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Young Alumni Achievement Award



The Young Alumni Achievement Award recognizes Millersville University graduates who are outstanding in their profession.

The Young Alumni Achievement Award was created in 2012 to recognize Millersville University baccalaureate graduates identified as being outstanding in their professions (careers) and to present such alumni to current Millersville University students as examples of exemplar achievement. All baccalaureate graduates of Millersville University, within the past 5-20 years at time of nomination, who have recorded notable accomplishments in their chosen professions are eligible for this award. The young alumni achievers will be invited to hold seminars, presentations and/or panel discussions on topics related to their professions.

The Nominations & Awards Committee of the Millersville University Alumni Association works in conjunction with the Deans of Millersville University’s three undergraduate schools to nominate, identify and select candidates for the award.

Who Is Eligible

Those who have graduated from Millersville University within the past 5-20 years who have recorded notable accomplishments in their chosen professions are eligible. Each year, one outstanding alumnus or alumnae from each undergraduate school of Millersville University is chosen to receive the award. To nominate an alumnus, complete the Young Alumni Achievement Award nomination form.

Nomination Criteria

Please list applicable information in each of the following categories and attach 2-3 letters of recommendation in addition to the nominator's summary. Please follow the nomination format closely. Additional attachments of information other than those requested below will not be considered during the selection process.

  1. Nominator's summary explaining why this person should be chosen for this award and the professional and community service achievements that qualify the candidate for this award.
  2. Relevant employment positions held.
  3. Awards, honors or recognition related to their profession or community service.
  4. Local, state, national or international activities.

All nominations are kept on file for one year following the year in which they are originally considered. Nominators are encouraged to update nomination materials the following year, if applicable.

How Are Alumni Chosen

All nomination materials should be sumitted via the online form by January 31.


The recipients of these awards will be asked to speak to classes within their respective undergraduate schools and possibly a “Meet the Young Alumni Achievers Reception” will be open to all members of the University Community who are interested in meeting the accomplished alumni.

Formal recognition to take place at the Honors & Awards ceremony.

Questions? Please contact the Office of Alumni Engagement at 717-871-7551 or


thomas bernhardt

Less than 20 years since graduating from Millersville University with a B.S. degree in chemistry  with  biochemistry option,  Dr. Thomas Bernhardt has made his mark as one the world’s leading microbiologists, focusing his expertise on the urgent threat of antibiotic resistance.

Dr. Bernhardt’s four years at Millersville hinted at what he would achieve later in life. As an undergraduate student, he was honored with the Freshman Chemistry Award, Organic Chemistry Award, Richard Sasin Endowed Scholarship in Chemistry, and Southeastern Pennsylvania Section of the American Chemical Society Award.  He received his doctorate in biochemistry and biophysics at Texas A&M University, where he was mentored by Dr. Ryland Young in researching how simple bacteria viruses destroy bacterial cells when they replicate. For his work at A&M, Dr. Bernhardt received the prestigious Nat Sternberg Thesis Prize, administered by Cold Spring Harbor Laboratories, for the most outstanding Ph.D. thesis in bacterial molecular biology. At Case Western Reserve University, he was awarded the Krampitz Award for excellence in Postdoctoral Research for his work in the molecular mechanisms underlying bacterial cell division.

A rising star at Harvard Medical School’s internationally acclaimed Microbiology and Immunobiology Department, Dr. Bernhardt was promoted to full professor with tenure in just nine years. His research laboratory’s groundbreaking work on bacterial cell wall assembly is funded by grants from the National Institutes of Health. The process of cell wall assembly is the target of many of our most effective antibiotics, including penicillin and related drugs. However, resistance to these drugs is on the rise. “Antibiotic resistance is a major threat to our healthcare system, jeopardizing medical advancements such as chemotherapy, organ transplants and joint replacement surgery,” says Dr. Bernhardt. He is the recipient of many fellowships and awards at the Harvard Medical School, including the Mentoring Award from the Harvard Biological and Biomedical Sciences Graduate Program.

To help combat antibiotic resistance, Dr. Bernhardt collaborates with researchers in Harvard’s Department of Microbiology and Immunobiology, as well as the Chemistry and Chemical Biology Department, to understand the fundamental mechanisms by which bacteria build their cell wall. The insights gained from these studies promise to facilitate the development of antibiotics that can save lives throughout the world.  


kristin waters

In less than a dozen years since graduating from Millersville University in 2005, Kristin Waters has unwaveringly strived to reach her goals.

