Eleven Alumni to be Honored at SVC Homecoming

by Public Relations | Sep 06, 2019

LATROBE, PA – Saint Vincent College will honor 11 alumni with the presentation of Alumni of Distinction or Recent Alumna/Alumnus Achievement Awards at a reception and dinner on Friday, Oct. 4, during the annual Alumni Homecoming and Fall Family Weekend on campus.

Those who will be honored with Alumni of Distinction awards at the special event in the Fred M. Rogers Center include Dr. Leonard Burrello, C’64, of Tampa, Florida; Kimberly M. Colonna, Esq., C’94, of Harrisburg; Arthur T. Downey, Esq., C’59, of North Bethesda, Maryland; Deacon William J. Hisker, Ph.D., P ’65, C’69, of Greensburg; William G. Laird, C’69, of Bridgeville; The Hon. Robert J. Lesnick, C’74, of Alexandria, Virginia; Dr. Richard C. Miller, C’79, of Chatham, New Jersey; John R. Perchak, C’69, of Alamo, California; and Dr. Richard S. Sepesy, P ’48, C’52, of Monroeville. Alexandria C. Simmons, C’10, of Jefferson Hills and Jason M. Winters, C’04, of Hempfield Township, will receive the Recent Alumna/Alumnus Achievement Awards.

All of the awards are made by the Saint Vincent Alumni Association in recognition of meritorious service and commitment to Saint Vincent College.

Dr. Leonard BurrelloDR. LEONARD C. BURRELLO
Dr. Leonard C. Burrello graduated from Saint Vincent College in 1964, earning bachelor of arts degrees in both history and psychology. A native of Cleveland, Ohio, Burrello was class president at Saint Vincent and a three-year letter winner on the Bearcat football team. After the team was disbanded following his junior year, Burrello was named head coach of the first cross country team in school history and led the squad to a third-place finish at the conference championship. Upon graduating, Burrello moved to Philadelphia, where he taught special education at the middle-high school level while earning a Master’s of Education from Temple University. He would then earn a doctorate in Education from Syracuse University before embarking on a career in which he became a renowned figure in education and educational leadership. In 1970, he joined the faculty at the University of Michigan as an assistant professor of education and program director for special education, before ascending to the role of associate professor of education in school administration and special education. In 1976, he joined the faculty at the University of Indiana in Bloomington as associate tenured professor of education. It was the first of many titles held by Burrello at Indiana, as he served as chair of education leadership in its School of Education, director of the National Academy on Principalship and Special Education, a program director within the University Council for Educational Administration’s (UCEA) Center on Special Education Leadership Practices and executive director of the Forum on Education, which became The Center on Appreciative Organizing in Education. Upon leaving Indiana in 2007, he was named a professor emeritus and was given the International Council of Special Education Administrator’s Harrie Selznick Outstanding Service Award, the Indiana Council for Educational Administration’s Career Award and the UCEA’s Jay Scribner Mentoring Award. In 2008, he joined the faculty at the University of South Florida as a professor of education, serving as chair for adult, career and higher education and educational leadership and policy studies. Burrello remains a professor at USF, while since 2014, he has served as executive director of the Appreciative Organizing Center. Burrello has co-authored eight books and has regularly presented at national conferences and conventions across North America, including a 2014 presentation to Saint Vincent College education students. Burrello credits his brother, John, for initially steering him toward Saint Vincent, which would lead to his earning a football scholarship, while he feels that he owes a lifelong debt to his English professor, Fr. Christopher, for allowing him to realize that he learned best through dialogue and by collaborating with peers, a realization that would springboard Burrello to his career in education. Burrello is proud to have developed lifelong friendships with many classmates, including Pete Montague, Pat Conroy, Ed Schreier, John Elliott and William Duffy. Burrello and his wife, Dena, reside in Tampa, Florida. A member of Saint Lawrence Roman Catholic Church, Burrello has two children - Elizabeth Opie and Jotha - three stepchildren and five grandchildren. He and Dena write an educational blog together and are working on a new book on direct leadership, while in his free time, he enjoys playing golf and practicing yoga.

