Once a Mountaineer, always a Mountaineer. West Virginia University graduates never truly leave their alma mater. Many continue their pride and commitment by showing that gold and blue spirit by volunteering in their communities or local chapters. Some serve on committees that enhance the goals of WVU.
During WVU’s 2013 Homecoming celebration (Oct. 18-19), five dedicated alumni who always “carry” the Flying WV with them, no matter where they go, will be recognized for their commitment to WVU. Brian Baldasare, Mark Furfari, Mike Fulton, DJ Gibson, and Betty Puskar are the recipients of the WVU Alumni Association Chapter/Service Awards. The awards, which recognize the outstanding service and volunteer support to their alma mater, as well as the communities in which they live, will be presented during halftime of the WVU-Texas Tech game on Saturday, Oct. 19.
“Each of these graduates displays his/her allegiance to WVU through professional integrity, community service, and preservation of WVU traditions. These individuals have given tirelessly to make WVU a better, stronger university,” said Steve Douglas, president and CEO of the WVU Alumni Association. “It is our honor to lift up their extraordinary commitment to WVU.”
Brian Baldasare, a native of New Jersey, is the recipient of the Margaret Buchanan Cole Young Alumni Award. This award honors a WVU alumnus or alumna who graduated fewer than 10 years ago and who has provided exceptional service to the Alumni Association or a local chapter.
Baldasare received his bachelor’s degree in finance from WVU in 1997. After graduation, he worked on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange.
In 2005, he seized the opportunity to return to his home hometown to work for his family business—Hardscape Supply—at the Jersey Shore. Baldasare took the valuable skills he learned while attending WVU, along with his job experiences in New York City, to help his father successfully expand the business to include Landscape Supply Yard.
As president and co-founder of the Jersey Shore Chapter of the WVU Alumni Association, Baldasare works with fellow Mountaineer to enhance the gold and blue spirit through game watches and other special events. He is also a life member of the Alumni Association.
Baldasare and his family’s company were instrumental in bringing together Mountaineers and other volunteers to assist construction crews and retail customers in restoring the area following destruction caused by Hurricane Sandy, including the home of the Jersey Shore Chapter game watches The Crab’s Claw Inn which was severely damaged by the storm.
The John F. Nicholas Jr. Chapter Leadership Award is awarded to a member of the WVU Alumni Association who has given tremendous service and contributions to a local chapter. Mike Fulton is this year’s recipient, recognizing his outstanding work with the National Capital Area Chapter.
Fulton, president of The Arnold Agency’s Washington, D.C. office, has more than 30 years of public affairs experience. Before joining The Arnold Agency in 2012, he spent more than 22 years at GolinHarris, utilizing his in-depth knowledge of the federal government and broad public affairs skills to achieve successful and high-value government relations results for his clients.
Fulton is a graduate of WVU’s Perley Isaac Reed School of Journalism, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism. He was named “Top Lobbyist” by The Hill newspaper four years in a row, and his public affairs campaigns have received awards and honors from PR Week, the Thoth Awards, and West Virginia Public Relations Society of America.
Fulton also has served as a mentor to hundreds of WVU students, providing career guidance and assisting in the development of internships for these future graduates.
Today, Fulton is active in the American League of Lobbyists and serves on its board. He served six years on the national board of directors of the WVU Alumni Association and is on the Visiting Committee School of Journalism. He also developed and is teaching a public affairs course for the WVU Integrated Marketing Communications program.
Mark Furfari of Morgantown, W.Va., is the recipient of the Paul B. “Buck” Martin Award, which is presented to a graduate who has worked to preserve, maintain and promote the traditions of WVU.
Furfari, a 1972 graduate of the WVU College of Business and Economics, has served in numerous sales and sales management positions with Westinghouse Electric Corporation and the General Electric Company.
As a successful businessman for more than 17 years, Furfari has developed food and beverage companies, as well as catering and food service companies. In 1997, Furfari purchased one of the most storied and beloved eateries in Morgantown, Mario’s Fishbowl. The Fishbowl has been a long-time staple in the Morgantown area and the home of many wonderful memories of WVU alumni and fans.
Furfari served as president of the National Capital Area Chapter and remains active in the WVU community as a life member of the WVU Alumni Association.
He and his wife, Karen, remain loyal to the Mountaineers always supporting the legacy of the gold and blue.
The David W. Jacobs Lifetime Service Award will be given to Dora Jean “DJ” Gibson. This award recognizes the support and lifelong service to the WVU Alumni Association.
Gibson, a native of South Charleston, W.Va., received her bachelor’s degree in sociology and a teacher’s certificate in math. Following graduation, she was employed by Union Carbide in industrial relations.
Gibson has remained loyal to the Mountaineer family and was one of the founders of the Delaware Alumni Chapter. Gibson and her husband, Bob, had numerous responsibilities for many years, helping to expand the Chapter’s annual picnic, making it one of the largest alumni events in the nation.
In recognition of her and her husband’s commitment to WVU, the Delaware Chapter created the DJ and Bob Gibson Scholarship Fund which provides financial assistance to Delaware students attending WVU.
Gibson and her four children remain loyal Mountaineers, always supporting the gold and blue.
Betty Puskar will be recognized with James R. McCartney Community Service Award. The award recognizes outstanding citizenship, service and community involvement.
Often referred to as the “First Lady of Morgantown,” Puskar has unquestionably become West Virginia’s poster figure for the war on cancer.
She was born in a rural area outside Covington, Va., the fourth of eight brothers and sisters. She completed Covington Business College and soon after met Mike Puskar. The couple was married and had a daughter, Johanna. She tirelessly supported her husband’s efforts to form an independent drug company which ultimately gave rise to the generic pharmaceutical industry. This led to the founding of the company we know today as Mylan Labs.
Overcoming a nearly fatal bout of breast cancer in 1985, she crafted the concept of the Betty Puskar Breast Care Center that opened its doors to West Virginia women in 1993. The Center has served thousands of patients and has helped countless women fight this dreaded disease. Puskar wanted to be able to provide these treatments close to home, an option she did not have at the time of her illness.
In 1997, then Gov. Joe Manchin, presented Puskar with West Virginia’s highest honor, The Distinguished West Virginian Award, for her many accomplishments, including her role as founder of the Betty Puskar Futures LPGA Golf Tournament that was held for 17 years at the Pines Country Club and its related fashion show that was a much anticipated community event for 15 years. Today, she frequently makes herself available to speak, counsel and give encouragement to those suffering from cancer, especially terminal patients.
Puskar is also the proud grandmother of Kyle, a senior at WVU majoring in business.
For more information about Homecoming activities, visit:
CONTACT: Tara Curtis, WVU Alumni Association
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