Mary Rose, of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, will be presented with the first-ever President's Medal of Excellence at the University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown's 38th Commencement ceremony on Saturday, May 1.
The President's Medal of Excellence, established by Pitt-Johnstown's fifth President Jem Spectar, is given to an individual who has strengthened our communities by empowering human beings to achieve their fullest potential, contributing to the dignity of all, and promoting social progress.
Ms. Rose was chosen to receive the award in recognition of her work to raise the standards of education for women globally. Her efforts have resulted in the construction of a dormitory and educational development center at St. Joseph's Vocational School for girls in the missionary community of Bafut, Cameroon.
In recognizing Mrs. Rose, President Spectar commented, "Mary Rose embraces the importance of education and its capacity to transform communities, particularly the lives of the disadvantaged. Through her commitment to education, she is creating unprecedented opportunities for young women in Africa, specifically in the republic of Cameroon."
With a bachelor's degree in Education from Mount Mary College in Milwaukee, Mary Rose worked as a teacher in the Milwaukee public school system and later served as a community volunteer, alongside her husband, while raising four daughters. In April 2001, following her husband's sudden death, Mrs. Rose began volunteering at the community center where he had served as a board member. It was during her time at the St. Ann's Center for Intergenerational Care that she first learned of the St. Joseph's Vocational School for Girls.
In 2004, Mrs. Rose spent a month visiting the school in Cameroon. She recounted her experience by saying, "From my first visit, I was moved by the generosity, hospitality and vitality of the people of Cameroon. I found the culture rich and inspiring and the countryside beautiful. When I returned to Milwaukee, I held in my memory the beauty of the girls at St. Joseph's – their spirit, vitality, thirst for education, and their potential."
Upon her return to the United States, she embarked on a campaign to raise money for the construction of a dormitory and educational development center at St. Joseph's School. Her efforts raised more than a half million dollars, and in 2008 the dormitory and educational development center was opened. She continues her involvement with St. Joseph's today, and is known as "Mama Rose" to the school's more than 350 students.
President Spectar commented, "The genius of a champion for individual freedom and social progress like Mary Rose is that by planting one tree, she really creates a forest."
Mrs. Rose's efforts have earned her other honors including he 2008 Madonna Medal for Community Service from Mount Mary College, and the 2008 Vatican II Award for Service to the Missions.
In an interview, Mary once said, "My education helped me to see the importance of women developing their voices and exercising their choices. I witnessed how women can be an influence in our society and how they are vitally important in fostering social change here and in the world. Give a woman an education and you educate a community."
More than 360 graduating seniors will participate in Pitt-Johnstown's 38th Commencement ceremony, which begins at 1 p.m. on Saturday in the Sports Center.
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.” Additionally, Pitt-Johnstown has been named to the 2009 President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll.
Pitt-Johnstown…at the forefront of leading baccalaureate colleges…