Kimbery Colonna, Esq.ATTY. KIMBERLY M. COLONNA
Kimberly M. Colonna, Esq., graduated from Saint Vincent College in 1994 with highest honors, earning a bachelor of arts degree in English and a minor in education. At Saint Vincent, she was a member of the Orientation Committee, played intramural athletics and served as a prefect in Aurelius Hall.  She was recognized with the Award for Academic Excellence in Secondary Education upon graduation. After Saint Vincent, she earned her juris doctorate from the Dickinson School of Law and is currently a partner at the law firm of McNees, Wallace and Nurick LLC in Harrisburg, where she chairs its Education Law Group and practices in the Litigation Group. She represents colleges, school districts, charter schools and other providers of educational services, providing counsel on matters involving student and faculty rights and assisting with policy development. A member of the National Association of College and University Attorneys, Colonna was a past president of the Program for Female Offenders, while she was twice recognized as a Pennsylvania Super Lawyer and was the 2015 recipient of the Local Legal Leaders Award. She served on the Saint Vincent College Alumni Council for six years, and currently serves on the Saint Vincent College Board of Directors. Colonna enjoys hiking, travel and golf in her free time and has run two half marathons, one in Iceland and one through parts of Switzerland, France and Germany. She looks back fondly at her time at Saint Vincent, with some of her lasting memories including Sports Friendship Day, attending Mass in the Crypt and playing intramural flag football. Colonna counts her former prefect, Julie (Claybaugh) Selep, as her biggest influence at SVC, because she was always a positive mentor and believed in Colonna’s potential, while her favorite professors included Dr. Michael Botsko, Dr. William Snyder, Fr. Rene Kollar, O.S.B. and Dr. Ronald Tranquilla. Colonna advises current students to always take the harder classes instead of the easy ones, while she urges her fellow alumni to always stay connected with classmates in order to enjoy the benefits of being part of such a strong community.

Arthur T. Downey, Esq., graduated from Saint Vincent in 1959 with a bachelor of arts degree in history. He continued his education at the Villanova University Law School, where he earned a juris doctorate, before going on to receive an LL.M. degree from Georgetown University Law Center. A native of Long Island, he chose to attend Saint Vincent because it was out of state and it provided an affordable, Catholic education. Downey served as class president as both a sophomore and junior, as well as news editor for The Review and associate editor of The Tower.  Upon earning his law degrees, Downey embarked on an impressive professional career that began with a one-year stint as assistant professor of law at Gonzaga University Law School in Spokane, Washington. He was hired in 1964 by the U.S. State Department as an attorney, working in both Washington, D.C. and Berlin, Germany. He served on Henry Kissinger’s National Security Council staff from 1969 to 1972, where he worked on European affairs and international narcotics matters.  From 1972-75, he was an associate for the Washington law firm Morgan Lewis, representing international clients, before spending two years with the U.S. Department of Commerce as deputy assistant secretary for east-west trade. He was a partner in the Washington law firm of Sutherland, Asbill and Brennan from 1977-90, during which time he also served as an adjunct professor of international law at Georgetown University Law Center. From 1990-92, he was a partner in the firm of Johnson and Gibbs, before being named corporate vice president of the Houston-based multi-billion dollar energy firm Baker Hughes Inc., a position he would hold for 12 years. After serving as interim vice president for ethics at Dresser Industries in Texas from 2004-05, Downey embarked on a career as an author and has had three books published; “Civil War Lawyers: Constitutional Questions, Courtroom Dramas and the Men Behind Them,” “The Creole Affair: The Slave Rebellion that Led the U.S. and Great Britain to the Brink of War” and “The Cold War: Lawyers, Spies and Crises.” Downey has been involved in a number of civic activities, serving on the Board of Trustees of The American University of Sharjah in the United Arab Emirates, sitting on the Board of Governors of the United Nations Association of the U.S.A. and on the Board of Directors for Springfield Hospital Center. Downey and his wife, Mary, reside in North Bethesda, Maryland. He has three children, three stepchildren and nine grandchildren. They are members of Saint Elizabeth Catholic Church in Rockville, Maryland. 