With a bachelor of arts in psychology from Millersville, she went on to earn her master of arts in education, educational leadership and policy studies at Virginia Tech in 2007, then her master of business administration at Capitol College in 2011. Earlier this year, she received her doctor of educational leadership from Frostburg State University in Maryland.

Dr. Waters has been associate director of operations for undergraduate admissions for the University of Maryland in Baltimore County for three years and previously served at UMBC’s office of the registrar.  To say she is accomplished is an understatement.

“Kristin is a true leader in her community and within the institutions she serves,” says John Held ’02, who nominated Waters and was the recipient of the 2015 Young Alumni Achievement Award. “It has been a joy to watch her learn and grow in her career. She embodies all that makes Millersville University and its alumni the best in the world.”

Among Kristin Waters’ achievements are serving on the MUAA Board of Directors for seven years and as secretary for two years. She is a member of the formation group for the regional association for collegiate registrars and admissions officers, serving as vice president and secretary. She has presented three times at the Middle States Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers, published articles on higher education in the national journal C&U (College & University), been selected as featured speaker for Baker Leadership and served on the Professional Staff Senate at UMBC.

Her energy is impressive, especially when she uses it for charity. An avid marathon runner, Kristin has raised more than $2,000 for the charity First Descents. To date, she has already completed 48 marathons, but she’s not done yet. “My goal is to complete 100 marathons before my 40th birthday,” she says. We’ll be cheering her on. 



Greg Pizzoli graduated from Millersville University in 2005 with a B.A. in English and a minor in studio art. Pizzoli used his talents as a writer and an artist to become a popular children’s author and illustrator.

His whimsical picture books capture a world of imagination, where a cute lime green croc with not very sharp teeth becomes alarmed after he accidentally swallows a watermelon seed in the aptly titled “The Watermelon Seed.”  The delightfully rendered tale was published by Disney Hyperion Books and won the 2014 Theodor Seuss Geisel Award (aka Dr. Seuss).

In just three years, Pizzoli has created and/or illustrated more than a dozen children’s picture books. They include “Tricky Vic,” the true story of the con man who sold the Eiffel Tower; “Number One Sam,” the daring race car dog who must be #1; “Templeton Gets His Wish,” about a ginger cat who dreams of a life on his own; “Good Night, Owl” for his art school mentor; “Just Itzy,” the not terribly frightening spider of nursery rhyme fame; and “Dragon was Terrible,” the badly behaved dragon no one could tame.

Pizzoli grew up in York and after graduating from Millersville, he served in AmeriCORPS for two years, working with children, which influenced his interest in writing and illustrating books for kids. He went on to earn his Master of Fine Arts in book arts and printmaking at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia. Pizzoli is now a senior lector at University of the Arts.

“In my books I look at themes that are common to children, like anxiety about things in life, the powerlessness of being a kid and, of course, exciting adventure,” says Pizzoli, adding that his upcoming book is a true story about an intrepid explorer in the Amazon. 

This versatile alumnus is an author, illustrator and screen printmaker. He has a gift for color, creating bold vibrant images that charm kids and grown-ups alike. His work has been featured in The New York Times, Communication Arts and 3X3 Magazine. He has also garnered two Portfolio Honor Awards from the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators.



John Held is director of communications for the ABIM (Advancing Medical Professionalism to Improve Health Care) Foundation where he develops strategic communications initiatives to advance the Foundation’s organizational goals. This includes leading the Choosing Wisely campaign aimed at reducing unnecessary medical interventions and improving health care. Prior to joining ABIM, Held was Director of Communications for the American Cancer Society, where he implemented communications strategies to support the organization’s fundraising, mission delivery and advocacy. While there, he earned the Pepperpot for Excellence in Communication award numerous times from the Philadelphia Chapter of the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA).

The Millersville Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA) named Held the Alumnus of the Year in 2009 and he received recognition from the Children’s Oncology Camping Association International for Video of the Year in 2009. He has been an active community volunteer as a mentor with the Big Brothers Big Sisters organization and currently serves on the Millersville University Alumni Association Board of Directors where he chairs the Technology Committee.



