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Distinguished Alumni Awards

The Distinguished Alumni Award is the highest award given by the Alumni Association to its alumni. It is presented to alumni who have achieved distinction in their chosen fields or have demonstrated loyal and active service to their alma mater. In total, only two hundred and eighty-two of our one hundred thousand alumni have received this award. Here are biographies of the nine 2009 recipients.

Charles Cashdollar

Charles Cashdollar ’65

Charles D. Cashdollar is honored as a 2009 distinguished alumnus for his contributions in education, research, and administration and for his meritorious leadership and service promoting Pennsylvania history.

He earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Social Studies Education from IUP in 1965. He earned the M.A. and Ph.D. degrees in history from the University of Pennsylvania in 1966 and 1969, respectively.

Dr. Cashdollar began his teaching career at the University of Pennsylvania in the spring of 1969 and came to the IUP History Department as an assistant professor in the fall of that year. He was promoted to associate professor in 1974 and professor in 1977 and was chosen University Professor in 1994. After his retirement in 2005, he was named professor emeritus.

From 1987 to 1993, he served as the university’s first director of Liberal Studies and was responsible for implementing and administering a new undergraduate general education curriculum. He also chaired the preliminary planning committee that led to the university’s Robert E. Cook Honors College in 1996, and he subsequently taught in the Honors College.

Currently, Dr. Cashdollar is researching and writing a newhistory of IUP from its founding to the present; the book is scheduled to appear in 2011.

A scholar specializing in the history of nineteenth-century American and British religion, he is the author of three earlier books, The Transformation of Theology, 1830-1890: Positivism and Protestant Thought in Britain and America (1989): A Spiritual Home: Life in British and American Reformed Congregations, 1830-1915 (2000); and Let All Give Thanks: A Bicentennial History of Calvary Presbyterian Church, Indiana, Pennsylvania, 1807-2007 (2008).

He has also written numerous book chapters and reviews, and his articles have appeared in quarterlies such as the Journal of the History of Ideas, Harvard Theological Review, and Pennsylvania History. Among his several research grants is a prestigious fellowship from the American Council of Learned Societies, 1995-96.

In 2007, Dr. Cashdollar was elected to a two-year term as president of the Pennsylvania Historical Association, the state’s most important professional society for historians. Previously, he had served the PHA as book review editor, secretary, vice-president, and council member.

He is a member of the American Historical Association, the Organization of American Historians, the American Society of Church History, the Presbyterian Historical Society, and the Historical Society of the Episcopal Church. He also serves on the Board of Directors of the Juniata Foundation.

Dr. Cashdollar was recognized by IUP with a Distinguished Faculty Award for research in 1989 and another for service in 1993. He has been listed in Who’s Who in America and Who’s Who in American Education.

A native of Mars, Pennsylvania, Dr. Cashdollar resides in Indiana, Pennsylvania, with his wife, Donna.

Richard Ferguson

Richard Ferguson ’62

Richard L. Ferguson has been selected a 2009 distinguished alumnus for his dedication to advancing the field of education and the mission—helping people achieve education and workplace success—of the organization he has led for the past twenty-one years.

He earned a Bachelor of Science degree in mathematics from IUP in 1962, a Master of Arts in mathematics from Western Michigan University in 1966, and a Ph.D. in educational research from the University of Pittsburgh in 1969.

Dr. Ferguson is CEO and chairman of the board of ACT, Inc. In this role he provides leadership in defining and pursuing the mission and organizational goals of ACT and its worldwide subsidiaries.

Under Dr. Ferguson’s leadership, ACT has grown from a staff of about one hundred and a single program, the ACT college admissions test, to over 1,500 staff members and dozens of programs and services in support of education and workforce development. The nonprofit organization provides services through its nineteen offices across the United States and its subsidiaries in Asia, Australia, and Europe.

Dr. Ferguson joined ACT in 1972 and has held progressively more responsible positions, including director of test development, vice president of research and development, senior vice president of programs, and executive vice president. He became the organization’s chief executive officer in 1988 and was named chairman in 2001. He also serves as the chief executive officer of ACT’s subsidiaries in the United States and abroad.

