IUP Home | A–Z Index | Apply Now | Support IUP | News and Events | Find People |

Echoes of Iraq

For a year during his abbreviated IUP academic career, Eric Slebodnik was a phonathon caller with the Annual Giving office. According to Susan Stake, the office’s assistant director, “Eric possessed qualities that I wish all the callers had. He was wise and mature beyond his twenty years.”

On his job application, she said, Sleboknik was asked to list “qualities that would make a good fundraiser.” He had, he reported, “a deep voice and a charismatic personality.” The alumni, Stake said, responded so well to his calls that in his last semester (Fall, 2004), “he raised over $9,000—an amount that many good callers raise in twice that long.”

Sadly, the student who once worked to raise support for the university has now himself become the subject of a memorial scholarship appeal. On September 28, 2005, Specialist Slebodnik was one of five Pennsylvania National Guard soldiers killed in a roadside bombing near the Iraqi town of Ramadi, west of Baghdad. When he was deployed, he was a junior majoring in History with a minor in Political Science. At the time of his death, he was twenty-one. His family lives in Carbondale, Pa.

Eric Slebodnik, right, with Staff Sergeant George Pugliese in the M2A2 Bradley Fighting Vehicle in which both were killed last September. Altogether, five Pennsylvania National Guard soldiers died in the attack on the Bradley, which was set ablaze by an explosive device, small arms fire, and rocket-propelled grenades. [credit: Courtesy of Slebodnik Family]

Less than three months earlier, Marine Lance Corporal Ryan Kovacicek, twenty-two, was killed in a mortar attack in the town of Hit, further west in Iraq. Kovacicek was from Washington, Pa., and had been a sophomore Criminology major and ice hockey player at IUP before enlisting in the Marine Corps. Plans are being made by the Criminology Department for a scholarship in his memory.

Like Slebodnik, Brent Adams joined the Army National Guard as a college student. In Adams’s case, though, that occurred in 1987. Last December, Adams, forty, was halfway though a yearlong tour of duty in Iraq, where he supervised mechanics who repaired military vehicles. A 1995 graduate of IUP with a degree in Regional Planning, he expected to retire from the Guard in two more years. Sergeant Adams was the only casualty of a roadside bombing in Iraq on December 1. His family in West View, near Pittsburgh, includes a wife and a four-year-old son.

In a brochure describing the Eric Slebodnik Memorial Scholarship for History, English Department faculty member Ronald Shafer ’68, M’70 noted that Slebodnik, in one of his last e-mails to Shafer, wrote: “Our task in Iraq is momentous, and I am unspeakably honored to be part of it.”

More information about the Slebodnik scholarship is available at www.iup.edu/giving_to_iup/annual_fund, by e-mail at iup-giving@iup.edu, or by telephone at 724-357-5555.