Deacon William J. Hisker, Ph.D., earned the Saint Vincent Award for Academic Excellence in Sociology upon graduating in 1969, and went on to earn a master’s in regional and city planning from the University of Oklahoma and a doctorate in public and international affairs from the University of Pittsburgh. He never had any intentions of pursuing a career in academia, but joined the Saint Vincent College faculty in 1973 and has since enjoyed an award-winning teaching career. From 1973-81, he taught and later chaired the department of sociology and anthropology.  Since 1981, he has taught in the business department, having chaired the departments of management, marketing, accounting, finance and economics from 1995–2018. He teaches at both the undergraduate and graduate levels, with courses in business ethics, management, leadership, quantitative analysis and research methods and has previously been honored with Saint Vincent College’s Boniface Wimmer Award for Teaching. He also teaches as an adjunct professor in Duquesne University’s MBA program and has held similar adjunct positions at Carnegie Mellon University, the University of Pittsburgh and West Virginia University. In 2005, Hisker was ordained a Catholic permanent deacon after earning a Master of Divinity degree from Saint Vincent and is enrolled in a Doctor of Ministry program at the Aquinas Institute at the University of Saint Louis. He is currently assigned to his home parish of Our Lady of Grace in Greensburg, while he serves as director of permanent diaconate for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Greensburg. Also a 1965 graduate of Saint Vincent Preparatory School, Hisker lists Fr. Vernon Holtz, O.S.B., Fr. Alexander Devereux, O.S.B., Fr. Augustine Flood, O.S.B., and William Rafferty as lifelong models and mentors and says that Saint Vincent has been a great learning and mentoring community as well as a great place to raise his children. He calls his selection as an Alum of Distinction a reminder of how special of a place Saint Vincent is and how lucky he is to be a part of it. Hisker and his wife, Vera, reside in Greensburg and have three children and five grandchildren.
William Laird

Bill Laird graduated from Saint Vincent College in 1969 with a degree in business administration. As a student at Saint Vincent, the Greensburg native was a member of the SVC Business Forum, while also playing varsity baseball as well as intramural basketball, football and softball. Immediately after graduation, he enlisted in the United States Marine Corps reserve program and was honorably discharged in 1975. He began his professional career in 1970 by spending eight years at Price Waterhouse as an audit manager, working at both its Chicago and Pittsburgh offices, while earning his CPA. He was named the director of international accounting for Rockwell International, a position he held for eight years, before spending 10 years as controller and assistant treasurer at the University of Pittsburgh, which included a six-year tenure as chief financial officer of Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic of UPMC.  In 1996, he would move across town to Carnegie Mellon University, being named its associate vice president for finance. In 2003, Laird was named the vice president for finance, chief financial officer and treasurer at Loyola University Chicago, before being promoted to senior vice president for finance in 2010. In his role at Loyola, Laird was responsible for planning, directing and controlling the financial accounting, planning and reporting practices, as well as overseeing investments including endowment and pension assets in excess of $600 million. A finalist for the 2013 Financial Executives Chicago CEO of the Year Award, he retired from Loyola in 2014 and currently works as an independent consultant specializing in best practices in higher education, personal financial planning and taxation. Laird is a member of the Saint Vincent College Board of Directors after having previously sat on the boards at Saint Xavier University (2010-13), Loyola’s John Felice Rome Center (2010-14), The National Aviary in Pittsburgh (1992-2002) and the Mt. Lebanon Baseball Association (1983-94).  He has served as lecturer for Loyola University’s School of Business and Education and co-professor of the University of Pittsburgh Executive MBA Program in Slovakia. He also coached youth baseball at various levels in both Mt. Lebanon and South Fayette for more than a decade. Laird states that he always fondly looks back at the many lifelong friendships he made during his time at Saint Vincent and credits business professor Fr. Anthony Burlas, O.S.B., as his biggest influence. A member of Saint Louise de Marillac Parish in Pittsburgh, Laird and wife, Laurel, reside in South Fayette. They have five children - Christopher, Farrell, Michael, Ryan and Kara - and six grandchildren.