Prior to joining ACT, Dr. Ferguson was a research associate at the University of Pittsburgh Learning Research and Development Center. He also served as a lecturer in the university’s Educational Research Department. He taught secondary math for five years in the Mt. Lebanon and Wilkinsburg school districts. Dr. Ferguson is nationally renowned as an author and speaker for his expertise on issues related to educational testing and measurement. Since 1975, he has held an adjunct appointment in the University of Iowa Psychological and Quantitative Foundations Department, College of Education, where he has taught graduate-level courses in testing and served on thesis committees.

He is a member of the American Educational Research Association, American Management Association, American Psychological Association, National Council of Measurement in Education, and Phi Delta Kappa.

Currently, Dr. Ferguson is a board member of the Teachers Support Network, Scholarship America, and Iowa Wesleyan College. He has also served as a board member of the American Council on Education, the Association of American Colleges, and CollegeNET, Inc.

The University of Pittsburgh named Dr. Ferguson a 1997 Distinguished Alumni Fellow, and in 1996 he received the university’s Distinguished Alumnus Award from the School of Education. He was awarded an honorary degree from Iowa Wesleyan College in 2005.

A native of DuBois, Pennsylvania, Dr. Ferguson resides in Iowa City, Iowa.

Thomas Gathers

Thomas Gathers ’77

Thomas W. Gathers is honored as a 2009 distinguished alumnus for his successful executive career and his dedication to the hospitality industry.

He earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Government and Public Service from IUP in 1977 and was a member of Phi Sigma Kappa fraternity. He later earned a Master of Science degree in Organizational Training from the University of Miami.

Mr. Gathers is senior vice president of human resources for LongHorn Steakhouse, a division of Darden Restaurants, Inc. Darden is the largest full-service restaurant company in the world with over 1,750 restaurants, $7.2 billion in sales, and 180,000 employees. Darden businesses include The Olive Garden, Red Lobster, The Capital Grille, Bahama Breeze, and Seasons 52. LongHorn Steakhouse, where Mr. Gathers is responsible for staffing, training and development, employee relations, and compensation and benefits, is one of the fastest-growing companies within Darden and has annual sales of $1 billion.

Upon graduation from IUP, Mr. Gathers began his career as a restaurant manager in Ohio, quickly progressing to director of operations and then director of training. In 1981 he joined Darden Restaurants, which was then a division of General Mills, as director of training for Red Lobster International and later, The Olive Garden. He left Darden in 1990 to become senior vice president of human resources at Boston-based Uno Restaurant Corporation, which operates casual dining restaurants throughout the world. From 1998 until the merger into Darden Restaurants, Mr. Gathers served as executive vice president of human resources for RARE Hospitality, the parent company of LongHorn, The Capital Grille, and Bugaboo Creek. During his career, Mr. Gathers has been an executive officer of companies trading on the New York Stock Exchange, the American Stock Exchange, and the NASDAQ Exchange.

Mr. Gathers is a member of the Society for Human Resource Management, American Society for Training and Development, and HR Forum. He is a past president of the Council of Hotel and Restaurant Trainers and a former president and chairman of the board of the Georgia Center for Nonprofits. He has also served on advisory boards at the University of New Hampshire, Suffolk University, and Gwinnett College.

A featured speaker at numerous universities and at national and international restaurant shows, Mr. Gathers has served as a guest speaker at IUP for students in Hospitality Management classes. He has also been instrumental in LongHorn’s ongoing recruiting of IUP graduates.

Mr. Gathers and his wife of thirty-one years, the former Melanie Overman, a 1978 IUP alumna, reside in Orlando, Florida. They have two daughters, Elizabeth and Katherine.

Robert Gett

Robert Gett ’72

Bob Gett has been named a 2009 distinguished alumnus for his expertise in financial services and information technology and for his dedication to the advancement of business and new technology.

Mr. Gett earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in mathematics from IUP in 1972 and was a member of Kappa Delta Rho fraternity. He attained a Master of Science degree in Management Technologies from American University in 1976.

Mr. Gett has risen through the ranks of financial services and information technology firms to establish and hone his own e-commerce solutions firm as founder and CEO of Optaros, Inc. Optaros is a global business with offices in Boston, Austin, Bucharest, Geneva, Munich, San Francisco, London, and Zurich.

