Like uncle, like niece: same degree, same gown


Susan Turek

Dec. 7, 2015

SLIPPERY ROCK, Pa. - When Susan Turek, a Slippery Rock University safety management major from Grove City, graduates Dec. 12, she will once again be on the same wavelength as her uncle, John Turek, a 1989 safety management graduate.

You could say they're molded from the same cloth.

Inspired by her uncle, a California environmental safety manager, Turek joined the safety field and will begin her job search later this month.

The senior Turek is so proud of his niece; he gave her his 1989 graduation gown. The "Century of Excellence" academic dress features an SRU 100th anniversary patch, since Slippery Rock State Normal School opened in 1889.

"We were talking one day, and he happened to be cleaning out a closet and his graduation gown was there, and he offered it to me," Turek said. I said, I'd be honored, I'll take it.' He's a fantastic mentor. He had gone through the program and graduated in '89. He's got 25 years of experience in safety management."

Turek said she was impressed her uncle still had the gown, in good condition. Although she won't wear the gown during commencement, Turek said her uncle's kindness touched her and that she will keep the gown with her own.

"He's very fastidious. His attention to detail is completely on point, in every facet, especially at work," said Turek, who is in the Air Force Reserves and completed an internship at TE Connectivity in California, where her uncle works.

John Turek said his mother kept the gown in a box in Grove City.

"A few years ago, we were going through mother's home. I just wound up shipping it out to California with a bunch of other things," Turek said.

Back in his day, Turek said SRU enrolled seven safety management majors. Currently, close to 500 students major in safety management. The major prepares graduates for careers in industrial, occupational, commercial and regulatory safety.

Turek said his niece is exceptional and a good person to work with. He said there are a myriad of career opportunities for her in safety, including federal employment.

"She'll be able to do well with any organization that she works for," he said.

Susan Turek said her uncle is an "excellent person to learn from. His wealth of experience and knowledge in the profession is unbelievable.

A reserve member of the 911th Airlift Wing in Coraopolis, Turek said she wasn't sure about a career field when she got out of active service. Her uncle, her mother and an incident that happened in Mississippi influenced her.

" I was down in Biloxi, Mississippi for some training. At the hotel I was staying at, the stairs were outside. Because it's so hot and humid down there on the golf coast, the stairs were kind of sweating a little. I was coming down the stairs, maybe going a little bit faster than I should have been, and I almost slipped. Luckily the handrail was there and I as able to catch myself.

"I was like, 'wow, this is an unsafe condition maybe somebody ought to do something about this. In discussing the situation with my family about my experience down there, my mom said, 'your uncle's in safety, maybe you should follow in his footsteps. He went to SRU, so you can come back home."

Turek said she is open to all job opportunities in her chosen field. "There are so many facets to safety. To narrow it down would be to pigeonhole myself," she said. "The opportunities are kind of endless at this point, whether you're working in construction, as the safety personnel on job sites or in a hospital dealing with pathogens.

She said SRU's program teaches a broad spectrum, including "industrial hygiene, which really fascinates me."

More than 550 students are eligible to participate in the 11 a.m., Dec. 12 ceremony in Morrow Field House. Doors open at 9:30 a.m., with first-come, first-serve seating.

MEDIA CONTACT: Gordon Ovenshine | 724.738.4854 |