Paul Lukasik leaves imprint at Behrend through Servant Leadership Award

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Bill Staniszewski (left) was the recipient of the Paul Lukasik Servant Leadership Award at this year’s Center for Service and Civic Leadership’s Service Awards.

By Steve Orbanek
Marketing Communications Specialist, Penn State Behrend

Paul Lukasik unassumingly walked to the podium, flashing an abashed smile at the crowd of more than 50 people in attendance at Penn State Behrend’s Center for Service and Civic Leadership’s Service Awards.

“Just so you know, my face gets red when I get nervous,” said Lukasik, displaying humility that’s fitting in light of the award he was about to present: The Paul Lukasik Servant Leadership Award.

The award, created and presented to Lukasik in 2014 and subsequently named in his honor, recognizes a Penn State Behrend junior who, through leadership in a student organization or class, encourages others to engage in service and civic engagement.

This year’s honoree was Bill Staniszewski, a junior mechanical engineering major who has completed numerous service projects with THON and Triangle Fraternity.

“Being honored with this award was the highlight of my semester. It really means a lot to me, especially as one of the leaders of Behrend Benefitting THON,” Staniszewski said. “When I heard that I was the recipient, it helped to reaffirm my commitment to leading by example.”

For Lukasik, having an award named in his honor has been a humbling experience.

“It’s hard to put words to it. Presenting the award hammered home to me that this is something that will stay even after I’m gone,” said Lukasik, a senior project and supply chain management major. “My hope, though, is that people will look beyond the name of the award and see its intention.”

Naming an award after a current student is an unconventional practice, but according to Carrie Egnosak, an academic adviser and a member of the Service Awards Committee that created the award, Lukasik is especially deserving of the honor.

“Paul has just been so involved with service from the very first moment he stepped onto campus,” Egnosak said. “He’s one of the few students who has participated in every Alternative Spring Break trip since he’s been here, and he tends to take on a leadership role with any club or organization that he becomes involved with. Everybody who knows him loves him because he would do anything for anyone.”

Since arriving at Behrend, Lukasik has performed services projects through Reality Check, Behrend’s community service-oriented club; Omicron Delta Kappa, the national leadership honor society; Relay for Life; and Alternative Spring Break; and has served as a resident assistant.

Lukasik said his commitment to service dates back to childhood, helping out at Fair Haven’s Church, founded in North Tonawanda, N.Y., by his grandparents.

He contends his commitment to service won’t be changing anytime soon. After graduation, he plans to do volunteer work through GE Transportation, where he has accepted a position in the Commercial Leadership Program, and also hopes to make a service trip to David’s Home, an orphanage founded in Haiti by Fair Haven’s Church.

Lukasik said he is grateful for all of the opportunities he’s received at Behrend, and he hopes new students will continue to pursue service work.

“Behrend as a whole has given me so many opportunities. I’ve had internships, gone on service trips and had leadership positions,” he said. “The service work just draws you in. It’s mutually beneficial and so rewarding. No matter how busy you are, there’s always something you can do, and I think it’s our civic duty to give back.”

THON proposal reflects couple’s commitment

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By Steve Orbanek
Marketing Communications Specialist, Penn State Behrend

It was hour 32 of THON, and Taylor Hennon ’13 had hit the wall.

She was exhausted and sleepy. Her emotions bordered delirium. This is all par for the course with THON, Penn State’s 46-hour dance marathon designed to raise money to support children and families as they combat pediatric cancer.

But then came Mail Call, an event during THON weekend in which dancers receive letters and packages from friends, family and supporters to inspire and motivate them to continue dancing. Hennon had no idea she was about to receive the biggest pick-me-up imaginable.

The final letter she read came from Timmy Donovan ’13, her boyfriend, whom she first met five years earlier during a trip to Germany while they were both students at Penn State Behrend.

“There were a lot of references to the future. In his letter, he wrote of how proud my grandma would be of me,” says Hennon, who graduated from Penn State Behrend in 2013 and is now pursuing a master’s degree in counseling at University Park. “Then, right after, he asked me (to marry him). I just remember hugging him, and he said, ‘I have something of your grandma’s that I really want to give to you.’”

For Donovan and Hennon, THON, which was held February 20-22 this year at Penn State’s Bryce Jordan Center, was the perfect venue for a proposal. For the past four years, it’s been a staple in their relationship. For the proposal, Donovan used Hennon’s grandmother’s ring, which made the moment even more meaningful.

“I knew THON would be the right way to (propose) because it has been such a big part of our relationship,” says Donovan, who graduated from Penn State Behrend in 2013 and is now pursuing a master’s degree in higher education at University Park. “It’s always been the mainstay in our relationship.”

Following the proposal, it was not long before the entire Bryce Jordan Center caught on to what was happening.

“There was this moment where I opened my eyes and looked around, and the entire Bryce Jordan Center is watching us and applauding. It was surreal,” Donovan says.

The timing of the proposal also helped reenergized Hennon, who danced independently in this year’s THON. From that point on, she was excited to share the news with her mother, who joined her on the floor of the Bryce Jordan Center around 7 a.m. Sunday morning.

According to Donovan and Hennon, the significance of THON in their relationship cannot be understated. While at Behrend, the two both became involved during junior year and as seniors, Hennon was Behrend’s THON chair, and Donovan was a dancer.

Throughout their involvement, the two endured a breakup, but their connection to THON kept them close.

“Our whole senior year, we were broken up, but we were still working together. No matter what, we realized that us working toward finding the cure for pediatric cancer was more important than any fight or any awkward moment we could have,” Donovan says. “Sure, there were awkward moments, but we always said THON was bigger than both of us, and that actually made us stay friends.”