Optaros designs and assembles fully supported, Next Generation Internet solutions that many companies demand for better business performance. Optaros serves more than 120 clients, including ABB, Biogen Idec, IDG, McKesson, Merck/Serono, Nespresso, the New York Times, PBS, Activision, Puma, Sony Pictures, and Swisscom Mobile.

Focusing on newer technologies like open source and e-commerce, both significant advancements for the Internet in recent years, Optaros is helping companies like the New York Times and Swisscom seize new on-line opportunities in e-commerce, social media, and brand engagement by assembling compelling user experience applications.

Network World Magazine named Optaros one of the top ten open source companies to watch in 2007. Mr. Gett’s expertise in open source technology was featured in Information Week Business Technology Network in 2005.

Prior to establishing Optaros, Mr. Gett served as chairman and CEO of Viant Corporation, an early innovator in the development of Internet-based business that served clients such as Sony, Bank of America, JP Morgan, and Turner Broadcasting. Mr. Gett focused on employee culture, and under his leadership, Viant grew to $125 million in annual revenue in four years.

Mr. Gett was president of Cambridge Technology Partners North America, where he developed CTP´s business strategy, methodology, and execution ability and was responsible for all sales and operations in the U.S. and Canada. He held concurrent appointments to the Board of Directors of Cambridge Technology Partners and Optika Imaging Systems, Inc.

As president of Fidelity Software Development Company, a subsidiary of Fidelity Investments, Mr. Gett led Fidelity´s IT strategy by introducing emerging technologies and advanced development capabilities into all companies within the Fidelity umbrella. As managing director and CIO of Smith Barney, Inc., he rebuilt the Information Services Division and led the development of new sales, trading, and operation systems. As a principal at Nolan, Norton & Co., he managed one of three operating units that executed IT strategy and management consulting for various Fortune 500 companies. He began his career in the Management Services Division of Touche Ross & Co., where he managed IT projects for several commercial and public sector clients.

Mr. Gett resides in Boston, Massachusetts, with his wife, Liz. They have two sons, Bobby and Peter, and two daughters, Laura and Kristy.

Mary Louise Leisher Leipheimer

Mary Louise Leisher Leipheimer ’66

Mary Louise Leisher Leipheimer is recognized as a 2009 distinguished alumna for her contributions as an educator and for her leadership in academia.

She earned a Bachelor of Science degree in English from IUP in 1966. She continued her education in graduate studies in English and in guidance at the University of Virginia and reading at Eastern Michigan University. She also received counseling training at the Northfield Institute in Massachusetts.

Since 1989, Mrs. Leipheimer has served as head of Foxcroft School, a girls’ boarding school for ninth to twelfth graders in Middleburg, Virginia.

She began her career as an English teacher at Mercer (Pennsylvania) High School in 1966 and the following year joined Foxcroft as an English teacher. She also served as the English Department chair, prior to serving five years as the director of Emmanuel Preschool in Alexandria, Virginia. She returned to Foxcroft in 1983 to serve as director of Admission, and later she was named director of Development and subsequently assistant head for External Affairs.

Currently, Mrs. Leipheimer serves on the Board of Directors of the Virginia Association of Independent Schools and the National Association of Principals of Schools for Girls. She is a member of the Headmasters Association and a past chair emerita and board member of the Secondary School Admission Test Board. She also previously served on the Board of Directors of the Association of Boarding Schools and was the founding cochair of the National Coalition of Girls’ Schools.

In 2004, the Mary Louise Leipheimer Scholarship was established by a loyal Foxcroft family to honor Mrs. Leipheimer and to support a student who “demonstrates the qualities, often overlooked in young people, most exemplified by Mary Lou: honor, dedication, loyalty, humor, grace, and an understanding heart.” In April 2008, another Foxcroft family, who had funded a new gymnasium on the campus, chose to honor her by naming it the Mary Louise Leipheimer Gymnasium. The Foxcroft Board of Trustees named her the recipient of the 2008 Anne Kane McGuire Award for Distinguished Service, its highest honor.

She also serves the community of Leesburg, Virginia, on the vestry at St. James’ Episcopal Church and on the Board of Visitors for the Margaret Paxton Memorial for Convalescent Children. She previously served as the chair of the Board of Directors for the Piedmont Child Care Center in Upperville, Virginia.

