)