Alumni chapter lets people know Penn State is in Pittsburgh

John Patishnock
September 07, 2016

Editor’s Note: This is the first in a two-part series. The second feature will preview Friday night’s alumni mixer in Pittsburgh, co-hosted by the Penn State Alumni Association, the Greater Pittsburgh Chapter, and the Smeal College of Business.

Imagine this scenario:

You’re a proud Penn State graduate wanting to stay connected to your alma mater. You live a few hours away from the University Park campus. Close enough that other Penn Staters living in your community regularly return to campus, though still far enough away that you miss Dear Old State.

How do you make blue-and-white connections and bottle that enthusiasm into a group effort?

“That’s been the hurdle,” said Greg Scott, a 1992 Penn State alumnus. “How do you do that?”

The Greater Pittsburgh Chapter of the Penn State Alumni Association finds a way.

From television watch parties for football games to fundraising and community events, Penn Staters living on the western edge of the Commonwealth stay connected to Happy Valley.

Scott served as chapter president from 2001 to 2005 and continues to be an active member. There are tens of thousands of Penn State graduates living in western Pennsylvania, with Scott saying the group’s multi-pronged mission includes connecting students with alumni.

That outreach includes connecting with students from Penn State campuses such as Beaver, Fayette, Greater Allegheny and New Kensington, and the chapter once met with Penn State’s Glee Club when the group flew through Pittsburgh.

Sometimes it’s as simple as raising awareness for the chapter’s activities, and, as Scott said, “Letting people know that Penn State is in Pittsburgh.”

Everyone will definitely know this weekend.

pittsburgh chapter

Greater Pittsburgh Chapter President Kathy Kasperik, second from left, and fellow chapter members volunteered last year during a fundraiser that benefited Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC. Kasperik and the alumni chapter will volunteer again next week, answering phones and accepting pledges. 

IMAGE: Greater Pittsburgh Chapter of the Penn State Alumni Association

The long-awaited renewal of Penn State and Pitt meeting on the football field takes place Saturday, Sept. 10, with the two in-state rivals playing for the first time in 16 years. The night before the game, the Greater Pittsburgh Chapter is co-hosting an alumni mixer at Hard Rock Café on Station Square Drive that will feature the Nittany Lion, Blue Band music, Penn State Cheerleaders, Lionettes and plenty of enthusiasm.

The Alumni Association and Smeal College of Business are also co-hosting the sold-out event for approximately 400 people, with both Scott and Greater Pittsburgh Chapter President Kathy Kasperik (a fellow 1992 Penn State graduate) saying it’s a great opportunity for the chapter to meet new people and show alumni how their chapter can be a tremendous resource.

One way the chapter does this, Scott said, is by facilitating connections and building friendships through community service, and this weekend is a prime example.

In addition to the alumni mixer, the Pittsburgh Chapter is partnering with the University of Pittsburgh Alumni Association on a blood drive and a food drive. Both are friendly competitions, with the former asking, “Which school colors do you bleed?” when participants give blood at a local Central Blood Bank.

The food drive is all online and based on donations, benefiting the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank. Anyone wanting to support the Pittsburgh Chapter can visit the website and choose the chapter logo icon button when donating. And more information about both fundraisers is available by clicking here

“We’re aware that the rivalry is intense, and we thought, ‘How do you turn an intense rivalry into something beneficial?'" Scott said. “We’re excited for the opportunity to showcase Penn State and our school spirit. We’re showing people that we’re here in Pittsburgh and also juicing the rivalry.”

For a moment, there was thought given to collecting food, but the cyber-based monetary competition can provide food banks with funds to buy food at appropriate times, Scott said. And Kasperik mentioned the online format will allow the group to maximize its social media and email communications; the latter regularly reaches 800-plus people, and the group can be followed on Facebook and Twitter.

The two drives fit with the Pittsburgh Chapter’s commitment to community service. Scott said sometimes those events are the biggest draws for members, and Kasperik relayed a great story about how the chapter refurbished a childhood development center years ago.

The old building was in dire need of everything, she said, so the chapter spent a few hours cleaning, painting and planting flowers, resulting in what Kasperik called a “half-day makeover.”

“It was a lot of fun, and you literally got your hands dirty,” she said.

The Pittsburgh Chapter has a broad network, Kasperik said, so when the chapter volunteers at an event, chances are somebody will hear about it and want to get involved. The main motivating factor is helping other people, she said, and partly getting the chapter’s name out there so the members can continue to do good work.

That includes THON, and the Pittsburgh area boasts its own chapter of the Alumni Association’s Dance Marathon Alumni Interest Group (DMAIG). The group’s annual Blue-White Ball raised more than $10,000 this year for Four Diamonds. Details about next year's Blue-White Gala will be available on the event's Facebook page.

“We’re definitely committed to Penn State philanthropy in the community here,” Kasperik said.

A few years ago, Charlene Gaus, a regional director with the Alumni Association and the chapter’s adviser, started a volunteer consortium in Pittsburgh to bring together all alumni groups in the area. This semi-annual gathering serves as a hub and a way to strengthen resources.

Kasperik said the Pittsburgh Chapter will promote activities for other chapters, such as the Washington-Greene Counties Chapter, and vice versa. They’ll post events to social media and tag one another, letting their members know of other opportunities in the region.

She pointed out that while the Pittsburgh Chapter has its own focus, the broader theme of keeping Penn State top-of-mind is there. The groups have better partnerships, and that makes a difference for Kasperik. “There’s not a day that goes by that I’m not talking about Penn State,” she said, and that includes staying in touch with her college roommate and Central Florida Chapter President Katie Bartoo, a 1992 Penn State graduate. 

Florida. Pittsburgh. And everywhere in between.

Wherever you go, Penn State stays with you.

“It’s been really nice for the past few years to have those extra connections,” Kasperik said of neighboring alumni chapters. “It’s made it more personal.”

  • pittsburgh chapter

    From television watch parties for football games, to fundraising and community events, Penn Staters living on the western edge of the Commonwealth stay connected to Happy Valley through the Greater Pittsburgh Chapter of the Penn State Alumni Association. 

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    IMAGE: Greater Pittsburgh Chapter of the Penn State Alumni Association

(Media Contacts)

Last Updated September 08, 2016