She was named to Who’s Who in Executives and Business in 2000 and was the 1999 recipient of the coveted William B. Bretnall Award, given by the Secondary School Admission Test Board annually to the leading educator who has contributed significantly to the field of independent school admission.

A native of Transfer, Pennsylvania, Mrs. Leipheimer has a son, Brian; a daughter-in-law, Vienne Murray; and two grandchildren, Ellie and Cooper. She resides in Middleburg, Virginia.

Susan Sandbach Mellott

Susan Sandbach Mellott ’73

Susan Mellott is recognized as a 2009 distinguished alumna for her leadership in health care quality, business, and nursing education.

She earned a Bachelor of Science degree in nursing from IUP in 1973. She earned a master’s degree in nursing from the University of Pennsylvania in 1978 and a doctorate in health education and wellness from Texas A & M University in 1987.

A fellow of the National Association for Heathcare Quality and a certified professional in healthcare quality, Dr. Mellott is CEO and founder of Mellott & Associates, a full-service health care consulting company located in Houston, Texas. The company’s primary focus is on performance improvement, cost reduction, case management, reorganization, and the Joint Commission on the Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations and Center for Medicaid and Medicare Services survey preparation process.

Mellott & Associates developed and implemented the Specialty Performance Measurement System database of quality measures for long-term care hospitals to utilize to meet the Joint Commission ORYX requirements. The system is included on the Joint Commission’s list of acceptable systems for the ORYX initiative.

Dr. Mellott currently is an adjunct assistant professor at Texas Woman’s University’s Houston campus, where she teaches in the master’s in nursing administration track. She is a retired lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Army Reserves, in which she completed twenty years of service as chief nurse, training officer, supervisor, and staff nurse. She served in Iraq during Desert Storm in 1990 and 1991 and received the Bronze Star.

Prior to establishing her consulting company, Dr. Mellott was manager of nursing, quality, and clinical performance at Sisters of Charity Healthcare System. She also served as director of nursing at Sharpstown General Hospital and was an associate professor and coordinator of the Women’s and Children’s Division of the undergraduate program at the University of Texas School of Nursing in Houston.

She coauthored the book Childhood Cancer: A Nursing Overview. She was an editor of the Sixth Edition Study Guide for the Certified Professional in Healthcare Quality designation, and she previously served as the editor of the Journal of Healthcare Quality, a publication of the National Association for Health Care Quality. She has published articles and is the author of several chapters in professional books. She speaks throughout the country regarding health care quality and other health care topics.

Dr. Mellott is a past president of the Texas Association for Healthcare Quality, and she has served on its board since 2002. She is a member of the Texas Gulf Coast Association for Healthcare Quality and of Sigma Tau Theta, of which she has served on numerous committees and in executive leadership roles. She is currently a director on the board of the American Association for Legal Nurse Consultants–Houston Chapter.

In addition to her professional pursuits, Dr. Mellot is an avid reader and loves to make quilts for herself and others. She also is involved in scrapbooking. Dr. Mellott has served on the Safety and First Aid committee for the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo for more than twenty years. The livestock show and rodeo provides college scholarships to high school students in each county in Texas.

Dr. Mellott resides in Houston with her husband, Scott, a retired firefighter. They have one daughter, Kimberly, a son-in-law, David Sprattley, and two grandchildren, Connor, age 7, and Mia, age 18 months. Dr. Mellott is also mom to three dogs: Peter, Roxy, and Kirby. She attributes much of her success to God, family, and striving to help others.

Alvin Munn

Alvin Munn ’42

Alvin Munn, who was honored posthumously, died February 3 in Ft. Myers, Fla. After service with the U.S. Army Air Corps in World War II, he received a master’s degree from the University of Chicago. In 1948, he moved to Washington, D.C., where he eventually became senior geographer with the Defense Intelligence Agency. He regularly briefed the director of the DIA and the U.S. secretary of defense and served as a U.S. representative to NATO. As a member of the Military Geographic Documentation Working Group, he conducted key intelligence briefings and was actively involved in decision making during the Cuban Missile Crisis and other critical situations.