The Hon. Robert J. Lesnick graduated summa cum laude from Saint Vincent College in 1974 with a bachelor of arts degree in economics.  A native of Edenborn, Lesnick originally planned to study science and engineering at SVC, but after being selected student body president as a sophomore, he decided to focus on preparing for law school and went on to earn his juris doctorate from the University of Virginia School of Law in 1977.  He began his professional career in private practice in Kansas City, Missouri, as a corporate tax attorney with the firm of Smith, Gill, Fisher and Butts, now Brian, Cave, and represented major clients including H&R Block and United Press Syndicate.  In 1979, he joined the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of the Solicitor and worked in Kansas City, Denver and Washington, D.C.  He represented the department on a variety of issues, including discrimination labor, and mine health and safety matters.  From 1990-94, he was a Special Trial Counsel with the U.S. Treasury Department during the Savings and Loan Crisis and his team was responsible for enforcement actions taken against officers, directors, accountants and attorneys associated with Lincoln Saving and Loan Association, the largest failure in history.  In 1994, he was first appointed as a U.S. Administrative Law Judge, serving for four years as Chief Judge of the Pittsburgh office for Social Security Administration, the largest hearing office in the U.S.  From 1999-2003, Lesnick served with the U.S. Department of Labor’s Pittsburgh hearing office, having one of his authored decisions appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, which upheld Lesnick’s initial ruling.  He currently works as Chief Judge for the Federal Mine Safety and Health Review Commission.  Headquartered in Washington, D.C., he opened an office for the Commission in Pittsburgh to better serve Appalachia.  Lesnick, whose father and grandfather were both coal miners, has presided over a number of notable cases including the Quecreek Mine inundation in nearby Somerset and the disaster at the Upper Big Branch Mine in West Virginia.  He has been very active in professional organizations throughout his career, being named Senior Fellow to the Administrative Conference of the United States (ACUS) and serving for 25 years in the Federal Administrative Law Judges Conference (FALJC), being named its president in 2019.  He has also volunteered with the Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts, as well as CYO soccer, basketball and baseball.  He credits Saint Vincent for laying a strong academic foundation that enabled him to gain acceptance into a number of the top postgraduate schools in the country and counts Fr. Alexander Devereux, O.S.B., Fr. Callistus Milan, O.S.B. and Br. Norman Hipps, O.S.B., as his biggest influences during his time at SVC.  Lesnick and his wife, Kathryn, reside in Alexandria, Virginia, and are members of the Blessed Sacrament Catholic Parish. They have two sons, Bobby, a naval nuclear reactor engineer, and Alexander, an Apple camera engineer, and four grandchildren.

