Port Allegany Online - News Page 3


  August 18, 2011 Edition 


Blackburn Makes Academic, Professional Presentations

BRADFORD, Pa. – Dr. Jessie Blackburn, assistant professor of English at the University of Pittsburgh at Bradford, spent her summer making presentations as near as Clarion University and as far as Nottingham, England.

First she presented at the Feminism and Teaching Symposium at the University of Nottingham. Her workshop, “Beneath the Bandwidth: Why, How and When Feminist Pedagogies and Digital Media Intersect Inside the Academic Composition Classroom,” examined how instructors can better prepare students for reading and writing in the digital era.

Blackburn, who is also director of composition at Pitt-Bradford, examined how the entrance of technology into the classroom affects students, faculty and curricula.

Later she traveled to Baton Rouge, La., to give a presentation to the Council of Writing Program Administrators, “The Affordances and Constraints of ‘Doing’ Multimodal WPA Work at Rural Institutions.”

In that presentation, she looked at why rural writing programs should include technology literacy in their programs.

Finally, on Aug. 23, Blackburn will lead the faculty retreat at Clarion University, where she will talk about writing across the curriculum and teaching in the digital age.

Blackburn joined the faculty at Pitt-Bradford last fall. Before that, she was the assistant writing program administrator for advanced composition at the University of Arkansas.


Dr. Arya Joins Bowman Health Center Staff

Dr. Ramani Arya has joined the staff at Charles Cole Memorial Hospital’s Bowman Health Center as a family physician.

“Dr. Arya is a kind, friendly and highly qualified provider. She is looking forward to meeting and caring for the residents of Smethport,” said Rose Bunch, physician recruiter.

Dr. Arya earned a medical degree at Kasturba Medical College and completed a family medicine residency at the State University of New York at Buffalo. Before joining CCMH’s medical staff, she cared for patients at family medicine group practices in Olean and Salamanca.

Appointments can be scheduled by calling (814) 887-5395.


Pitt-Bradford Staff Member Elected To Position In National Organization

BRADFORD, Pa. – Dr. Ron Binder, associate dean of student affairs at the University of Pittsburgh at Bradford, has been elected co-chairman of the Fraternity and Sorority Knowledge Community of NASPA, the leading association of the student affairs profession.

His term will last for two years beginning in March 2012. His co-chairman is Todd Adams of Duke University.

The Fraternity and Sorority Knowledge Community has 1,700 fraternity and sorority professionals from across the country who work with their 700,000 current undergraduate members.

“We’re very proud of Dr. Binder’s election as the co-chair of the NASPA Fraternity and Sorority Knowledge Community,” said Dr. K. James Evans, vice president and dean of student affairs at Pitt-Bradford.

“It’s an honor both for Dr. Binder and for Pitt-Bradford to be elected a leader in this higher education association.”

Binder joined Pitt-Bradford last fall from the University of South Carolina, where he was the director of Greek Life and special projects.

He speaks nationally on risk management and alcohol and substance abuse and has been cited in Newsweek, on the NBC Nightly News, National Public Radio’s “Talk of the Nation” and Court TV.

Binder has extensive experience in Greek affairs, speaking around the country at Sigma Phi Epsilon leadership programs and traveling to Greece with 17 students from the national fraternity to study Greek philosophy.

He is involved with the National Collaborative for Hazing Research and Prevention and founded the Hazing Hotline at USC.


Dr. Tony Gaskew Available For Comment On Sept. 11 Anniversary

BRADFORD, Pa. – Dr. Tony Gaskew, associate professor of criminal justice at the University of Pittsburgh at Bradford who has spent the last decade researching terrorism in light of Sept. 11, 2001, and the USA PATRIOT Act, is available for interviews regarding the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks on the United States.

Gaskew is a Fulbright-Hays Fellow, an FDD Terrorism Fellow, a Human Dignity and Humiliation Studies Research Fellow, and a University of Pittsburgh Faculty Diversity Fellow. He has conducted ethnographic research in several locations throughout the Middle East, including Egypt and Israel, examining issues of terrorism, social justice, and structural violence.

He is the author of “Policing Muslim American Communities,” a book that examines the relationship between law enforcement agencies and Muslim-American communities since the implementation of the USA PATRIOT Act. He has presented academic papers by invitation at numerous universities across the country, including Columbia University. He has also published articles in various journals including Practicing Anthropology and Contemporary Justice Review. His forthcoming book, “The Muslim Brotherhood: Reshaping U.S. Foreign Policy Post-9/11,” will focus on his fieldwork in Egypt and Israel.

He teaches Terrorism in a Post-9/11 World and Islam and Social Justice.


