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Mercyhurst presents 'distinguished alumni' awards

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Mercyhurst University honored five outstanding graduates as Distinguished Alumni during ceremonies at its annual Reunion Weekend, held June 12-14 on the Erie campus.

Two alumni were honored for Outstanding Contributions to their Chosen Fields.

David Armstrong, J.D. ’86 is the president of Thomas More College, a Catholic diocesan college in northern Kentucky. In his two years in that position, the college has seen steadily increasing enrollment and the institution of a variety of new academic and extracurricular programs. A graduate of the Cleveland Marshall College of Law, he has had wide-ranging experience in higher education at Mercyhurst, at Thiel College and at Notre Dame College of Ohio. Armstrong, who played football, is also a member of Mercyhurst’s Athletics Hall of Fame.

Kathleen Lynch Murphy ’63 traveled the country and the world as a military wife for 22 years, while also earning three graduate degrees, master’s degrees in teaching and management and a Ph.D. in leadership. She went on to teach at the college level for many years, and traveled internationally to present papers or consult. In 2005 she was a visiting professor of international management at a Chinese university. Now retired, she and her husband Bob are working on a book called “Untying the Gordian knot: Management versus leadership” that’s due out soon.

Two alumni were recognized for Outstanding Contributions to the Community.

Elisa Guida ’76, a two-time survivor of breast cancer, has made it her mission to aid others fighting the disease. She created the nonprofit StringsforaCURE® Foundation, which recycles strings once played by famous musicians into unique pieces of jewelry and has already raised well over $110,000. An art major at Mercyhurst, she has worked as a jewelry designer and operated her own business, La Petite Jeweler. SFAC uses proceeds from jewelry sales and other fundraisers to provide gift cards that help pay patients’ expenses, medical grants, comfort baskets and educational materials.

Camille Licate ’96, a dance and anthropology major at Mercyhurst, today works as an actress and a writer in California. Her first book, Small Shoes: Outgrowing Old Relationships & Finding the Right Fit, used shoe metaphors to offer practical advice on coping with change, and she’s currently at work on a screenplay for an animated children’s movie. She offers popular self-empowerment workshops and has also founded Kids for Positive Change, which encourages kids to take action on local, national and global issues, especially environmental issues.

The Outstanding Young Alumni Award went to Kristen Hudak ’05, who is in her first year as director of public relations for the Baltimore Orioles of Major League Baseball. After earning a master’s degree in politics from Catholic University, she went to work in public relations where she focused on the regional sports network MASN. That work in turn led to a post as a senior publicist with ESPN. Hudak has always maintained a strong connection to Mercyhurst, serving on the national alumni board and being active with regional alumni chapters.

Hundreds of Mercyhurst alumni returned to campus for Reunion Weekend, which featured gatherings of classes marking milestone anniversaries, including the 50-year Class of 1965. For the first time this year, Mercyhurst presented a special “Golden Gates Award” to an outstanding graduate whose accomplishments merit special recognition and who “has lived the spirit of Mercyhurst as a student within our gates and in their life beyond our gates in their community.”

The inaugural award went to Margaret “Peg” Hock Heetmann ’65. After teaching for several years in Sandy Hook, Connecticut, she became a stay-at-home mom when her two children were born, although remaining an active community volunteer and piano teacher. In 1986, she returned to work. Within 11 years, she had purchased the company, Promotion Mechanics, Inc., which handles logistical details for sweepstakes, games and contests for all sorts of clients. She continues to run the firm today, and is a generous benefactor to Mercyhurst and to many other causes.

Members of the Class of 1965 presented Mercyhurst with a cash gift of more than $50,000 during their reunion. In addition, members announced planned giving intentions that will bring the total gift close to $300,000. The money will fund a scholarship, which will be awarded for the first time this fall.

The Mercyhurst Athletic Hall of Fame also inducted six new members during the weekend. Read more at

PHOTO: Mercyhurst alumni who were honored with special awards during Reunion Weekend 2015 are pictured outside the university’s Hirt Academic Center. They include (from left) David Armstrong, J.D. ‘86; Kathleen Lynch Murphy, Ph.D. ’63; Margaret “Peg” Hock Heetman ’65; Camille Licate ’96; and Elisa Guida ’76. Not present for the photo: Kristen Hudak ’05.