University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown
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Alumni Success Stories

Nothing makes us prouder (Mountain Cat Prouder) than being able to talk about the success of our alumni.  If you have something that you would like to share, please tell us about it... we'd love to feature you on our web page and in a future alumni publication.  You can submit your information on line by clicking here.  (If you have a photo, please send it to us via e-mail:

Heather Muir - Class of 2006

Heather MuirAfter graduating with her Bachelor of Arts degree in communication and a focus on public relations and marketing, Heather Muir moved to New York City where she landed a job as a beauty editor at Cosmopolitan. In her role, she was heard regularly on Sirius XM's Cosmo Radio and was co-author of a beauty book. Advancing through the highly competitive fashion publishing industry, she moved on to Seventeen as beauty editor. Now she is the beauty news editor at Allure, the country's leading women's beauty magazine with 7.2 million readers. In addition to keeping tabs on the latest product news and industry trends, Ms. Muir has interviewed celebrities including Beyoncé, Justin Timberlake, Heidi Klum, Eva Longoria, and Usher. She has served as an Allure beauty source for local television news programs across the country, and her blog posts for have been picked up by Yahoo, Yahoo Shine, and New York magazine’s The Cut. She is also a go-to authority for newspapers including The New York Times.

As speaker at Commencement 2012, Ms. Muir emphasized the importance of stepping out of one's comfort zone and seizing opportunities. During her junior year at Pitt-Johnstown, Ms. Muir completed an internship at Self magazine. Following graduation, she received an e-mail message from a contact she had made at Self inviting her to interview for a position at Cosmopolitan. She has been working in the industry ever since. She commented, "Pitt-Johnstown provided me with a solid foundation to enter the magazine world. Thanks to my innovative communication courses, I built the necessary skill set and confidence to excel as an editor in the beauty field."

Matthew Mazonkey - Class of 2005

MMMatt Mazonkey has been named Chief of Staff for Congressman Mark Critz of the 12th Congressional District.  Matt, who had served as Communications Director under the late Congressman John P. Murtha, will also serve as Congressman Critz's military legislative assistant.  Before graduating with his degree in political science (cum laude), Matt served as Student Senate President, and was a member of the Programming Board and Blue and Gold Society.  He is currently a member of the Pitt-Johnstown Alumni Association Board of Directors.

Photo courtesy of the Johnstown Tribune-Democrat

Katie J. (Gehman) Maxwell - Class of 2004
Katie J. (Gehman) Maxwell ('04) has been selected for the Raytheon Engineering Leadership Development Program.  This two year program helps selected candidates develop and hone leadership skills and style, facilitates a Raytheon one-company perspective, and build networks within specific business areas, as well as cross-functionally.  Kate is currently employed as a Software Engineer with Raytheon Intelligence and Information Systems in State College, Pa., and is pursuing a master’s degree in systems engineering with George Mason University.  She is married to fellow Pitt-Johnstown alum Michael R. Maxwell ('04).

Kristen Denne - Class of 2000

DenneWe are Mountain Cat Proud to announce that Kristen Denne (’00) has been chosen as the City of Johnstown’s newest City Manager.  Upon graduating from Pitt-Johnstown (cum laude in political science), she went on to earn her master of public administration degree in urban and regional analysis at the University of Pittsburgh.  While a student at Pitt-Johnstown, Kristen studied abroad in London for a semester, and was a member of Phi Sigma Alpha and the National Political Science Honor Society. 

Prior to her appointment with Johnstown, Kristen served as Borough Manager for Ambridge, Pa. where she was instrumental in redeveloping 60 acres of brownfields, and successfully developed annual budgets that produced multi-year surpluses.  She has also held the position of Borough Manger for Dormont, Pa., and was previously employed by DG Consulting and Project Management.  Kristen is actively involved in her community, volunteering her time to projects including the Marine Corps’ Toys for Tots and Animal Friends.

We look forward to welcoming Kristen back to Johnstown!

Dr. Zac Highberger - Class of 2000
Dr. Zac Highberger (’00) has been awarded the Bronze Star Medal from the United States Armed Forces.  Dr. Highberger  received the medal for meritorious service during combat operations.  He is serving with the U.S. Army Dental Corps in Iraq, and is currently stationed at Camp Ar-Ramadi in the Al-Anbar province.  He has treated more than 2,000 patients during his 15-month deployment.  A native of Indiana, Dr. Highberger graduated summa cum laude from Pitt-Johnstown in 2000 with a degree in biology.  He then went on to graduate from the University of Pittsburgh School of Dental Medicine  in 2004.

