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Nine honored at University Founders’ dinner

December 9, 2012
Weirton Daily Times

STEUBENVILLE - Nine faculty and staff members who weathered low enrollment and uncertain times to help build the current Franciscan University of Steubenville were honored Saturday for their dedication to the school during the 63rd annual Founders' Association Dinner.

"We chose the individuals to be honored this year for their dedication and commitment to the school when times were tough. These men and women were really the backbone of the college who held the school together under the leadership of Fr. Mike Scanlan. They have always been a special group of people and we honored them in the spirit of the Franciscan friars who founded our school," declared the Rev. Richard Davis, T.O.R., vice president of Community Relations.

"The staff and faculty we honored believed in Father Mike and supported the mission of the school at tremendous sacrifice to their families during the years of financial hardship when the College of Steubenville was transforming itself into a nationally known university," Davis added.

Article Photos

HONOREES — Franciscan University of Steubenville honored nine faculty and staff members Saturday evening during the 63rd annual Founders’ Association Dinner in the J.C. Williams Center. Chosen for their dedication to the school were, first row, from left, Professor Earl Spinnenweber, Assistant Dean of Faculty Virginia Zoric, Irene Pizzoferrato, secretary to the dean of faculty, Shane Teramana representing his grandfather Professor James Slater and Pam Petrilla representing her late husband Professor Ray Petrilla. Second row, Professor John Herrmann, Professor Joseph Zoric, Professor Ed Bessler and Professor Norman Rokke. -- Dave Gossett

The Rev. Terence Henry, president of the university declared, "all great epochs begin in the middle so we honor those individuals who were part of our mission at a crucial time in our school history."

"We remain deeply grateful to these nine people for what they did to help the school stay open and to grow. And we continue to ask for their prayers as we move forward," added Henry.

Most of the honorees are now retired from the university but some continue to teach part-time.

The honorees included Professor John Herrmann, the late Prof. Ray Petrilla Professor Ed Bessler, Professor James Slater, Assistant Dean of Faculty Virginia Zoric, Professor Joseph Zoric, Mrs. Irene Pizzoferrato, secretary to the dean of faculty, Professor Norman Rokke and Professor Earl Spinnenweber.

John Herrmann has taught physics, mathematics, and engineering to several generations of students and has also presented several programs and in-services for local elementary and high school teachers.

"It is an honor to have been chosen for this honor," said Herrmann.

"It is also an honor to be included in this group of individuals who have given so much to this school during the past years. I believe all of us who were recognized tonight have dedicated their lives to this university," he remarked.

"I am particularly happy that several of my children were here for this dinner. And I continue to teach part-time because it is fun for me and I enjoy being a part of the university," Herrmann said.

Pam Petrilla said her late husband Raymond Petrilla, "would be totally humbled to be chosen to receive the 2012 Founders" Award.

Petrilla received his bachelor's degree from the College of Steubenville in 1977 and returned to his alma mater in 1980 to teach a wide array of biology courses for the next 31 years.

"Ray was a very humble man and I truly believe his first love was teaching. Thankfully, he was able to continue teaching up to a month before he died in 2011," his widow noted.

Petrilla developed 16 new courses, including several on environmental science, emphasizing the need to extend the culture of life concept to all that God has made.

A highlight of his tenure was the Red-Tailed Hawk Project, a student-run research study he oversaw that investigated the nesting patterns of Ohio Valley red-tailed hawks.

Bessler was working in the basement of a small building at Michigan State University when he saw a small handwritten card advertising a biology professor position at the College of Steubenville.

"No one had ever posted a faculty job on that bulletin board before and no one knew who had posted this one. I decided to follow up on it and after meeting the dean who was Fr. Mike Scanlan I knew this was the place I wanted to be," said Bessler.

Bessler spent 42 years teaching at the university during which time he developed a course on Human Embryology, providing the scientific support for the pro-life position.

He retired in 2012, but his legacy lives on in the Biology Department, in the Human Life Studies Minor, which he co-founded, and in Saints Cosmas and Damian Hall, the science building he helped design.

