MONACA, Pa. — Following the death of a staff member, the Penn State Beaver community is remembering her many contributions to the campus.
Jill Tress, 62, of Center Township, passed away last month. Tress was the coordinator of the Center for Academic Achievement at Penn State Beaver for 12 years, overseeing tutoring and disability services for the campus. Tress also coordinated the Pathway to Success: Summer Start (PaSSS) program at the Beaver campus to help students graduate on time, was a part of the campus Student Success Committee, and was an adviser for the science fiction reading club, FANCY.
In the summer of 2023, Tress — who was an avid reader and prolific writer — was appointed to serve as editor of the University College’s Best of Freshman Writing online magazine, a role she was honored to fill.
Interim Chancellor Carey McDougall said Tress was “markedly ahead of the curve on diversity, inclusion and equity when it came to advocating for students’ needs in terms of disability and neurodiversity. She created a Center for Academic Achievement that was a respite for students.”
“I had the pleasure of serving on the Student Success Committee with Jill,” Beaver Registrar Rachel Zughaib said. “She was a steady advocate for all students, and especially those with disabilities and students who were struggling academically or socially.”
Zughaib said each time she would visit Tress’ office she would notice something different on her bookshelf, often pieces of hand-crafted art from former students, “reminders of the lasting impact she had on their lives.”
Outside of work, Tress was a gifted crafter and quilter, and she brought that love and talent to campus. This year she began a series of relaxation crafting workshops for students. The workshops were so popular that she sometimes ran out of seating.
One of Zughaib’s most memorable days on campus was when Tress led a quilling workshop for the Academic Affairs staff. “She made even our team’s most inept crafters feel like they could create something beautiful. … This was the same quiet reassurance we saw her give to so many students through the years,” she said.
Faculty, staff and students gathered in the campus library Nov. 28 for a remembrance ceremony.
Tiffany MacQuarrie, associate professor of English, said she trusted Tress’ editing ability and writing advice. MacQuarrie said she always encouraged her English 15 students to seek Tress’ help with their writing assignments. She said last spring nine of her students reached out to Tress for help.
Students recalled Tress’ crafting workshops, her love of jigsaw puzzles, and her unwavering support when they needed accommodations or tutoring services.
“I personally learned a great deal from Jill about how to be a better person,” McDougall said. “I know that Jill would want us to continue her legacy of honesty, inclusivity, reading and crafting.”
“She made even our team’s most inept crafters feel like they could create something beautiful. … This was the same quiet reassurance we saw her give to so many students through the years."
—Rachel Zughaib , Penn State Beaver Registrar