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Distinguished Alumni Awards 2008

Edna McCutcheon

Distinguished Alumni Award

Edna Tickle McCutcheon has been selected as a 2008 distinguished alumna for her executive leadership and long and accomplished career in mental health and substance abuse treatment and social work.

Edna Tickle McCutcheon '74

Edna McCutcheon, chief executive officer of Torrance State Hospital, received the IUP Distinguished Alumni Award in 2008 in recognition of her executive leadership and accomplished career in mental health, substance-abuse treatment, and social work.

“Life offers all sorts of decision points,” McCutcheon said. “Never turn down an open door. Make the most of opportunities. I did not set out to be CEO of a hospital. I’ve worked with individuals in different roles, and I enjoy the human services field.”

The first in her family to earn a college education, McCutcheon was the eldest of four children of the late Lyman A. and Florence Tickle and grew up just outside of Saltsburg, in Westmoreland County.  Her father was a mechanic and later a foreman for a trucking company, and her mother worked in a factory. 

“I remember how diligently they saved for our college,” said McCutcheon, a 1971 Kiski Area High School graduate. “The sacrifices our parents made for us were incredible. I remember my dad wanted to pay in cash for our college education. He actually had to go to the bank and get a check because they wouldn’t accept cash. My dad read all of my college textbooks. My parents wanted us to go to college. Every parent wants his or her child to do better.”

McCutcheon and her siblings each attained a postgraduate degree. She said they benefited from the small-town, hard-working values of their parents. She recalls her mother, who remains active as a volunteer in a church-run thrift shop, going to work in order to help pay the expenses of four children in college.

“When it came time to look at schools, I was looking at local options,” McCutcheon said. “I went to Penn State and thought it was too big. IUP was close and had a good reputation. It was the family’s valuing IUP, and the campus felt right, and it was a good fit for me.”

McCutcheon had enrolled at IUP to study English, with the intent of becoming an English teacher. She realized that she enjoyed the most working with people while serving as a dormitory student counselor.

“I was a hall counselor and a head hall counselor, and that helped me figure out what I wanted to do,” she said. “I wanted to be an English teacher, and I began morphing into humanities. I started to think human services. I changed my major to Sociology and Psychology. Sociology in the 1970s was discussion about social issues, and Psychology was hands on. I got into social work after I graduated from IUP. It was a broad base, but I needed to define it further.”

After she earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Psychology and Sociology in 1974, she married her husband, Keith, and then pursued a master’s degree in social work. She and Keith have a daughter, Heather, and a granddaughter, Sabrina.

“My husband was going to Washington and Jefferson, and the draft was still on,” she recalled.  “He went to the Air Force. He was assigned to Korea, and I went to West Virginia to grad school.”

She earned a Master of Social Work in 1978 and was a field instructor for graduate social work students while interning at West Virginia University. She also served as the project director for the Preston County Senior Citizens, a county aging program, for two years before she joined the staff of Torrance, a public psychiatric hospital in Westmoreland County, as a social worker. She was promoted to social work manager in 1991 and chief social and rehabilitation executive in 1999. 

In 2004, McCutcheon was named CEO of Torrance, which serves the greater southwestern Pennsylvania region, provides services to more than two hundred people, and has about five hundred employees. Torrance also provides sexual-responsibility treatment services for all of Pennsylvania.

Under her guidance, Torrance has improved treatment approaches that are recovery focused, and hospital staff members have reduced reliance upon restrictive interventions such as restraint and seclusion.

McCutcheon also serves as board president of NAMI Southwestern Pennsylvania, an advocacy and support agency.

During the IUP Distinguished Alumni Award weekend, McCutcheon visited an IUP Sociology class. She also plans to return to IUP to speak to Sociology and Psychology students about her career.

Profile published on 6/30/08