Becky Piscitella (Class of 1999)

BPBecky Piscitella ('99) has been named by President Barack Obama as a recipient of the Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching.  The award is the highest recognition that a kindergarten through 12th-grade mathematics or science teacher may receive for outstanding teaching in the United States.

Awards are given to mathematics and science teachers from each of the 50 states and four U.S. jurisdictions (Washington, D.C.; Puerto Rico; Department of Defense Schools; and the U.S. territories).    The teachers are recognized for their contributions to teaching and learning and their ability to help students make progress in mathematics and science. Awardees serve as models for their colleagues, inspiration to their communities, and leaders in the improvement of mathematics and science education.

While a student at Pitt-Johnstown, Ms. Piscitella was a member of the Math Club, and was inducted into Phi Kappa Phi.  She graduated summa cum laude with her degree in secondary education mathematics. 

Photo courtesy of the Johnstown Tribune-Democrat.

Jessica Bellas - Class of 1993

Jessica Bellas   Pittsburgh native Jessica Bellas (’93) has published a memoir entitled, Maotai, Mooncakes & Monks: Misadventures in Hong Kong & China.  The memoir, which the publisher describes as a “culture shock guide, travelogue, political, commentary and adventure rolled into one,” chronicles Jessica’s experiences after moving to Hong Kong in 2006.

    Jessica is a professionally licensed civil/environmental engineer and PMI-certified project manager with broad experience in the U.S. and China, and currently works at Hong Kong Polytechnic University.  There, she has helped to establish two research centers in Hangzhou and Ningbo, China.  She has facilitated climate change workshops at the Clinton Global Initiative in Asia, and has developed tools for Chinese electronic manufacturers to achieve environmental compliance with three European Union directives.  Her book can be purchased online at

Melissa A. Bunk - Class of 1992

M BunkMelissa A. Bunk, assistant vice president and client services officer for F.N.B. Wealth Management, has received the Martin Rosenberg Academic Achievement Award from the Education and Examination Committee of the American Society of Pension Professionals & Actuaries (ASPPA).  Bunk received the award due to her outstanding performance on the spring 2008 DC-2, a defined contribution administrative and compliance issues examination.  Bunk has been invited to receive her award at the 2008 ASPPA Annual Conference on Monday, October 20 at the Washington Hilton in Washington, DC.  Her accomplishment and biography will also be featured in an upcoming issue of The ASPPA Journal and the Candidate Connection. 

The Martin Rosenberg Academic Achievement Award was designed to recognize the top performing candidates on the retirement plan examinations offered by ASPPA.  The award is presented in honor of the late Martin Rosenberg, a Fellow ASPPA.  Mr. Rosenberg served as an Education and Examination Committee member from 1979 to 1985 and as General Chair from 1985 until his death in 1987. 

Robert Jeschonek - Class of 1987

Robert JeschonekJohnstown native Robert T. Jeschonek (’87) has published Mad Scientist Meets Cannibal, a solo short story collection (PS Publishing).  PS Publishing writes, “In these pages, Robert T. Jeschonek will take you on a tour of the wildest places and people you’ve never imagined… If you’re looking for something mind-blowing, you’ve come to the right place…”  His Star Trek fiction has appeared in Star Trek: New Frontier: No Limits and in three volumes of Star Trek: Strange New Worlds, winning the grand prize in Volume VI.  He also has written original fiction and comic books.   While a student a Pitt-Johnstown, Bob was a Presidential Scholar and member of the Advocate staff.  He is married to the former Wendy Snavely (’88).  He is employed as a technical writer for MTS Technologies in Johnstown.  For more information about Bob, visit


James P. Waite - Class of 1985

WaiteJim Waite is glad to be back in the Pittsburgh area after roaming around the Midwest and currently serves as the Director of Alumni and Constituent Relations for the Katz Graduate School of Business and College of Business Administration at the University of Pittsburgh. While a earning his degree in business-economics at Pitt-Johnstown, Jim was active in the Programming Board, which led to his career in higher education.

