Johnstown High School and Pitt-Johnstown Partner to Leverage $750,000 Gift

Natalie Bombatch

posted August 26, 2014


The University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown and Greater Johnstown High School (GJHS) are pleased to announce that they are partnering to leverage a $750,000 gift from the estate of Robert M. Smith. This innovative partnership is designed to increase affordability, expand access, and a build a pathway to success for Johnstown graduates who attend Pitt-Johnstown.

The endowment, to be managed by the University of Pittsburgh, will provide scholarships for top Johnstown graduates to attend Pitt-Johnstown. The University is partnering with GJHS to create the “Robert M. Smith Academy,” an innovative, multi-faceted program that adds to the value of the scholarships that will be awarded. Some of the components of the Robert M. Smith Academy at Johnstown High School will include: early selection and transition of a cohort of students, additional financial support, and targeted advising for college success. This extraordinarily generous bequest is being leveraged by the Robert M. Smith Academy partnership to reward excellence and increase higher education access for young people from the community.

“This gift represents the kind of philanthropy that will make a long-term difference in countless lives in our region,” said Dr. Jem Spectar, Pitt-Johnstown President. “We are profoundly grateful for Robert and Eunice Smith’s generous bequest and are confident that it will have a transformative impact in the lives of area students.”

President Spectar also expressed profound appreciation for the great honor that the school district leaders have demonstrated in the University. He mentioned the “impressive leadership and vision” of Greater Johnstown Superintendent Dr. Gerry Zahorchak for his partnership with the University in the effort to broaden the impact of this gift for high school graduates from Johnstown.

"The creation of the Robert M. Smith Honors Academy is a wonderful opportunity for the students at Greater Johnstown High School to benefit from,” said Greater Johnstown School District Board President Richard Unger. “This is a truly remarkable honors academy pathway for high school students, and we are proud to be a part of this partnership. It is a new college pathway in regards to dual enrollment programming, unlike any current programming offerings in the region."  

Greater Johnstown Superintendent Dr. Gerry Zahorchak said, "The Greater Johnstown School District is committed to providing students with opportunities to earn college credit in high school. This partnership is another example of this commitment. We are pleased to offer this new pathway in partnership with the University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown. This newly designed pathway will have a tremendous impact on our school, community, and region."  

According to Michael Vuckovich, Principal and Vocational Director for Johnstown High School, “This newly formed partnership is another example of Johnstown High School's commitment to creating a college-going culture by providing another unique and exciting opportunity for students to participate in. We are grateful for the Smith family endowment and look toward celebrating the success of the students who are impacted by this generous gift."  

It is expected that high school graduates from the Class of 2015 will be the first recipients of the Robert M. Smith scholarship funds.


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 is the regional leader, educating for the RealWorld. The distinctive combination of our people, programs, and place results in exceptional performance in preparing students for career and professional success. Pitt-Johnstown is recognized by the Princeton Review as a “Best in the Northeast” college, by G.I. Jobs as a “Military Friendly School,” by AC Online as one of the “Highest ROI Colleges in Pennsylvania,” and by Pennsylvania Business Central as a "Top 100 Organization.” Additionally, Pitt-Johnstown has been presented with The Seven Seals Award by the US Department of Defense’s office of Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve (ESGR).