Area Senior Citizens Turn Out for Causer’s Annual Expo

BRADFORD – Rep. Martin Causer (R-Turtlepoint) welcomed hundreds of area senior citizens to his Ninth Annual Senior Citizens Expo at the University of Pittsburgh at Bradford on Aug. 5.

A second expo will be held on Friday, Oct. 7, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Roulette Fire Hall.

“I was pleased to see a lot of familiar faces but also plenty of new ones,” Causer said. “People really seem to appreciate the opportunity to gather a lot of helpful information in one place.”

Among the most popular features of the expo are health screenings, such as blood pressure and carotid artery checks. A number of vendors with health related information, housing, transportation and more were also on hand. Door prizes also were awarded.

In the photo, Rep. Martin Causer, with the help of his daughter Morgan, serves up hot dogs for lunch at the Ninth Annual Senior Citizens Expo in Bradford.


Remembering George:  A Collective Eulogy

By Martha Knight

The news spread through the area quickly. People asked each other, Did you hear--? or Is it true--? Then they wanted to know about a service or some way to “pay their respects.”

At meeting after meeting, where George Petrisek had been a fixture at some time, there was a moment of silence to remember him. Groups of which he had been a member, but not just lately, marked his passing because he had left his mark.

County commissioners, township supervisors, various entities took official note of George’s passing, to an extent that is most uncommon in these parts. It was as if a statesman had died.

At a school board meeting some members of the administration and board volunteered the information, privately, that they had been his students. One had been a fellow faculty member, friend, and even an employer in another enterprise.

It seemed that people needed to share their memories of the Curmudgeon. It has fallen to me to facilitate this.

It is not possible to include all the reminiscences I have heard, but we can use a sampling here. People will continue to recall and tell their stories about Petrisek, reporter, teacher, colleague, cop, fellow board member, planter of planters, construction worker, class or club advisor, play director, mentor. Perhaps they will have an opportunity to do some of that at a memorial event said to be planned for September 3. Meanwhile, what follows is what some have mentioned.

Retired teacher, school board member and IU9 board member and president Dave Mensch mentions that he and George were good friends for decades. “Our families vacationed together five or six years.” They camped, canoed. Dave and George loved fishing, and shared an interest in photography, respecting each other’s skills. Both loved growing things.

There were some local teachers with building skills who did building construction or updating work in the summer, some working for Dick Budd. Mensch remembers when he “went out on my own,” and George worked for him on projects. Doing what? “Everything. All kinds of basic carpentry.”

When there was a horticulture program at the high school, complete with greenhouse and plant sales, George liked to “salvage” leftover plants after the season was over, and when the program shut down and cleaned out at the end of the school year.

Yes, George liked to salvage, and to “recycle,” and to save a buck. In fact, he was a champion scrounger, enjoying his finds and the ultimate bargain price—free!

If he scored a truckload of manure, he would share some with other growers. We had a running joke about my taking the organic soil amendment from him. Hint: it included language that would remind you of George’s favorite understatement of frustration or displeasure: “Oh, poop!”

George’s wide-ranging interests and curiosity have been mentioned by numerous people. Mensch termed him “multi-faceted.”

Expanding on that thought, Mensch said, “He wasn’t necessarily the best at each undertaking, but he was good. Of the very intelligent guys I have known, he was up near the top with raw intelligence. Before we could Google things, he would collect knowledge on many, many topics.”

As to the quality of their personal relationship, Mensch said, “My relationship with George was always very positive.”

Port Allegany Borough Council president Judy Taylor knew George through his position as a teacher in the high school where her late husband was also a faculty member. She also served on borough government when he served in various capacities, from member to reporter or both.  “His view on everything was always very interesting,” Taylor says.

Working on zoning matters and others, “we didn’t always agree. But I never at any time knew him to be rude or sarcastic.” Taylor believes “George loved people.” She noticed that “he was very respectful.”

As a number of other people mentioned, George was devoted to his little dog, Muchka, who was a constant companion except where dogs are not allowed, and whose exploits were mentioned in many a “By George” or other column. Someone who helped find and rescue Muchka, after an injury caused the dog to run and hide, had George’s perpetual gratitude, occasionally indicated by a bouquet—which was always “from Muchka.”

Muchka lived to be old, but the inevitable loss came. George’s grief was palpable.

Former McKean County Commissioner wrote some “Goodbye, George” thoughts.

“George was only two years my senior but in the ways of the courthouse he was my elder and mentor.

“To me he was not just the reporter that covered the courthouse. In the first few months he gave me lessons in who do you trust? In my first few months we had long talks in my office about county government and I would tell him what we wanted to do to change things for the better.

“I can’t tell you how many times he would say, ‘Are you sure that is what you want to do?’ I came to find out it was not always that George didn’t agree but he helped me think it through one more time, consider the effect the decision would have on all the citizens and in particular the seniors.

