Dr. Gerald L. Zahorchak, Pennsylvania secretary of education, will receive an honorary Doctor of Laws degree and will present remarks during Indiana University of Pennsylvania’s December undergraduate Commencement ceremony.
Zahorchak, formerly of Johnstown, received a Master of Education degree from IUP in 1988.
The recommendation for the honorary degree was approved by the IUP Council of Trustees in September and then by the Office of the Chancellor of the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education.
Zahorchak was nominated by the IUP Senate Academic Committee and recommended for the degree by the IUP Commencement Committee and Dr. Tony Atwater, IUP president.
“We take great pride in Dr. Zahorchak’s standing as a proud IUP alumnus,” Atwater said. “His outstanding leadership and vision in advancing education throughout the commonwealth also bring pride to our university. I look forward to honoring him at our December 20 commencement ceremony.”
The ceremony begins at 1:30 p.m. in the IUP Memorial Field House. Zahorchak also will serve as the speaker for the ceremony.
IUP has granted only fifty honorary degrees in its history. Others receiving this honor include U.S. Rep. John P. Murtha, Oscar Arias Sanchez, Andre Previn, James “Jimmy” Stewart, Art Rooney, Fred Rogers, former governor Richard Thornburg, and retired Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor.
Zahorchak was nominated by Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell to serve as secretary of education in October 2005 and was unanimously confirmed by the state Senate on February 7, 2006.
Before his nomination, Zahorchak served as deputy secretary for elementary and secondary education, a role in which he was responsible for the education of more than 1.8-million school children in the commonwealth. As deputy secretary, he worked on the development and implementation of support systems for public schools working to meet the demands set by Pennsylvania and No Child Left Behind targets.
Zahorchak has managed an unprecedented expenditure of educational state funding that included $200 million in accountability block grants that were used for tutoring, math and literacy coaching, the expansion of full-day kindergarten, and the creation of pre-kindergarten classes.
He has led development of the Pennsylvania Inspired Leadership initiative to support the state’s educational leaders and has directed Pennsylvania’s leading role with the Center for Data Driven Reform in Education initiative.
He has worked with Rendell to make investments in early childhood education and has presided over progressive initiatives such as Classrooms for the Future, which will transform teaching and learning by equipping high schools with laptop computers on every student desk in English, math, science, and history classrooms, and “Science: It’s Elementary,” a program to upgrade science education in elementary schools.
As the former superintendent of the Greater Johnstown School District, Zahorchak implemented full-day kindergarten, pre-kindergarten, high school reform, and tutoring programs and hired reading and math coaches to boost student learning.
His leadership and passion for helping students excel academically helped raise student achievement and led all schools in his charge to meet Adequate Yearly Progress during his tenure. Data from his last two years as superintendent analyzed by Standard and Poor’s listed Johnstown as one of the forty-seven outperforming school districts in Pennsylvania.
Zahorchak has worked with students at virtually every level of education as a superintendent, principal, teacher, and football coach. As a member of the Johnstown community, Zahorchak served as president of the Johnstown Rotary in 2003. He also served as an elected official—as a member of the school board of the Greater Johnstown School District and of the Johnstown City Council. In addition, Zahorchak served as deputy mayor of Johnstown.
In addition to his master’s degree, Zahorchak received his doctorate from Pennsylvania State University and a bachelor’s degree from St. Francis University.