Professor Michele Papakie, chair of the Indiana
University of Pennsylvania Department of Journalism and Public Relations and a
lieutenant colonel in the Pennsylvania Air National Guard, was recognized with
the Octavius V. Catto Award for outstanding public service.
Papakie is the 171st Air Refueling
Wing inspector general at Coraopolis.
Catto, an assassinated civil rights leader
and Civil War-era militia soldier, was an educator with what is now Cheyney
University and led desegregation efforts in Philadelphia in the 1860s. He was a
racial equality activist and the highest-ranking black officer with the
National Guard of Pennsylvania at the time he was assassinated near his home in
October 1871 while on duty defending African-Americans at polling places by
those who opposed their right to vote.
Papakie received the award from Pennsylvania deputy adjutant general-Air, Brig.
Gen. Tony Carrelli.
“Most service members are too humble
to find joy at being singled out for what they do, but [this year’s recipients]
have earned it.” Papakie was recognized for her “extensive civic engagement,
enhancement of military-mission accomplishment, and involvement in volunteerism.”
“Service is extremely important to
me,” Papakie says. “I strive daily to exemplify the Air Force Core Values –
Integrity First, Service before Self and Excellence in All We Do. While it’s
not at all necessary for me to be recognized for my service, I hope the gesture
inspires my friends and family, which includes all of my students past and
present, to give back to their communities as best they can.”
Papakie also said it “meant the
world to her” that her base commander, Col. Gregg Perez, would make the trip to
IUP from Pittsburgh, and Gen. Carrrelli would make the trip to IUP from Fort
Indiantown Gap, to personally present the award to her.
“Most importantly, my son, Staff
Sgt. Derek Papakie, was excused from economics to be there with me,” she said.
“Provost Timothy Moerland and at least two dozen of my friends at IUP made time
to be there, too. It was very appreciated and extremely overwhelming.”
This year marks the fourth time this medal has been awarded to members of the
Pennsylvania National Guard. After Catto’s death in 1871, Brig. Gen. Louis
Wagner, commander of the National Guard of Pennsylvania’s 1st Division, 5th
Brigade, established the medal in his memory.
Papakie, a 1993 graduate of IUP,
returned to IUP in spring 2007 as a faculty member after 20 years of experience
in journalism and public relations.
Although she has spent her entire
career—nearly three decades—as a traditional guard member (reservist) in
Pittsburgh, Papakie’s service has taken her to at least a dozen countries and
more than half of the United States. She has served as the unit’s public
affairs officer, equal opportunity officer, and today as the wing’s inspector
general. In 2010, she served a six-month tour in Bagram, Afghanistan, in
support of Operation Enduring Freedom, as a Sexual Assault Prevention and
Response program manager.
In May of this year, IUP honored
Papakie with the Distinguished Faculty Award for Service.
In 2014–15, Papakie was honored
for her service as one of 12 of the region’s most distinguished veterans. Her
photo, story and oral history were featured at an exhibit in Pittsburgh’s
Lantern Building, located at 600 Liberty Avenue, from November 2014 through
Also in 2014, Papakie was named Outstanding
Business Communicator of the Year by the Pittsburgh chapter of the
International Association of Business Communicators.
At IUP, Papakie serves as the
faculty advisor to five clubs on campus: IUP’s chapter of the international
organization Public Relations Student Society of America, HerCampus, Chi
Upsilon, Sigma Kappa, and IUP Inline Hockey.
Each summer, she teaches a
two-week journalism and public relations workshop for high school students as
part of IUP’s Summer Honors Program. In 2013, she was charged by IUP President
to implement the first phase of the Strategic Visioning Project campus-wide.
She developed a team of 30 students in her Public Relations Presentation Making
class to work on the project, which included more than 400 interviews,
documentation of the data gathered and entry of the data into qualitative
analysis software to discover themes.
In her community, Papakie serves
as: an elected township supervisor, president of the Indiana County Association
of Township Supervisors, a volunteer at the Alice Paul House—a domestic
violence shelter—and the education officer of Indiana’s chapter of Toastmasters
Papakie earned her Master of Arts
degree in regional planning at California University of Pennsylvania in 1996
and her Doctor of Science degree in communication and information systems from
Robert Morris University in 2002.
PHOTO INFORMATION: Professor Michele
Papakie, chair of IUP’s Department of Journalism and Public Relations, with Pennsylvania
deputy adjutant general-Air, Brig. Gen. Tony Carrelli. Brig. Gen. Carelli
presented the Octavius V. Catto Award to Papakie, a lieutenant colonel in the
171st Air Refueling Wing of the Pennsylvania Air National Guard.