“It was George that reminded me that 28 percent of the county [population] was senior citizens, most living on small fixed incomes.

“George did not want us to sell the nursing home. I explained the number to him and he would explain to me that a nursing home is not just numbers. He didn’t convince me not to sell Sena Kean but he did make me do the background work that assured me that the buyer would continue to run the home in a way that a family would want for their loved ones. Peter Lacari was that man. Sena Kean is a better place today because we sold it to Peter. George did tell me that selling [it] would not help us get [re-]elected. He was right.

“I could go on with pages of stories of the events at the courthouse that George had some influence on. It wasn’t that he wanted to get his way as much as that he wanted me to be sure that the direction would be more positive than negative. I listened because I believed George had the best interest of the county at heart.”

Another county commissioner who had some insights about Petrisek to share is Paul Heimel of Coudersport. But Petrisek did not cover Potter County Commissioners. He and Heimel knew each other as news people, and before Heimel was a county commissioner.

For a time Heimel was editor of the Port Allegany Reporter Argus and the Potter Leader Enterprise, and Petrisek was a member of the news staffs. Before that the two men had crossed paths in line of news coverage duties.

“What a guy George was. The first time I met him was at a major fire in Roulette in the 1970s. He worked for a competing newspaper and saw my dilemma. I had arrived with a camera that was devoid of film. With barely a word, he reached into his vest pocket, handed me a roll of film, and said, ‘Here you go, kid.’

“There were other points in my young adulthood when he was right there at the right time—when I was dealing with self-doubt about whether I was really cut out for the high calling of community journalism, when I was unclear on some of the rules and standards of reporting, or even when I needed some personal advice that had nothing to do with work.

“George was the quintessential newsman, old school, dragged only after the requisite kicking and screaming into the new world of technology and changing reporting styles.

“Regardless of the circumstances, I always felt as if we were on the same team.

“I sometimes wish he had been happier, but I also think he drew a certain satisfaction out of not being outwardly happy. What was behind that? I'm not sure. One aspect was probably his belief that people could do better, things could be better, etc., but for that to happen requires a hell of a lot of work and, hey, there is a lot more to life than work. So we do our best and try not to have regrets.

“And I am sure he touched many more lives in a positive way than he ever realized. That's too bad. But in the scheme of things, that's quite a legacy.”

Another area news professional, “mixed media” type, is Gerri Miller.

“I was in the first class he taught. First period, ninth grade. I had him for three years of English, one of Speech, and he made me the editor of the Gator Gazette in my Junior year ([a position] usually reserved for seniors).

“I remember staying after class with a paper carrying his famous red pencil marks all over it asking why I didn't get a higher grade. He said I had more potential so he was harder on me.  I don't think I ever bought that but I did appreciate his counsel on good writing.

“He had a wonderful voice and could make Shakespeare come alive in the classroom. He also directed our school plays, and after I graduated, before I moved to Philly, I volunteered assistance at one or two of his plays.

“He gave me an incredible cat, Charlie, when [George’s son] Chris became allergic. He wrote for me in the TOWN AND COUNTRY. I remember one time in particular when I went to his house on Arnold Avenue to pick up a piece he had written. (No fax machines or emails in those days). He told me he wasn't satisfied with the article. We sat at the kitchen table and I studied his work. I made a few suggestions of how a couple of sentences or paragraphs could be changed. Then, I realized how ironic it was that the student was helping the teacher. I think he probably was secretly pleased that his teaching had paid off.

“I remember his stroke and how upset he was that he could no longer take pictures. Besides being a good writer, he was a good photographer. But, fortunately, he recovered and a few years later we were riding around Coudersport on a media bus touring Adelphia and he showed me his new digital camera, extolling the virtues of ‘point and shoot’ cameras which made his reporting life much easier.

“As reporters, we ran into each other on major stories. He was among the reporters going to the State Police barracks in July 1985 to force them to release details about the Lent murders. I worked with Dave Lent but could not force the police to release information which I knew but could not attribute. George added some credibility to our entourage that day.

“George and I remained friends all these years. At the risk of sounding redundant, which he would abhor, George Petrisek was my teacher, my mentor and my friend.

“I will not use the exclamation point which he taught us to avoid. Although I use it often these days, I feel guilty when I do.

“George was the consummate teacher.”

Longtime friend and fellow teacher Terry McCormick e-mailed some thoughts about George from his home in the Ozarks.

“I worked with George for nearly 30 years at PAHS. We were in different departments and so didn’t regularly interact except in passing.

“Though I considered him a friend, and he likewise, we didn’t actually pal around together. Maybe it was the age difference, or maybe it was just a difference in our hobbies and downtime activities, but in any case, we had a mutual respect for each other and enjoyed chatting when we did meet up.

“If either of us saw the other, we would flag him down and start BS-ing. It was a given.