Dr. Richard MillerDR. RICHARD C. MILLER
Dr. Richard C. Miller graduated from Saint Vincent College in 1979 with highest honors with a bachelor of science degree in biology and minor in chemistry. A Latrobe native, he would then enroll at Georgetown University’s School of Medicine, graduating with honors in 1983, elected to the Alpha Omega Alpha Honor Medical Society and receiving the Mario Molliari Award for Outstanding Academic Performance in Microbiology.  He completed his residency in Obstetrics and Gynecology at the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland in 1987. He went on to fellowship training in maternal fetal medicine at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, completing it in 1991. He then spent four years as director of maternal fetal medicine at the National Naval Medical Center and faculty at the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development-Human Genetics Branch. In 1995, Miller moved to Saint Barnabas Medical Center in Livingston, New Jersey, where he remains today as the chairman of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology and vice president of New Jersey Perinatal Associates. Having served as a clinical instructor and clinical assistant professor at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, as well as an assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the F. Edward Hebert School of Medicine, Miller is currently a clinical professor in obstetrics and gynecology at Rutgers University - New Jersey Medical School and professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Saint George’s University Medical School in Grenada. He has received a host of honors and awards throughout his distinguished career, including the Meritorious Unit Commendation at Naval Hospital Camp Lejeune (1983), the National Defense Service Medal (1991), The Council for Residency Education in Obstetrics and Gynecology Award for Excellence in Resident Education (1999), the Life is Great Global Foundation, Inc. - Founders Award (2015) and Saint Barnabas Medical Center Residency Staff Teaching Award (2018). Miller fondly remembers drinking coffee with his friends at The Shack, hanging out in the Science Center with friends and professors. and long study sessions in the library stacks. Always fascinated by science, particularly molecular biology, Miller credits Dr. James Taubler for convincing him to pursue a career in medicine. As a teacher, he strives to emulate Taubler’s traits in his interactions with students. Miller and his wife, Anna Marie, reside in Chatham, New Jersey, and are members of Corpus Christi Roman Catholic Church. They have three children, Christopher, Katherine and Andrea.

John R. Perchak III graduated from Saint Vincent College in 1969 with a bachelor of arts degree in sociology. A regular selection to the College’s Dean’s List, Perchak played varsity golf for the Bearcats while also taking part in intramural basketball and football. A native of Donora, Perchak served as a military policeman in the United States Air Force upon graduation from Saint Vincent before relocating to the San Francisco area, where he founded Perchak Property Management in 1973.  Under his leadership and vision, it has grown into a premiere full-service property management company that manages single family homes, townhomes, condominiums, apartment complexes and commercial real estate across the Bay area. Perchak and his wife, Laurie, created the Perchak Family African Community Scholarship Fund aimed at supporting the education of African monks and nuns at Sant’ Anselmo, an international Benedictine University in Rome that was established by Saint Vincent College and Archabbey founder Archabbot Boniface Wimmer. Perchak stated that he chose to attend Saint Vincent because on his first visit to campus in 1965, it was love at first site. He credits his time at the College for making him both a better person and a people person, and lists the late Stefan Jodlowski, his adviser and former sociology department chair, as his biggest influence during his college years. The Perchaks are members of Saint John Vianney Catholic Church in Walnut Creek, California, and the parents of three adult children, John, Mike and Alaina. An avid golfer, Perchak is also a history buff and enjoys traveling in his free time.Dr. Richard Sepesy

Also a graduate of Saint Vincent Preparatory School, Dr. Richard S. Sepesy graduated from Saint Vincent College with honors in 1952. A native of Braddock, he enlisted in the U.S. Army following graduation, where he served on the frontline as a cryptographer in the Army Security Agency during the Korean Conflict. For his services, he was awarded the U.S. Army Special Commendation Medal for his linguistic and codebreaking contributions.  Following his three-year military commitment, Sepesy answered a calling to enter the dental profession. A student of history and philosophy at Saint Vincent, he enrolled at Duquesne University to complete the necessary classes to pursue dental school. He would go on to graduate from the University of Pittsburgh Dental School in 1960, upon which he opened his own dental practice in Braddock. He later moved the practice to Monroeville and it continues to thrive today, as he is proud to share it with his son, Dr. Richard Sepesy, Jr.  Sepesy owes much of his success to his time at Saint Vincent, both as a high schooler and college student, as he was greatly impacted by the Benedictine priests and monks who served as his teachers and mentors. He counts the late Fr. Hugh J. Wilt, O.S.B., as his biggest influence, as he impressed upon Sepesy the gift of intellectual curiosity and a love of learning. He shared his love for Saint Vincent with his family, as he was directly responsible for five family members attending the school, including his brother Joseph, son Richard, son-in-law Frederick Klorczyk, nephew Joseph and great-nephew Alexander. A member of the Pennsylvania Dental Association and the Dental Society of Western Pennsylvania, he has been an active member of both the Monroeville Garden Club and Monroeville Investment Club. Sepesy and his wife, Norine, are members of North American Martyrs Catholic Church in Monroeville and are the parents of three children, Richard, Lynne (Sepesy) Klorczyk and Janette (Sepesy) Regola – as well as proud grandparents and great-grandparents.

