Mercyhurst honors 'distinguished alumni'

Merski

Mercyhurst University honored five outstanding graduates as Distinguished Alumni during ceremonies at its annual Reunion Weekend, held May 31-June 2 on the Erie campus.

The award for Outstanding Service to Mercyhurst went to Pierre W. Priestley ’81, who served on the Mercyhurst Alumni Association board from 1994 until 2011, including three terms as its president. Priestley earned a law degree from The Ohio State University and an MBA from the University of Chicago. He serves as senior vice president and general counsel and runs the personal property division at Investment Property Exchange Services, Inc. in Chicago.

Two graduates were honored for Outstanding Achievement in a Chosen Field.

Cassandra Kuba, Ph.D., a 1997 Mercyhurst graduate, has been chief forensic anthropologist and assistant professor of anthropology at California University of Pennsylvania since 2007. She earned her doctorate in anthropology from Arizona State University. Well-known for her community outreach activities, she also serves as a technical consultant for TV shows that feature forensic work, including “CSI,” “Bones” and “Rizzoli and Isles.” During the same weekend, Kuba received Cal’s prestigious President’s Gala Award for Outstanding Service.

Alexis J. Walker, Ph.D., who received Mercyhurst’s coveted Carpe Diem Award at her 1974 graduation, was honored posthumously. After earning a doctorate in human development and family studies at Penn State University, she became a recognized scholar in family relationships and enjoyed a 26-year career on the faculty at Oregon State University. She was the JoAnne L. Petersen Chair in Gerontology and Family Studies and, since 2008, chair of the Department of Human Development and Family Sciences at OSU.

Robert Merski ’99 received the award for Outstanding Contribution to the Community. Merski completed Mercyhurst’s Cadet Teaching Program and is now a special education teacher at Erie’s East High School. Elected to Erie City Council in 2011, he’s also an active volunteer to improve his community. He organized the South East Hills Neighborhood Watch and the South East Erie Farmers’ Market. He’s completing a master’s degree at Wilkes University.

Nicholas D. Potter ’01 received the Outstanding Young Alumnus Award. Potter, who earned a Doctor of Physical Therapy degree from Duke University in 2004, is now Duke’s assistant director of athletic rehabilitation, teaches in the DPT program and coordinates research for Duke Athletics. He presents to audiences around the world and consults with both teams and individual athletes. He rehabbed premier quarterback Peyton Manning through his recovery after neck surgery.

Hundreds of Mercyhurst alumni returned to campus for Reunion Weekend, which featured gatherings of classes marking milestone anniversaries, including the 50-year Class of 1963; athletes who played golf, soccer and lacrosse; and students who majored in biology, psychology and sportsmedicine. The Mercyhurst Athletic Hall of Fame also inducted half a dozen new members during the weekend.

PHOTO: Mercyhurst University President Thomas J. Gamble, Ph.D., at left, and Matthew Robaszkiewicz ’88, president of the MU Alumni Association, at right; congratulate Robert Merski, who was honored for his Outstanding Contribution to the Community.

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