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Oct. 12, 2012
CONTACT: K. E. Schwab

SRU Alumni Association presents Distinguished Alumni Awards

SLIPPERY ROCK, Pa. - The Slippery University Alumni Association will honor four SRU graduates with regional, national and international accomplishments by presenting them the association's Distinguished Alumni Award for their contributions in their communities and professions at an Oct. 19 dinner ceremony

The 5 p.m. event, in the Russell Wright Alumni House and Conference Center, is part of SRU's 2012 homecoming weekend celebration.

BENFORD Honored this year will be:

  • Andy Major, a 1988 a communication graduate, beginning his fifth season with the Buffalo Bills football team front office staff and his 18th season in the National Football League;

  • Garry Benford, a 1977 physical education graduate, now personal fitness and wellness director at the Physical Therapy & Performance Center at the Cardinal Orthopedic Institute in Columbus, Ohio;

  • Mary Jo Geyer, a 1973 physical education graduate, now program officer and technical consultant with the American Leprosy Missions in Greenville, S. C.; and

  • John Hicks, a 1962 secondary education graduate who retired from SRU in 2002 after three decades of service in the University's College of Education and currently serving as a member of the SRU Council of Trustees.

"We are pleased to honor such distinguished alumni, both for their high achievement in their professional lives on the regional, national and international level, but also for their service in their local and regional communities," said Kelly Bailey, director of alumni engagement.

"Our annual dinner and awards presentation allows our alumni to gather, share stories and memories, while simultaneously visiting campus to see its changes and growth. It also gives our alumni the chance to recognize our distinguished alumni winners for their success in enhancing the University's reputation," she said.

Nearly 125 alumni are expected to attend the dinner and are invited to participate in related homecoming activities during the weekend, including the ribbon-cutting for the new $39 million Robert M. Smith Student Center, named for the recently retired president. Smith will attend the ceremony.

"We will offer a number of athletic contests during the weekend, including volleyball, cross country, soccer and football, as well as the traditional homecoming parade under the "retro rock" theme, tailgating and other get-togethers as part of the weekend's festivities," Bailey said.

Major, earlier this year, was promoted to vice president of event operations and guest experience with the Buffalo Bills. He is responsible for overseeing event operations and marketing, guest services, parking and access and staffing divisions.

MAJOR He is also responsible for implementing the team's fan experience initiatives in concert with the National Football League's best practices. Prior to his current position, he served as executive director of marketing for the Bills from 2008-2012 and as assistant athletic director in charge of facility management, marketing partnerships and athletic fundraising for Slippery Rock University from 2007-2008.

While at SRU the athletic department increased its sponsorship revenue and athletic giving and a new proactive athletic giving structure plan was implemented.

In addition to his SRU degree and three-year starter status on the SRU football squad, Major earned his master of education degree in sports administration from the University of Miami.

He is a member of the Stadium Manager's Association, a graduate of the Leadership Buffalo Class of 2011 and serves as a volunteer coach for multiple youth athletic leagues.

A native of Rochester, N.Y., and current resident of Orchard Park, N.Y., Major is an avid runner, golfer and sports enthusiast.

Benford is a recognized leader in personal fitness and conditioning as well as a six time National Masters Powerlifting Champion, American Record Holder in the squat (738 pounds at 198-pound bodyweight), American Record Holder in four age divisions in the bench press and set the world record in 2008 with a 500-pound bench press at 198-poind bodyweight at age 53. Last month, he broke the bench press record again, in the 55-59-year-old category.

He has had both hips and shoulders replaced and continues to set records.

He is a six-time national champion and a three-time world champion. He was inducted into the 2009 SRU Athletic Hall of Fame and the weight room in Morrow Field House was named in his honor in 2003.

Benford received both his undergraduate (1977) and graduate degree in exercise science from SRU.

From 1990 to 2009, he owned nine World Gym Fitness Centers, which employed 200 people in service to more than 25,000 members. He had formerly served as physical fitness director for the YMCA of Central Ohio and is currently with its fitness/wellness center where he directs for Cardinal Orthopedics. It is a one-of-its-kind facility, servicing more than 120 patients receiving personal training services each week.