“Things that stick in my mind. Early mornings in the school hallway George (I called him ‘Geo’ as in gee-oh) would be standing dutifully outside his homeroom door watching kids interacting at their lockers.

“When it came time for homeroom to start, he would call out in a deep, booming tone: ‘It’s happy homeroom time!’, and the kids would head into their respective classrooms. He was as regular and reliable as any classroom bell. To this day I can still hear that shout out, and I’m confident hundreds of PAHS alumni do too.

“Geo was a bit of an enigma to me. He rarely showed the typical negative emotions of a teacher like frustration, irritation, and anger. No matter what setback befell him or his classes, I don’t believe I ever saw him outright mad at someone.

“He had an uncanny ability to relate to students who were disadvantaged or exhibited behavior problems. In fact, he once confided in me that he preferred teaching those students over top academics. Nothing wrong with top academics, but he truly felt he offered more to those students that had difficulty with school.

“And, how can I not mention that Geo was the first person I ever knew who purposely shaved his head? Somewhere I have a photo of him in a white shirt and red sweater vest staring at me across a high school cafeteria table with arms crossed and scalp shiny from the overhead fluorescents, and looking very, very authoritative.

“For years I didn’t think he had hair until he eventually let it grow in full and dark. Why the years shorn? A leftover from his army days? A Yul Brynner fixation? I never did find out. Just part of the enigma.

“As I did some freelance photojournalism ‘back in the day’ I also came to know Geo as a newsman. He was prolific. He knew the workings of local government and all its players, inside and out. Where he found time to make all those meetings, let alone write them up, I do not know. But make them he did and we were all better off for it.

“His stories were always even-handed and just laid out the facts. If those facts sometimes made the powers-that-be uncomfortable, so be it. He didn’t shy away from controversy. Thank you for that Geo. I tip my own most modest news-guy hat to you.

“George had a great self-effacing humor too. He survived a stroke years ago and for quite some time after he fully recovered would explain any omissions, errors or misquotes in a story by stating, ‘You'll have to excuse me; a part of my brain is dead.’

“The Police Reports he wrote up for the R-A and allowed me to post to Port Allegany Online were near legendary. For many viewers, they were the first thing read after an update.

“Once, I received an email from a guy downstate who had been printing them out and taking them to work for his colleagues to enjoy. He wasn’t from Port, but told me he and some of his workmates were planning a trip to the town just to see firsthand the places mentioned in the reports so they could better enjoy them. I told that to George and he just stared at me in disbelief. Today, those reports might be digital and going viral on YouTube.

“In addition to writing about police work, Geo served the town as a part-time policeman for many years. He looked good in uniform. Maybe it was the shaved head, but he didn’t look like someone you wanted to argue with.

“The incongruity of seeing a mild mannered English teacher and drama coach packing heat and driving a squad car intrigued me. I couldn’t help but think his years of working with troubled students served him well when he encountered them as adults while on patrol.

“However, his experience as a local policeman didn’t escape his famously acerbic wit. He remarked to me once that ‘every cop should have one peremptory shoot per year.’ He was kidding of course, but, oddly, every cop I’ve told that to since has agreed with it.

“George was a quiet kind of guy who mostly kept to himself. Still, I enjoyed the times we talked and interacted. He and I thought alike on many topics, but he wouldn’t hesitate to correct me if he thought I was off-base on something. Coming from him, I never minded it.

“I miss him already.”

George and I worked for different daily papers for years, and some of those years the Reporter Argus was still locally owned by Chuck Boller. The three of us showed up regularly at meetings of record, and I called us the Three Wise Monkeys.

Some of those years George covered school board meetings while still working for the school district. Some of the time he was on the Borough Council, having been appointed to fill a vacancy. (That was because he was on the vacancy board and they had been unable to recruit anyone else to serve until the next election.) Reporting on the body you are part of, and on the board governing the school system you teach for, must have been tricky.

Petrisek was part of the borough planning commission that handled the most recent revision of the Zoning Ordinance. That was an arduous task, no doubt.

George was proud of having been a stringer for TIME, something he would throw into a conversation now and then. But he seemed to take the most satisfaction in news work during the time he was news editor of the R-A, and it was owned by the Majots. He had always wanted to be an editor.

He and I toyed with a plan to start a new local paper, and he undertook to round up the capital, easily convincing a number of people to help put up the start-up money. That plan was abandoned, however.

George tried several times to learn to touch-type, but continued with his several-finger system until the end. He retired from regular reporting about two years ago. The decision seemed to be a painful one, even though he kept saying, “I am tired of doing this.”

You who knew him have your own lingering impressions of George. It is left to me to end this recollection collection. As we said in the old days, when we dictated stories to someone in a newsroom:

Thirty on that.

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