NEW KENSINGTON, Pa.— Kary Coleman, director of development and alumni relations at Penn State New Kensington, will be honored Aug. 25 as one of Pittsburgh’s 50 Finest in 2016 by Pittsburgh’s WHIRL Magazine and the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation (CFF) of Western Pennsylvania at the annual CFF gala in Pittsburgh.
For 21 years, the foundation has honored 50 of the region’s “most accomplished men and women for career success and community involvement,” according to Lauren Pesce, development director for CFF. The honorees commit to raising funds and awareness for the foundation during a six-month period, March to August.
“I am honored to be named one of Pittsburgh’s 50 Finest for 2016,” Coleman said. “In all aspects of my life, I have simply embraced the Rotary International credo, ‘Service Above Self.’ To be recognized for this attitude and this lifestyle is humbling.”
Coleman was tasked with raising $4,000 by the day of the gala. She surpassed the goal in July. Since then, her total has reached $6,107, nearly 153 percent of her commitment.
“Kary Coleman is a model honoree for Pittsburgh’s 50 Finest,” Pesce said. “Her drive and passion to help others is truly remarkable, and it has shown in her fundraising and awareness efforts throughout the summer.”
Two events — Paint ‘n Sip in May and an ‘80s themed pub crawl in July — were instrumental in Coleman reaching her CFF goal so quickly. Her efforts were supported by the Westmoreland Cultural Trust, local businesses, and in-kind donations of services, such as food, photography and gift certificates.
She also benefited from CFF’s marketing prowess. Coleman and the other honorees returned to school as students of Cystic Fibrosis University.
“We learned about the disease, research, advancements in the treatment of CF, and how critical the venture philanthropy model is to CF research for a cure,” Coleman said. “We also received a ‘crash course’ in fundraising.”
Cystic fibrosis is an inherited chronic disease that affects the lungs and digestive system of about 30,000 children and adults in the United States. A defective gene and its protein product cause the body to produce mucus that clogs the lungs, leads to life-threatening lung infections, obstructs the pancreas, and stops natural enzymes from helping the body break down and absorb food.
“Over the course of the last six months, I have worked to raise awareness about cystic fibrosis and help the many children, who, in my opinion, are the true elite group and role models,” Coleman said. “Imagine trying to breathe through a straw; that is what breathing can feel like for people with cystic fibrosis. Imagine how you feel when you have bronchitis; that is how people with cystic fibrosis feel 24/7/365.”
Sixty years ago, children with CF usually did not live long enough to attend elementary school. Today, because of CFF-supported research and care, the median survival age of people with CF is about 40.
“This is remarkable progress, but not good enough,” Coleman said. “We continue to lose precious lives to CF every day.”
Besides the CFF, Coleman is active in other charitable organizations. As past president of her local Rotary Club, Coleman was the youngest individual and only the fourth female to hold this position in the club's nearly 100-year history. As Coleman has advanced at the Rotary International district and zone levels, central to her success in this organization, and life, has been her belief in the organization's commitment to service and their credo.
As an engaged leader in Westmoreland County, Coleman is a member of the United Way’s Women Leadership Council, past member of the Executive Cabinet for Campaign, and lends a helping hand with the organization’s Faith in Action program. She supports the Westmoreland Cultural Trust and is a member of its annual Fashion Show committee. Coleman is also a regular volunteer with the Westmoreland County Food Bank’s Our Lady of Grace food pantry.
Coleman, who has 15 years of experience in higher education and the nonprofit sector within the Greater Pittsburgh region, joined the campus a year ago as the director of development and alumni relations. In this position, she manages the campus' fundraising efforts and works with the chancellor in developing goals and executing strategies to advance the campus.
“It is a joy to represent Penn State New Kensington on this 50 Finest journey,” Coleman said. “I have taken every opportunity to raise awareness for our beautiful campus, talented faculty, and dedicated students. Penn State New Kensington provides big opportunities in a small, personal setting.”
When she is not fundraising for scholarships for students at the campus, Coleman is educating students. She is an adjunct instructor in communications, and teaches Public Relations Media and Methods. Prior to teaching at New Kensington, Coleman was a member of the adjunct faculty in the communications program at Penn State Fayette, The Eberly Campus.
“One of the things that attracted us to Kary was her community involvement,” said Kevin Snider, chancellor of the New Kensington campus. “I'm absolutely delighted that she is being recognized for that work by two prestigious organizations. It is a tremendous honor for her and, in typical fashion, she has used this honor to raise awareness of the campus and the things we are doing here. I'm amazed that she has been able to accomplish so much both on and off our campus, and I hope all PSNKers will join me in congratulating Kary for being recognized for some pretty incredible work.”
The Greensburg resident received her bachelor of arts degree in communication and information arts from Seton Hill University, where she graduated magna cum laude. She earned a master of arts degree in communications studies from California University of Pennsylvania.
For more information, visit Pittsburgh’s 50 Finest.
Alumni and Public Relations Specialist