Daniel Radakovich

Daniel Radakovich ’80

Dan Radakovich is honored as a 2009 distinguished alumnus for his achievements in athletic administration at public universities.

He earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Finance from IUP in 1980 and was a football letterman, student football coach, residence hall counselor, and a member of Sigma Nu fraternity. He earned an MBA from the University of Miami in Florida in1982 and also received executive education from the Sports Management Institute in 1992.

Mr. Radakovich has served as the director of athletics at Georgia Institute of Technology since 2006. He is responsible for operations of the university’s $55-million Athletics Association.

Prior to his current position, Mr. Radakovich was senior associate athletics director at Louisiana State University for five years. He was responsible for daily operations of a $52-million budget for twenty sports and 450 student athletes. He was instrumental in developing a new football ticket donation program that brought in more than $14 million in new annual revenue. He also assisted in the university’s largest capital improvement projects, including $150 million in renovations and new sports facility construction.

He also served in various athletics roles at American University, the University of South Carolina, and Long Beach State University. He began his athletics administration career at the University of Miami, Florida, as athletics business manager in 1983.

After graduating from IUP, Mr. Radakovich was an accountant for Ernst & Young, a health care consultant for Travelers Insurance, and a mortgage banker for Margaretten & Co.

He is a member of the Atlanta Sports Council, the College Athletic Business Managers Association, the National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics, and the NCAA Recruiting Cabinet and a former member of the NCAA Post Season Football Licensing Committee.

A native of Center Township in Beaver County, Pennsylvania, Mr. Radakovich was inducted into the Center Area High School Alumni Hall of Fame in 2005 and the Beaver County Sports Hall of Fame in 2008.

Mr. Radakovich resides in Marietta, Georgia, with his wife, Marcie. They have two children, Christian (18) and Grant (15).

David Serlo

David Serlo ’68, M’70

David J. Serlo has been named a 2009 distinguished alumnus for his innovation in the financial services industry and his laudable career as an executive of the leading credit union service organization in the nation.

Mr. Serlo earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Education from IUP in 1968 and 1970, respectively. He earned an MBA from Loyola College, Maryland, in 1978.

He is the president and CEO of PSCU Financial Services, headquartered in St. Petersburg, Florida.

Mr. Serlo was the first full-time employee hired by PSCU in 1983 and over the next twenty-five years took a visionary lead in building a credit union-owned cooperative that provides products and services for credit unions to compete with large, multinational banks. The fledgling nonprofit established in 1977 has become the largest credit union service organization in the nation.

PSCU has grown exponentially under Mr. Serlo’s leadership with the company now employing more than 1,500 people in three locations around the country (St. Petersburg, Phoenix, and Detroit). PSCU’s call center takes 14 million calls annually from around the world, services more than 13-million credit card and debit card accounts, and provides financial services to over 1,100 financial institutions. The company’s annual revenue exceeds $600 million, and it is carrying no debt.

Mr. Serlo leads initiatives to develop new business and services and to create relationships with other companies to serve the credit union industry. Among these joint ventures is Student Choice, a turnkey marketing, origination, and servicing solution for private student loans.

Mr. Serlo was named an Ernst & Young Florida Entrepreneur of the Year in 2008. After graduation from IUP, Mr. Serlo was a business teacher at Latrobe Area High School. He joined the regulatory agency for credit unions, the National Credit Union Administration, in 1970. During his thirteen-year career at NCUA, he was promoted to executive vice president.

Mr. Serlo serves as chairman of the board of the National Association of Credit Union Service Organizations and is a member of the Visa Card Operations Risk Executive Council and the Research Council of the Filene Research Institute. Mr. Serlo is also on the board of Credit Union Miracle Day, Inc. This organization sponsors the annual Credit Union Cherry Blossom Ten-Mile Run in Washington, D.C., a fundraiser for the Children’s Miracle Network. In 2008, the race raised over $1 million for the network of 170 children’s hospitals located throughout the country.

He has served on the school board of the Corpus Christi Church Elementary School in Florida. He supports the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation and in particular its civics outreach program for children.

Mr. Serlo is a native of Jeannette, Pennsylvania. He and his wife, the former Tina Smutsky, a 1969 IUP alumna, reside in Temple Terrace, Florida. They have three children: Adam, Mark, and Katie.