The center is described as the largest orthopedic practice in Ohio with 28 surgeons and 25 physical therapists.

Benford is the author of, "Powerlifting: A Guide for Coaches and Athletes." He hosts a free, monthly workshop titled, "401 Fitness: An Investment in You."

Benford has been inducted into the Powerlifting Hall of Fame, the National Masters Powerlifting Champion for five years in a row, the National Masters Bench Press Champion for two years and the World Masters Powerlifting Champion.

He makes his home in Powell, Ohio.

Geyer will retire from her faculty position in the department of rehabilitation science and technology at the University of Pittsburgh in April. She has taught and practiced as a physical therapist, pedorthist and board certified specialist in wound and lymphedema management. Her clinical efforts have primarily focused on the rehabilitation of those with chronic diseases and the prevention of secondary complications.

She received her bachelor's degree from SRU, then went on to a second bachelor's degree in physical therapy from the University of Pittsburgh. She earned her master's degree in exercise science from SRU, followed by her doctorate in rehabilitation science from the University of Pittsburgh.

Her current work is an extension of her years as co-director of one of the first outpatient cardiovascular rehabilitation services in the country. Known for her national and international work in wound and lymphedema care, Geyer works at the intersection of various multi-national and domestic organizations in promoting standardized practice guidelines.

During the past five years, she has successfully blended her clinical and research interests with international training programs in India, Mali, Ghana and Kenya. She directs an international research and development initiative known as "Legs to Stand On," which tries to improve limb care, preserve mobility and prevent disability in limited resource environments.

She has won several awards during her career, including selection as a Mary McMillan Scholar by the American Physical Therapy Association, a Most Distinguished Member by the Association for the Advancement of Wound Care and, most recently, a Golden Apple Award by Health Volunteers Overseas for her extraordinary contributions to international education.

She and her husband, Ray, are currently working with the Ministry of Health to develop the first national training program for orthotists, prosthetists and pedorthists in Ghana.

They make their home in Pittsburgh.

Hicks retired from Slippery Rock University's College of Education in 2002 after three decades of service.

Hicks earned his bachelor of science in education degree from SRU then attended Brandeis University, John Carroll University (masters, 1968), Kent State University and Penn State University, where he received his doctorate in 1975.

HICKS Prior to his tenure at SRU, he was a teacher, coach and administrator in the schools of East Cleveland, Ohio. His teaching experience included grades seven through graduate education. He taught one year at Millersville University and was associate head coach of the baseball team. He then served on the board of directors for the American Association for Teacher Education and the Association of Teachers, where he has been honored as a "Distinguished Member."

He is a co-founder of the Pennsylvania Association of Colleges and Teacher Educators and served as vice-president or president for eight years. These association memberships allowed him to deal with research and to influence teacher education policy.

Hicks represented the United States at the Association of Teacher Educators Europe in Bruges, Belgium.

During his time at SRU, he had several positions, including assistant to the dean, department chair, school improvement coordinator, coordinator for program assessment, director of continuing education, acting associate dean and interim dean. His long experience as student teaching supervisor enabled him to be a recognized visitor to many western Pennsylvania schools.

He has been called "an advocate for public school teachers."

In addition to teaching, he also found success in coaching baseball. He was named "Coach of the Year" by the Cleveland Plain Dealer and honored by the Wahoo Club after his baseball team won the Ohio State Championship.

Hicks also found time to coach many of the young men of Slippery Rock Colt, Pony and American Legion teams. He rose to the rank of sergeant in the Army Security Agency, a branch of N.S.A., serving in Germany.

He has served on the SRU Council of Trustees since 2007 and was recently elected president of the Pennsylvania Association of Councils of Trustees.

He makes his home in Slippery Rock.

Slippery Rock University is Pennsylvania's premier public residential university. Slippery Rock University provides students with a comprehensive learning experience that intentionally combines academic instruction with enhanced educational and learning opportunities that make a positive difference in their lives.