Alexandria C. (Muzika) Simmons graduated from Saint Vincent College in 2010, earning bachelor of arts degrees in both communication and psychology. A native of Uniontown, Simmons served on the Student Government Association for the duration of her time at Saint Vincent and served as president of the class of 2010. A member of the Alpha Lambda Delta, Psi Chi and Lambda Pi Eta honor societies, Simmons served on the orientation committee and was a member of the Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA), and in 2010 was a finalist for the prestigious Saint Vincent College President’s Award. Upon graduating in 2010, she began her professional career as a legal assistant at the Federal Mine Safety and Health Review Commission in Pittsburgh, before joining the staff of K&L Gates, LLP, as a business development manager, a post she would hold for six years. Currently, Simmons is the business development manager for Clark Hill PLC in Pittsburgh. Working in its Litigation Practice, Simmons works with attorneys and practice groups on developing business plans and marketing strategies while also advising on public relations and marketing activities. Since graduating, Simmons has served on the Saint Vincent College Alumni Council, currently holding the position of vice president, and as a member of the Fr. Gilbert J. Burke Alumni Scholarship Committee. She volunteers as a member of the Buddy Walk Committee with the Down Syndrome Association of Pittsburgh and regularly supports other non-profits in the Pittsburgh area, while professionally, she is a member of the Legal Marketing Association. Among the many impactful people she met while at Saint Vincent, Simmons credits Dr. Mary Beth Spore and Alice Kaylor as her biggest influences, as they helped her gain confidence in her work and skills. Simmons and her husband, Shane, also a 2010 SVC grad, reside in Jefferson Hills and are members of Saint Thomas A’Becket
Roman Catholic Church.

Jason WintersJason M. Winters graduated from Saint Vincent College in 2004 with a bachelor of science degree in computing and information science. While at Saint Vincent, Winters served as president of the student theater group The Company, while also serving on the Student Government Association and with the College Republicans. A member of the Saint Vincent pep band, Winters was inducted into the Mu Beta Psi National Music Honor Society. Following graduation, Winters earned a master’s degree in higher education from Geneva College and worked at Saint Vincent College for eight years in the Office of Student Affairs, beginning as the residence hall director in Gerard Hall before ascending to the position of director of campus life, twice winning the SGA Administrator of the Year award. In 2012, he was hired as the director of parks and recreation for Hempfield Township, where he held a myriad of responsibilities, before being named township manager for Hempfield in February 2018. In this position, Winters oversees the township’s day-to-day operations and supervises the township’s finance and administration, parks and recreation, planning and code, public safety and public works departments. Winters has been a member of the Saint Vincent Alumni Council for 13 years, recently finishing a two-year term as president. He is also president of the PTG at Mary of Nazareth Catholic School and chairperson of the Saint Angela Merici Parish Festival. For two decades, Winters has also worked as a high school and college softball and volleyball official, currently serving as the district deputy commissioner for USA/ASA Softball and a co-director of softball operations for the Collegiate Softball Umpire Association. Winters states that his classes and co-curricular activities while a student at Saint Vincent have all contributed to what he does in his career now and provided him with experience that he continues to carry forward in everything that he does through both his career and volunteer organizations. He credits the late Fr. Tom Devereux, O.S.B., Dr. Doreen Blandino and Fr. Thomas Hart, O.S.B., as being his most memorable professors, while he was deeply impacted by the Benedictine values demonstrated and lived by Fr. Maximillan Maxwell, O.S.B., Fr. Brian Boosel, O.S.B., Fr. Tom and Fr. Thomas.   Jason and his wife, Dana, a 2006 Saint Vincent graduate, are the parents of two daughters, Clare and Anna. They reside in Hempfield Township and are members of Saint Angela Merici Parish in White Oak.


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