Dr. Matthew Stoltzfus, or “Dr. Fus” as he is known to his students, is an accomplished chemistry lecturer and Digital First Faculty Fellow at The Ohio State University, where he has taught general and advanced inorganic chemistry. He is experimenting with the “flipping the classroom” lecture approach, which has recently been featured on ESPN and NPR mainly due to his iTunesU General Chemistry course, which has an enrollment of more than 162,000 students.

In addition, he is currently a contributing author on the 13th edition of Chemistry the Central Science, a popular and widely used general chemistry textbook, co-authors the Chemistry the Central Science lab manual, serves on the advisory board for the Team Buckeye Peloton, and has served as a faculty facilitator for LeaderShape and the Council of Student Affairs.

He is a recent recipient of The Ohio State University Provost’s Award for Distinguished Teaching by a Lecturer and was announced as an Apple Distinguished Educator.


Tom Baker '02

County Councilman Tom Baker was elected on November 5, 2013 to represent District 1 in Allegheny County. He previously served as a School Director in the North Hills School District. Councilman Baker is the Chief Community Affairs Officer for Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Pittsburgh and President of the BBBS Pennsylvania State Association. He is the President of Baker Leadership, the author of three books: Get Involved! Making the Most of Your 20s and 30s (released 2008) Give Our Passion (released 2010), and Empowered in Pittsburgh (released 2012), and is the Founder and Chief Program Officer of Get Involved!, Inc., a 501c3 public charity non-profit organization that educates and empowers young leaders.

Since February 2008, Councilman Baker has spoken with over 40,000 students, young professionals, and community leaders at over 350 colleges, corporations, professional associations, and civic groups across the country. Councilman Baker completed two terms as President of the Pittsburgh East Rotary Club and served as Assistant District Governor for Rotary District 7300. He is also Past President of the National Speakers Association Pittsburgh, Past President of the Coro Pittsburgh Alumni Council, Past President of the Pittsburgh Urban Magnet Project, Co-Chair of the United States Army Advisory Board and currently serves on the boards of North Hills Community Outreach, the Baierl Family YMCA, and Special Olympics of PA. Councilman Baker was Student Body President while earning his Bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education from Millersville University and served as President of the Associates for Student Development during his graduate studies in Student Affairs in Higher Education at Indiana University of PA.

He has received several honors for his service and leadership. In 2009, he received the Distinguished Civic Leadership Award from Millersville University and the Monroeville Area Chamber of Commerce selected him as the 2011 Young Business Leader of the Year at their Monroeville ROCs event. Tom was named a 2010 Jefferson Award for Public Service honoree by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, received the Public Sector Leader Award at the 2011 RISE Changemaker Awards, was one of the 2011 “Faces” of Gilda’s Club, and was recognized as a 2013 Fast Tracker honoree by the Pittsburgh Business Times. Councilman Baker and his wife, Erin, live in Ross Township and were selected as one of the "Couples for a Cure" in 2012 by the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation.


Pat Leahy '97

Patrick Leahy, is an advocator and creator of documentary, “Blind Lifter.” While attending Millersville University, Patrick wrestled for the school’s nationally recognized Division I program and served as President of Student Senate. He graduated with honors from Millersville University with majors in Political Science and History. Professionally, Patrick’s career encompasses service under Members of Congress, a Cabinet Secretary, and currently the U.S. federal government. His drive to impact the lives of people with disabilities led him to his current position as Senior Advisor at the United States Election Assistance Commission. There he helps state and local governments improve election conditions for all people.

Patrick began to focus on his body and become a competitive body builder and created a documentary called “Blind Lifter.” He uses bodybuilding to inspire people. Patrick has been featured in the Washington Post and was a guest on NBC’s Today Show. Patrick currently serves as a board of director for the Millersville University Alumni Association. During his free time, Patrick enjoys helping our nation’s wounded warriors, amateur bodybuilding, swimming, reading and being an avid baseball fan. Often asked about the impact that blindness has had on his life, Patrick responds “As a social guy, I love engaging people, answering their questions and discussing all topics – including my own challenges. Life presents all of us with challenges, but I strongly believe there is always a way to overcome them.”


Past Recipients of the Young Alumni Achievement Award

2013 Dr. Keith Mellinger '96