Virginia Zoric came to the College of Steubenville as a faculty wife.

She had met her husband, Professor Joe Zoric, when they were both undergraduate students at Ohio University.

Virginia taught in Brilliant, Empire, and Bloomingdale before coming to the University of Steubenville in 1986.

She served in many capacities over the years, teaching English and education courses, and working as registrar and assistant dean of faculty, before retiring in 2012. She established an Advising Office, and offered academic counseling to students, faculty and parents.

"We kind of found our way here on our own. I was fortunate to have taught at all levels and filled in gaps in my expertise." Virginia stated.

Virginia also developed an interactive unit for teaching children's literature in 1997, and participated in children's literature conferences. She has also served her church as Sunday School teacher and superintendent, and became a commissioned lay pastor for the Upper Ohio Valley Presbytery in 1999.

If he could meet any historic figure, Joseph Zoric said he would immediately choose Adam Smith, the founder of modern economic thought.

Joseph Zoric has been sharing his own passion for economics and the free market system with students since coming to the College of Steubenville in 1971.

He teaches undergraduate and graduate level economics, and has been director of the MBA program since 2000. In 1978, he brought the Students in Free Enterprise program to campus, serving as faculty advisor for the next 25 years.

Since 1995, he has co-authored four studies on the economic impact of Franciscan University of Steubenville on the local economy.

Former executive vice president and dean of the College of Steubenville the Rev. Theodore Bradower, T.O.R., described Irene Pizzoferrato as "indispensable," and former dean James Long wrote, "I give her the highest possible recommendation."

Pizzoferrato grew up in Weirton, and spent most of her life in the Ohio Valley. When all of her children were in school, she took a job at the College of Steubenville as secretary to Bradower, and continued to serve in that position for the next five deans.

"Father Bradower was my first dean and Michael Healy was my last dean. And I enjoyed working for all six deans during my years at the school," noted Pizzoferrato

"I was honored and thrilled when I was called and told I would be honored. I am retired now but return to the campus often because I still feel like a member of the Franciscan University family. I often take visitors to the area to see the beautiful campus. I want them to see what a beautiful college campus we have in Steubenville," commented Pizzoferrato.

Rokke began teaching chemistry at the College of Steubenville in 1978, taught several courses in mathematics and computer science from 1987 to 1996, then returned to teach organic chemistry until his retirement in 2009.

During that time, he also worked with the Education and Graduate Education Departments to provide education students with a background in science and to prepare the next generation of chemistry teachers.

And he assisted with Project Mastery, a program offering continuing education to local high school science teachers.

From the early 1970s to the early 1980s, the Philosophy Department rode solely on the shoulders of Earl Spinnenweber.

Spinnenweber arrived in 1964, and recalled that the Philosophy Program grew quickly before the drop in enrollment following the end of the draft.

For nearly a decade after that, he was the only full-time philosophy professor at the College of Steubenville.

Spinnenweber had a passion for making complicated concepts understandable, and developed several courses, including one on the Franciscan philosophical tradition.

He taught a course on philosophy in literature for 30 years, focusing on Dante's Divine Comedy. and by the time he retired in 2002, Spinnenweber had taught nearly every philosophy course offered by the university.

Several local students also received scholarships at the dinner.

The University Founders' Scholarship will be given to Jarett Kuns of Bellaire, Amanda Carmine of Steubenville and William Shanahan of Steubenville.

The Rose M. DeFede Women's Guild Scholarship was given to Tiffany Ribar of Steubenville; Rachael Oiler of Weirton; Cheryl Myers of Dresden, OH; Maureen Kazmierczyk of Conway, Pa; and Mycaelya Stewart of Mingo Junction.

The Founders' Association Dinner was established in 1949 by Father Daniel Egan, T.O.R., first president of the College of Steubenville, to draw the college and civic communities together.

The Founders' Award was established in 1978 to honor men, women, and organizations for their contributions to Franciscan University of Steubenville and the local community.

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