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Distinguished Alumni Awards

Ten alumni were honored with 2013 Distinguished Alumni Awards at an April gala sponsored by the IUP Alumni Association.

Sharon Tahl Cowden

Sharon Tahl Cowden ’71 is a pediatrician at Children’s Community Pediatrics in Pittsburgh. She worked for 12 years as a medical technologist before applying to medical school at age 36. Cowden received her degree from the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine in 1990. A breast cancer survivor, she cofounded Strength & Courage, a nonprofit program that helps breast cancer patients to regain their physical and emotional strength after treatment. The program’s exercise DVD has been distributed across the United States and in 12 other countries. A 2012 recipient of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s Jefferson Award for public service, Cowden has taken part in medical missions in Ecuador, Guatemala, and Honduras.

John Gilly

As director of the Vaccine Clinical Materials Program of SAIC-Frederick, Inc., John Gilly ’79 oversees the development of vaccines and biotherapeutic agents for protection against and treatment of HIV, influenza, and other emerging diseases and threats. SAIC-Frederick is a contractor supporting the National Institutes of Health. Gilly is a two-time recipient of the National Cancer Institute Center for Cancer Research Technology Transfer Award. At IUP, he established the Young Life Scientist Opportunity Fund, designed to provide financial support to help students present their research at conferences. Gilly holds a master’s degree in biochemistry from the University of Scranton and a Ph.D. in molecular biology from Lehigh University.

George Hood Jr.

George Hood Jr. ’80 has set six Guinness World Records in three endurance categories in conjunction with events raising funds for the American Heart Association, United Way, and other charities. He has held records for the rope-skipping and stationary bike marathons and, as of this printing, continues to hold the record for the abdominal plank. Hood is director of group exercise at Five Seasons Family Sports Club, a certified personal trainer, and an ultra-endurance training consultant. He has also held roles including vulnerability assessment expert, law enforcement professional in Afghanistan, supervisory special agent in the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, special agent with the Naval Criminal Investigative Service, and infantry officer in the U.S. Marine Corps.

Esther Massung Kepplinger

After 32 years at the United States Patent and Trademark Office, Esther Massung Kepplinger ’71 became chief patent counselor for Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati in Washington, D.C. There, she acts as liaison to the Patent Office, counsels clients on patent strategy, and serves as an expert witness in patent litigation. Originally hired as a chemist at the Patent Office, Kepplinger served as a patent examiner and in a number of supervisory roles before spending her last five years there as deputy commissioner for patent operations. She has served on the Patent Public Advisory Committee since 2009 after being appointed to the role by the secretary of Commerce.

Patricia Barthalow Koch

Initially recruited to develop sexuality education courses at Pennsylvania State University, professor Patricia Barthalow Koch ’72 went on to earn her doctorate and help create the university’s Department of Biobehavioral Health. Her interest in sexuality education formed while pursuing a master’s at New York University, where she was part of an international health education program and studied in Sweden and Japan. A fellow of the Society for the Scientific Study of Sexuality, she received its Hugo G. Beigel Research Award and Service to the Profession Award. She is a former teacher in Plum Borough and received the district’s distinguished alumni award in 2009. She is also director of the Pennsylvania Learning Academy of Sexuality Education.

John Paul

After two years as executive vice president of Highmark, Inc., and president of the Provider Division, John Paul ’72 was named president and CEO of West Penn Allegheny Health System in April. He will continue to lead Highmark’s provider venture, now known as the Allegheny Health Network. Paul’s career spanned more than 30 years with the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, during which he served as executive vice president, chief financial officer, and chief operating officer before retiring in 2003 and working as a consultant to various health care organizations. For his work to revitalize the Make-A-Wish Foundation of Greater Pennsylvania and Southern West Virginia, Paul received the Lifetime Achievement Award in 1998.

Bryan Putt

Bryan Putt ’86 is CEO of American International Relocation Solutions (AIReS), a full-service global relocation company in Pittsburgh. His father started the company as American International in 1981, and Putt joined eight years later as director of information systems. After holding various roles in sales and management at the company, he was named president in 1998 and CEO last year. AIReS has been named one of the nation’s fastest growing companies by Inc. magazine, and Putt was a finalist for the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award in 2009. Before joining American International, Putt was a senior consultant for Oracle Corporation in Bethesda, Maryland.

Lisa Schlosser

In her role in the Office of Management and Budget in Washington, D.C., Lisa Schlosser ’86 effectively serves as the deputy federal chief information officer. Previously, she worked for the Environmental Protection Agency, serving most recently as principal deputy associate administrator in the Office of External Affairs and Environmental Education. She also served in chief information and information security roles in the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and the U.S. Department of Transportation. In the private sector, she was a vice president at Global Integrity and senior manager at Ernst & Young, LLP. A former military intelligence officer in the U.S. Army, she recently retired as a lieutenant colonel in the Army Reserves.

Susan Snyder

An education reporter at the Philadelphia Inquirer, Susan Snyder ’85 took the lead on a series about school violence that earned the newspaper the Pulitzer Prize for public service in 2012 and brought about improved safety efforts in the city’s schools. The series, “Assault on Learning,” also received a first-place award from Investigative Reporters and Editors, the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism, a Salute to Excellence Award from the National Association of Black Journalists, and a Keystone Press Award from the Pennsylvania Newspaper Association. Snyder has reported for the Morning Call in Allentown, the Times Leader in Wilkes-Barre, the Standard Speaker in Hazleton, and the Freeman’s Journal in Cooperstown, New York.

Jack Thomas

After three years as provost and academic vice president at Western Illinois University, Jack Thomas D’90 was named the university’s 11th president in 2011. Thomas previously served as senior vice provost for academic affairs and interim dean at Middle Tennessee State University and in various roles at the University of Maryland Eastern Shore and South Carolina State University. Thomas is completing a book, Within These Gates, about African Americans in higher education, and he has lectured widely and written numerous scholarly articles, many exploring his research interest in blacks in literature. Thomas holds a master’s degree from Virginia State University and a bachelor’s degree from Alabama A&M.

More from the Summer 2013 Issue of IUP Magazine

Back in the Force

Back in the Force

Program puts area residents on path to promising careers

Saviors at Sea

Saviors at Sea

Nurse Eva Jane Savel Bolents treated survivors of the most tragic naval event of World War II

Message from the President

“The stories in this edition provide focus.... a snapshot of what IUP has been and what we must become next.”

Namedroppers| Mentors| Achievements

Photo Gallery | Letters to the Editor | In Brief

Unheralded and (Almost) Unbeatable

Men's rugby had one of its finest seasons in program history, played out on a national stage

The Next Chapter

IUP celebrated the start to its new chapter with the inauguration of President Michael Driscoll

International Study: The Transformative Experience

The benefits of study abroad are vast, but the cost can be prohibitive. A scholarship fund was established to help.

Exploring the World’s End with a Nobel Laureate

IUP professors visit Guatemala City to witness the prophesied end of the world