Campus Life

College of the Liberal Arts honors alumni, faculty during annual awards ceremony

The College of the Liberal Arts recently presented its 2017 alumni awards to (clockwise, beginning top left) Michael Pizzano, Deborah Kling Rooney, Jay Style, Cathy & Bob McKeon, John Gastil, Linda Belfus, and James Bowers. Credit: Penn StateCreative Commons

The Penn State College of the Liberal Arts honored several alumni and one of its faculty members during its annual Alumni Awards Ceremony on Friday, April 21 at The Nittany Lion Inn.

“The College of the Liberal Arts is truly fortunate to be represented by talented and civic-minded alumni who are having a profound impact on their alma mater, in their professions, and in their communities,” noted Susan Welch, dean of the College of the Liberal Arts. “Our Alumni Awards Ceremony gives us a chance each year to recognize the contributions being made by a select group of these individuals. “Michael Pizzano, Deborah Kling Rooney, Jay Style, Cathy and Bob McKeon, Jim Bowers and Linda Belfus are wonderful representatives of, and ambassadors for, the liberal arts.

“I am also delighted we could honor John Gastil for the outstanding work he does keeping our alumni connected with the college and our McCourtney Institute for Democracy.”

Three Outstanding Alumni Awards and the Chaiken Leadership Award were presented by the college, while three service awards were presented by the Liberal Arts Alumni Society Board of Directors. The 2017 honorees include:

Michael Pizzano (2003, crime, law, and justice) received the Outstanding Young Liberal Arts Alumni Award. Pizzano is currently CEO of Kindred Hospital of New Jersey-Morris County, a position he has held since 2014 after joining Kindred the previous year. Before that, he spent 11 years with Atlantic Health System. Under Pizzano’s leadership, Kindred-Morris County recently enjoyed one of its best years ever in terms of quality, efficiency, and growth—feats that earned him the Morris County Chamber of Commerce’s 2016 Leader in Business Award.

In addition to his Penn State degree, Pizzano holds a master’s degree from Fairleigh Dickinson University. He currently chairs the New Jersey Board of the American Lung Association and is an adjunct professor at the College of St. Elizabeth’s and at Centenary University. Pizzano remains connected to Penn State as a Liberal Arts Mentor, Alumni Admissions Volunteer, and LionLink Coach.

Deborah Kling Rooney (1970, German) received the Service to Society Award.  Rooney is co-founder of BEADS for Education, a nonprofit that improves the status of women in Kenya through education and business development programs.  She spends at least the first three months of every year in Kenya training teachers, conducting workshops, and administering various aspects of the organization.

When first started in 1991, BEADS for Education primarily sold beadwork made by women living in Kenya’s Maasi Region as a means for the women to send their daughters to school.  The organization then began arranging educational sponsorships for elementary school-aged girls, and has since been able to support more than 500 elementary- through college-aged girls. In 2013, BEADS for Education opened its own secondary school, Tembea Academy; this past January, Tembea—which means “walk to the future” in Swahili—graduated its first class of students who had attended all four years of high school at the school.

Jay Style (1970, labor and management relations) received the Service to Penn State Award.  Style is the retired senior vice president and chief financial officer of Mathematica Policy Research, one of the preeminent resources for economic policy research data used by governments, private foundations, nonprofit organizations, and businesses throughout the world.  He and his wife, Nancy, are long-time supporters of the college as well as Intercollegiate Athletics and the Four Diamonds Fund; the couple recently established the Style Family Fund to help support the college’s Paterno Fellows Program.

Style is a member of the college’s Alumni Society Board and serves on its Paterno Fellows Task Force.  He is also a wonderful mentor—he meets regularly with Penn State graduates living in, or moving to, the greater Philadelphia area to help them network with fellow alumni living in the area, and he has been actively involved in the Liberal Arts Mentor Program since 2012.

Cathy and Bob McKeon received the Chaiken Leadership Award.  Cathy (1971, French) is currently CEO of Kemark Financial Services. She is a well-respected leader in financial services administration, with more than thirty years of risk management and insurance experience. Bob, a member of the Hofstra University Class of 1953, served in the U.S. Marine Corps before embarking on a distinguished career that included co-founding Kemark in 1987, where he remains Chairman Emeritus.  He received Hofstra’s Award for Alumni Achievement in 2002 and received an honorary doctorate from the university in 2010.

The McKeons are long-time, devoted supporters of Penn State and the college.  Cathy is a Liberal Arts Mentor and a member and newly appointed chair of the college’s Development Council. She received the Outstanding Liberal Arts Alumni Award in 2009 and was named a Penn State Alumni Fellow in 2014.

The McKeons have established a director’s fund to support the Paterno Fellows Program in addition to two Trustee Scholarships. They are also generous supporters of Penn State Intercollegiate Athletics and have endowed a men’s lacrosse scholarship.

James Bowers (1967, industrial psychology) received the Outstanding Liberal Arts Alumni in Business Award.  Bowers has nearly fifty years of experience in human resources—including more than thirty-six years with Hay Group, from which he retired as a vice president and shareholder in December 2015.  While there, Bowers established himself as one of the foremost authorities at developing executive compensation and performance-based reward programs for clients throughout the world.

Bowers earned a master’s degree in industrial and labor relations from Cornell University; he also graduated from the U.S. Naval Officer Candidate and Justice Schools and served as a line officer in the Navy.  Bowers currently serves on the board of Philabundance and the Achievement House Cyber Charter School; here at Penn State, he is a member of the School of Labor and Employment Relations’ Alumni Program Group and is a student mentor.  Bowers has also funded a study abroad scholarship.

Linda Belfus (1970, English) received the Outstanding Liberal Arts Alumni Award.  Belfus recently retired as senior vice president of Elsevier, one of the leading worldwide providers of web-based, digital information for science and health professionals.  Elsevier publishes more than 2,500 journals and 35,000 books, including notable publications such as The Lancet, Cell, and Gray’s Anatomy. As senior vice president, Belfus oversaw one of the firm’s global content management team; she also co-chaired the Elsevier Women’s Network, a group that showcases the talent that women bring to the company and promotes their professional progress through advocacy, education, networking, and mentoring.

Belfus’ publishing career began at W.B. Saunders, where she started as a proofreader and eventually rose through the ranks to become the first female vice president in the firm’s history.  Ten years later, she co-founded and served as president and CEO of Hanley & Belfus, which Elsevier acquired in 2002. Although retired, she remains actively involved in numerous professional and community organizations—including coaching students as Liberal Arts Mentor, which she says continues to be one of her favorite activities.

John Gastil, professor of communication arts and sciences and political science and a senior scholar in the College’s McCourtney Institute for Democracy, received the Welch Alumni Relations Award.  Since joining the Penn State faculty in 2011, Gastil has been a tireless ambassador on behalf of the college and the McCourtney Institute, for which he also served as the inaugural director.  Because of his belief in the institute’s mission and his ability to share that with others, for example, Gastil was able to work with one of the college’s alumni to develop an innovative program that enables students to intern at some of the leading nonpartisan nonprofit organizations in the country.

Gastil is also a gifted scholar who has received funding from the National Science Foundation and others for his work on political deliberation and group decision making in a variety of contexts.  He has authored, co-authored, or edited eight books—some of which have been translated into Spanish, Chinese, and Japanese— and penned more than 70 refereed publications.

Last Updated April 24, 2017