The Pitt-Greensburg Alumni Association (PGAA) recognized three alumni at its Alumni Celebration Dinner as part of the campus’ Blue & Gold Week activities.
Earning recognition this year were Lawrence J. (Larry) Helkowski ’74, Chad Eric Smith ’08, and Scott Szypulski ’14.
Helkowski, a resident of Irwin, PA, received the PGAA Alumnus of Distinction Award. Established in 2001, this award acknowledges excellence among alumni of Pitt-Greensburg. All candidates must have graduated from or completed courses at Pitt-Greensburg. Candidates are evaluated on the basis of their outstanding level of professional achievement, service to the community, service to the University of Pittsburgh, special recognition or honors, other special efforts or success.
An award-winning actor, musician, writer, film director, and activist, Chad Eric Smith ’08 received the PGAA Young Alumni Leadership Award. Smith returned to Washington, DC, after graduating from and working for Pitt-Greensburg for three years. The Young Alumni Leadership award, established in 2015, recognizes established and future leaders among Pitt-Greensburg’s young alumni, age 35 and under, for their accomplishments and service. The winners of the award have distinguished themselves as leaders among their peers and in their profession, community, and/or the University.
Scott Szypulski ’14, of Irwin, PA, was the recipient of the PGAA Volunteer Excellence Award. The award recognizes alumni who volunteer their time to the PGAA and the University. Established in 2009, the award honors alumni who have dedicated a significant amount of personal time to attending alumni meetings and events, working on special projects, and contributing to the overall success of both the alumni association and the University it represents.
PGAA Alumnus of Distinction – Lawrence (Larry) J. Helkowski
Lawrence (Larry) J. Helkowski ’74 completed three years of study at Pitt-Greensburg before transferring to the Oakland campus where he completed a bachelor’s of science degree in Management. Married, and just out of the military, he completed his degree as a non-traditional student, usually attending class in the evenings. His current relationship with Pitt-Greensburg extends to serving on the PGAA Board of Directors and being involved with events, such as the annual golf outing.
While pursuing his degree, Helkowski worked for People’s Gas, where he started as a clerk, then moved into credit collection. After graduation, Helkowski worked in sales and marketing, in addition to running the credit union, and ultimately worked with builders and developers to deliver gas economically on residential lot plans. He won salesman of the year for three consecutive years because of the Seven Springs expansion.
Additionally, during his time at People’s, Helkowski served as account executive for the United Way, and then as chairman of the board at Westmoreland County Community College. After 33 years with the gas company, he was named president/CEO position at the Westmoreland County Blind Association (WCBA). What started out as a one-year contract turned into 13 years of providing meaningful job opportunities to people with visual impairments or who are multiply challenged. Since 2002, he has served as president of the Westmoreland Human Services.
Helkowski and his wife Jacqualine (now deceased) were married for 50 years. Helkowski’s son Scott, a ’92 Pitt graduate, and his wife, Julie, have one son, Andrew.
PGAA Young Alumni Leadership Award – Chad Eric Smith ’08
While earning a bachelor’s of science degree in Psychology at Pitt-Greensburg, Chad Eric Smith ’08 was bitten by the acting bug and performed in several campus productions. His love of theater continued to blossom as he performed in community theaters in and around the Pittsburgh area while working as a Pitt-Greensburg Admissions counselor for three years. Upon returning to his hometown of Washington, DC, Smith has continued to act in independent films, web dramas, and television. As a filmmaker, he has co-written, directed, and starred in several films and has composed and co-produced an original score for a short silent film.
Smith also works as a consultant for the national non-profit Men Can Stop Rape. There, he writes, directs, and edits public service announcements and promotional videos for their Youth Development department, provides technical assistance to Department of Justice grantees through their Office on Violence Against Women, and mentors young men at several DC Public High Schools. His work in educating others about how to end sexual violence began while he was at Pitt-Greensburg. Partnering with the Blackburn Center, Westmoreland County’s only anti-violence agency, he founded the Men Against Sexual Violence club on campus.
In 2008, Smith received the Westmoreland Cultural Trust's Service to the Arts Award and was named the 2007 Resident Assistant of the Year. After graduation and while working at Pitt-Greensburg, he continued to pursue his acting passion by performing in community theaters in and around Pittsburgh, including the internationally renowned Kuntu Repertory Theater at the University of Pittsburgh. It was his work in regional theater that earned Smith two 2010 Onyx Awards from the Pittsburgh Chapter of the African American Council on the Arts.
When Smith returned to his hometown of Washington, DC, he served as a college advisor for 5 years at several high schools within the District of Columbia Public and Public Charter school system via the privately-funded nonprofit organization DC College Access Program (DC-CAP). As a DC-CAP Advisor, he educated, assisted, and counseled hundreds of DC students and their families with the college selection, admissions, and financial aid process.
Smith continues to have leading, supporting, and featured roles in several independent films. In 2014, he co-wrote and starred in his film directorial debut, the short vampire comedy “Dark Therapy,” for which he received the Gold Peer Award in the "Acting on Camera - Fiction Male" category from the Television, Internet & Video Association of DC (TIVA-DC). In 2015, he starred in the critically-acclaimed web drama on YouTube entitled “Counselor,” for which he received a 2016 IndieCapitol Award nomination for “Best Supporting Actor” and co-produced and composed the original score for the silent short film “#SeeTheBoy,” inspired by the shooting of Tamir Rice. He made his national television debut in the TV One season finale of For My Man. Smith is currently in post-production for the short psychological sci-fi, drama “Rumination,” which he wrote and directed.
PGAA Volunteer Excellence Award – Scott Szypulski ’14
Scott Szypulski graduated in 2014 from Pitt-Greensburg with a bachelor’s of science degree in Management-Accounting and minors in Actuarial Science and Theatre. While a student at Pitt-Greensburg, he was a member of the Student Activities Board, Habitat for Humanity, Judicial Board, Peer Leader Program and Phi Eta Sigma. A Community Assistant (CA), Szypulski was named CA of the Year in 2014. A campus leader, he served as president of the Student Government Association, Resident Student Council, and the Presidential Ambassadors program. In 2014, he was named Senior of the Year and was the recipient of the Dean’s Leadership Award and the PGAA Community Service Award.
Upon graduating from Pitt-Greensburg, Szypulski was employed as a Financial Assistant in the Department of Critical Care for the University of Pittsburgh. In 2016, he was promoted to Financial Research Administrator within the department. As a member of the Staff Association Council since 2015, he has assisted in the establishment of the Frisch Fund Scholarship, reviewed scholarship applications for the Annual Book Fund, volunteered on the External Relations Committee, and served as chair of the 2017 Kennywood Committee for Pitt Day at Kennywood, which sold out of the allocated 2,000 tickets. In addition to these responsibilities, he is pursuing his MBA at the Oakland campus.
Since 2014, Szypulski has been actively involved with the Pitt-Greensburg Alumni Association (PGAA) and is currently the PGAA Treasurer and Executive Committee liaison for the events committee. He also has served as its Secretary. Szypulski has been directly involved in the organization of alumni events including the Holiday Wine Tasting, Welcome Back Picnic, and Pitt Greensburg at PNC Park. He also remains involved with the campus as a volunteer with the campus chapter of Habitat for Humanity (HFH) and served as a chaperone for the 2017 HFH Alternate Spring Break Collegiate Challenge trip to Tucker, Georgia.