For the past 25 years, Jim has worked in a variety of development and student affairs-related positions at University of Toledo, University of Michigan, University of Kansas, University of Missouri-Kansas City (UMKC), University of Wisconsin-Platteville, Rush University and Western Illinois University (WIU).  He concurrently spent four years managing his own restaurant and catering business in Kansas City. Jim holds an Ed Spec degree in Higher Education Administration from UMKC, an MBA from Dominican University, an MS in Recreation from WIU, and is currently a doctoral candidate in Pitt's Higher Education Management program.  He and his wife, Zauyah, and their three children (Emma, Ian and Spencer) reside in Squirrel Hill. 

Gary J. Gates - Class of 1983

Gary GatesDr. Gary J. Gates of Los Angeles has received a 2008 Recent Alumni Award from Carnegie Mellon University's Alumni Association in Pittsburgh. As a doctoral candidate at Carnegie Mellon's H. John Heinz III College, Dr. Gates established himself as a national expert on the demographic and economic characteristics of gay and lesbian populations. His dissertation remains a primary document for researchers using U.S. Census data to study same-sex couples.

Dr. Gates earned a bachelor's degree in computer science from Pitt-Johnstown and a master's degree in divinity from St. Vincent Seminary in Latrobe, Pa. After receiving his doctorate in public policy and management from Carnegie Mellon in 2000, Dr. Gates co-authored The Gay and Lesbian Atlas at the Urban Institute in Washington, D.C.

He is now a senior research fellow at UCLA's Charles R. Williams Institute on Sexual Orientation Law and Public Policy, where his work is often featured in national media outlets and scholarly journals. Dr. Gates continues his involvement with Carnegie Mellon as an advisor to doctoral candidates and frequently encourages students to enroll in the Heinz College.

Information courtesy of Carnegie Mellon University.

George Gvozdich, Jr. - Class of 1975

George Gvozdich   George Gvozdich, Jr. (’75) has been elected president of the Pennsylvania Bar Foundation, the charitable affiliate of the Pennsylvania Bar Association. A solo practitioner, Gvozdich graduated from the University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown with a degree in Political Science and received his Juris Doctorate from the Dickinson School of Law.

   In addition to his general law practice, Mr. Gvozdich is involved in the legal community holding various positions at the local and state levels.  He has served as a bar examiner for the Pennsylvania Board of Law Examiners and is part-time instructor at Pitt-Johnstown. He has been a delegate to the Pennsylvania Bar Association’s House of Delegates since 1992, and in May of 2004 was elected to serve a three-year term on the Board of Governors of the Pennsylvania Bar Association.  He is a past president of the Cambria County Bar Association, where he continues to serve on its Board of Managers and as its Secretary.  In 2007, he was appointed to the Board of Directors of the Cambria Bar Foundation.

Dan Hummel (Class of 1974)

DHDan Hummel ('74) has been promoted to executive vice president of Johnstown-based AmeriServe Financial.  Dan, who joined AmeriServe in 1993, had been serving as senior vice president.  In his new role, Dan will be responsible for leading the bank's 18 community banking offices and will direct the bank's marketing efforts. 

Dan, who earned his degree in communication-theatre, is a past member of the Alumni Association Board of Directors.  An active community leader, Dan serves on the boards of Bishop McCort High School and the Johnstown Industrial Development Corporation.

Photo courtesy of the Johnstown Tribune-Democrat.

Dr. Kathleen George - Class of 1963

Dr. Kathleen GeorgeBorn in Johnstown, Kathleen George (’63) is a professor of theatre at the University of Pittsburgh.  She received her doctorate in theatre and master of fine art from Pitt.  Prior to joining the Pitt faculty, she taught theatre at Carlow College.  She published her latest novel Aftermath on December 12, 2008.  She is the author of Taken and Fallen, and a short story collection, The Man in the Buick.  Dr. George has been granted fellowships at artists’ colonies, including the VCCA and MacDowell.  Her short fiction has appeared in journals and magazines including Mademoiselle, Cimarron Review, North American Review, New Letters, and Alaska Quarterly Review.  She has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and one story was listed among the Distinguished in Best American Short Stories.  She is married to writer Hilary Masters.  For more about Kathleen, visit