Shortly after graduating from Behrend, the two got back together.

Regardless of what journey awaits the two, THON is certain to remain a crucial part of their lives and relationship. They have already planned to include members of their THON family, Rylee and Dalaney Dorer, in their wedding.

“It’s just that important to us,” Hennon says. “It’s amazing now that every year, I get to have a constant reminder of how all this came to be.”

Behrend award winner seeks to spread college students’ stories

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By Steve Orbanek
Marketing Communications Specialist, Penn State Behrend

When Stacy Rabat was a junior in high school, her father, Khalil Rabat, abruptly suffered a heart attack, went into a coma, and died.

The experience was devastating for Rabat, but she says it’s taught her how precious life can be and to think before judging others. Because of her experience, she yearns to connect with other people and hear their stories.

That’s why Rabat, a sophomore marketing major at Penn State Erie, The Behrend College, and this year’s winner of the Irvin H. Kochel Award, and another Penn State student, Rachael Hazen, have entered into a venture titled Scream Your Story. The two are working to create a blog or website that provides an outlet for people to share their personal stories and experiences.

“You can be sitting in a room with someone and have no idea what that person has gone through,” says Rabat, who received the award at the sixty-fifth annual Honors and Awards Convocation on April 27. “It’s good to take a step back and realize that not everyone is going through the same things you are, and you don’t want to be judgmental.”

The website is still in its infancy, but Rabat hopes to work on it extensively this summer and into the fall semester. Hazen, who spent the previous two years at Penn State Behrend, plans to work on it from University Park, where she’s enrolled for the fall.

“We want to ask people what hardships they’ve been through, and we want them to send in their stories,” Rabat says.

With one contributor in Erie and another in University Park, Rabat says she expects the blog to grow significantly. She also plans to start including videos, too.

Rabat’s drive is indicative of the Irvin H. Kochel Award, which is presented annually to an outstanding student who demonstrates qualities of character, scholarship, leadership, and citizenship through their involvement in programs and services that positively influence fellow students and the college community.

Rabat has been very involved in her time at Penn State Behrend. She served as the THON chair and is a member of the Student Government Association, the Lambda Sigma national honor society, and formerly a member of the Alpha Sigma Tau Sorority. Rabat attributes much of her success to her own unique story.

Her father also remains a motivating force in her life.

“He was my best friend. I think of him every day,” Rabat says.

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THON 2014 leaves lasting impression on Behrend participants

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By Steve Orbanek
Marketing Communications Specialist, Penn State Behrend

After attending the last two THONs as a spectator, Wes Dorrenbacher thought he had a good idea of what to expect when he was selected as a dancer for this year’s event.

That all changed around hour thirty-four.

“It was probably around 3:00 a.m. on early Sunday morning,” Dorrenbacher said. “It was finally real to me. I was just so humbled and thankful for this experience. For the next twenty minutes, I drew on a towel ‘Thank you’ and just started walking around the Bryce Jordan Center.”

More than 15,000 students participate each year in the Penn State IFC/Panhellenic Dance Marathon (THON), a 46-hour no-sitting, no-sleeping event that has raised more than $114 million since 1977 for the Four Diamonds Fund at Penn State Hershey Children’s Hospital. The fund pays for counselors, social workers, music therapists, and other specialists whose work with children fighting cancer often is not covered by insurance.

Dorrenbacher, a senior psychology major at Penn State Behrend, was one of 708 dancers at this year’s THON, which was held February 21-23 at University Park. He was joined by two other Behrend dancers, senior mechanical engineering major Nick Hirsch and freshman kinesiology major Rachael Hazen.

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During the dance marathon, participants are assigned a “moraler” who encourages them to keep going. The support this person provides is essential as the dancers’ battle to stay awake is as much mental as it is physical.

Hirsch learned this the hard way Sunday morning.

“I got to Sunday morning, and I thought it was later than it actually was,” Hirsch said. “When my brain realized it wasn’t as late as I thought it was, my body just shut down.”

Thankfully, Hirsch’s moraler was there and managed to feed him some apples and bananas to help restore his energy. Frequent eating is one of the keys to getting through the marathon.

Of course, there are other methods. Spectators and kids patrol the Bryce Jordan Center with squirt guns filled with ice-cold water. Hirsch will be the first to admit that a splash to the face never felt so good.

“As soon as you get hit with that water, your brain just resets. The pain goes away, and your mind stops thinking about being tired,” Hirsch said.

However, even with the food, moralers, and squirt guns, participants inevitably struggle as they dance and force their minds and bodies to stay awake.

When a person’s body and mind gets pushed to such limits, emotions are inevitable. That’s exactly what Dorrenbacher felt early Sunday morning, but he feels that’s one of the draws of participating in THON.

“The delirium brings out the emotions you normally would not want to show,” Dorrenbacher said. “But that’s the point of the weekend — to bring out those weaknesses and show how much we care for this cause.”

When the event finally ended Sunday evening, an exhausted Dorrenbacher, Hirsch, and Hazen headed to Berkery Creamery for ice cream. It’s a tradition for Behrend participants to go to the creamery after THON.

Dorrenbacher said the emotion he experienced during that weekend was unparalleled to anything else he has felt in his life. In fact, the emotion stayed with him, even days after the event.

Both “Good Morning America” and ABC News World News covered THON in the days that followed the event. The Behrend dancers were even pictured briefly in the segments.

Dorrenbacher admitted that he started to tear up at just seeing a teaser for the segments. His emotion is indicative of the THON weekend and the profound effect it had on his life.

“THON was honestly the best weekend of my life to date,” Dorrenbacher said. “There’s nothing quite like fighting for a cause that is bigger than yourself.”

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