University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown
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2008 Distinguished Alumni Award

Distinguished AlumniCongressman John P. Murtha has been named the recipient of the University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown's first-ever Distinguished Alumni Award.

In announcing the award, Pitt-Johnstown President Jem Spectar commented, “Through his exemplary and outstanding record of transformational service to our community and country, Congressman Murtha is clearly a most distinguished alumnus, and we are honored and proud to bestow this honor upon him.  Mr. Murtha is a strong voice for what is great and good about America, and has worked tirelessly on behalf of the people of our region.  His life’s work has reflected the values and principles of service to community, care for country, and courage in facing challenges.  His great work benefits not only our local community, but also our entire nation.  The Congressman exemplifies all of the traits that this award recognizes and is a truly deserving citizen and alumnus.”

The new award, established by the Pitt-Johnstown Alumni Association, is the highest honor that the school bestows upon its alumni.  It will annually recognize alumni for individual achievements, leadership in their professions, service to their community, and loyalty to their alma mater.  The award was created to celebrate the excellence and achievements of the more than 17,000 Pitt-Johnstown alumni. 

Congressman Murtha, who graduated from the University of Pittsburgh in 1962, attended the Johnstown campus for the first two years of his studies after having served active duty in the U.S. Marine Corps.  Following his graduation, he volunteered to serve in Vietnam (1966-67) where he received the Bronze Star with Combat “V,” two Purple Hearts, and the Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry.

In addition to a distinguished 37-year military career, Congressman Murtha served the people of the 12th Congressional District from 1974 until his passing in 2010.  During his time in the House of Representatives, he was instrumental in redefining our region’s economy following the decline of the mining and steel industries.  He also helped to create more than 5,000 family-sustaining jobs in Western Pennsylvania in areas including healthcare, tourism, and technology.

As a loyal alumnus Congressman Murtha established the John P. and Joyce Murtha Center for Continuing Education and Professional Development at Pitt-Johnstown, which created opportunities for students in our region to pursue graduate-level degrees.  Since its creation in 1994, the Center has enabled more than 150 students from a nine-county region to earn their Master of Social Work degrees.  Additionally, fifteen students earned a Master of Science in Manufacturing Systems Engineering.  As a result of the Center’s existence, students are also able to pursue advanced Nursing degrees as Acute Care Nurse Practitioners and Family Nurse Practitioners – helping to fill the shortage of credentialed health care professionals.

Congressman Murtha was a strong advocate for the citizens of our region, having championed several causes, including a patient's bill of rights, prescription-drug benefits, and a better minimum wage.  He worked hard to protect Medicare, Social Security, veterans’ benefits, and Pennsylvania's Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP).  He was a driving force behind the effort to secure Medicare coverage for preventive healthcare such as mammograms and flu shots.


His honors include the Navy Distinguished Service Medal and the PA Meritorious Service Medal, the John F. Kennedy Profiles in Courage Award, the National Breast Cancer Coalition Leadership Award, the Pennsylvania Chamber of Business and Industry’s Government Leader of the Year, and Pittsburgh’s Riverperson of the Year.


In order to be eligible for the Distinguished Alumni Award, candidates must have earned a bachelor's or associate's degree from the University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown.  Candidates can also have earned a bachelor's degree from the University of Pittsburgh after completing two years of study at Pitt-Johnstown during a period when four-year degrees were not available at the Johnstown campus.  Nominations for the award can be submitted by any member of the University of Pittsburgh community, including alumni, faculty, staff, students and Advisory Board members. 

“I am most thankful to the members of the Pitt-Johnstown Alumni Association for their fine work in creating this important award and for their ongoing support of the University and our alumni, students and friends,” remarked President Spectar.

updated February 2010

Last Reviewed: May 28, 2008