A first-ever event aimed at raising funds for the athletics program at the University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown will spotlight former Pittsburgh Steeler and national sports hero, Rocky Bleier, on Friday, October 9. Bleier will address the gathering in the University’s Sport Center as part of an evening that features games, athletic exhibitions, cheerleaders, cocktails, dinner, a DJ, and silent auction of sports-related and leisure activity items.
The premiere of the Blue and Gold Gala marks the latest effort to acknowledge the depth and quality of the athletics program at the first and largest regional campus of the University of Pittsburgh. In 2007, the Pitt-Johnstown Athletics Hall of Fame was established; among the first five inductees was Kuchera Defense Systems Executive Vice President and General Manager Carl Sax, who helped lead the 1958 basketball team to a state championship. Sax and Pitt-Johnstown Advisory Board Chairperson Jeanne Gleason co-chaired the steering committee for the Blue and Gold Gala. Other Pitt-Johnstown Hall of Famers serving on the Gala committee include former Athletics Director Ed Sherlock, 1981 NCAA All-American wrestler Sean Isgan, and basketball luminary Dave Roman, who still holds scoring records for Pitt-Johnstown. Other committee members, of which 12 are alumni, include six Advisory Board members, two faculty members, six staff members, and ten from the Johnstown community.
The event celebrates Pitt-Johnstown's rich athletics legacy, which includes nationally ranked sports teams and championship athletes. A NCAA Division II athletics program, Pitt-Johnstown was recently named by the West Virginia Intercollegiate Athletics Conference as the recipient of the 2009 Clement H. Clower Institutional Sportsmanship Award.
Funds raised by the event will support athletic scholarships for talented, financially-qualified students, a fact that resonates with Sax in reference to Mr. Bleier’s participation. “The student-athlete must make each day go twice as far in meeting both academic and athletic goals,” Sax observed. “Is there a better exemplar of determination and grit than Rocky Bleier? This is a man who embodies every ideal in athletics and sportsmanship—he suspended a pro-football career to serve his country, fought back against all the odds from his injuries, and went on to earn four Super Bowl rings. We are thrilled to welcome Rocky as our kick-off speaker.”
Robert Patrick "Rocky" Bleier famously fought back, first as a pro-football hopeful of unimpressive physical merit who was a late-round draft pick for the Pittsburgh Steelers in 1968, and then, following devastating injuries sustained in Vietnam in 1969, when he beat the odds to become one of the greatest running backs in the game. Bleier retired from professional football in 1980; today, at 63, he retains his passion for promoting his philosophy of determination and personal confidence.
University President Jem Spectar sees manifold advantages in the recruitment of student-athletes in need of scholarships. “Those qualities that are essential to becoming an accomplished athlete, discipline, commitment, fortitude, are equally valuable to academic pursuits,” said Spectar. “Developing one’s talents and abilities is hard work; athletes understand this very well, and they are often among the best students. These scholarships will produce many success stories for Pitt-Johnstown.”
“The ability to offer scholarship support to a talented athlete is an important recruiting tool,” said Athletics Director Pat Pecora. “I hope people understand how competitive it is to try and get good athletes to select your school. This event is going to be a great help to our prospects for the future.”
Tickets for the Blue and Gold Gala are available at $125 per person. Call 814-269-2083 to reserve. Cocktails begin at 6:30 p.m. at the Pitt-Johnstown Sport Center, Friday, October 9. The reservation deadline is October 6, 2009. For additional information, or to place advance bids on silent auction items, visit the Pitt-Johnstown web site at http://www.upj.pitt.edu/Gala/.
Founded in 1927, Pitt-Johnstown is located in the Laurel Highlands of Western Pennsylvania and is the first and largest regional campus of the University of Pittsburgh. The University offers a high-quality educational experience in a supportive living-learning environment designed to prepare students for the real world of the 21st century. Pitt-Johnstown is recognized by U.S.News & World Report as a “Best Baccalaureate College” (2010), by the Princeton Review as a “Best Northeastern College” (2010), and by G.I. Jobs as a “Military Friendly School.”