MONACA, Pa. — John Hertneky may have graduated from Penn State in 1979 and went on to a career in private industry, but he’s still likely to be found on the Penn State Beaver campus often enough that one might think he’s an employee.
From his work on fundraising campaigns to his support of events and activities, Hertneky’s continued dedication to Penn State and especially the Beaver campus has earned him the campus' 2023 Outstanding Alumnus of the Year award.
Penn State Beaver Interim Chancellor Carey McDougall described Hertneky as “the essence of all that is good about Penn State.” She said so many students have benefited from his expertise and time, and that his service to the campus has been exemplary.
“I can’t imagine a Penn State Beaver without him,” McDougall said.
A Hopewell High School graduate, Hertneky enrolled at the Beaver campus in the fall of 1975, and after two years transferred to University Park where he graduated with a bachelor of science degree with honors in chemical engineering. Following graduation, he spent 11 years working for a manufacturing chemical plant in West Virginia. Eventually he made the decision to move back to the Pittsburgh area to be closer to family.
“I couldn’t imagine coming back to the area and not living in Beaver County,” Hertneky said.
Hertneky became involved with Penn State as an alumnus because of the human resources manager at his job with Mobay Chemical Corp. Hertneky said his manager had family in the State College area and did a lot of job recruiting at University Park. Hertneky began joining him in the recruitment efforts.
From there, Hertneky said he learned more about the Penn State Alumni Association and became more involved with the Beaver campus when he moved back to Beaver County, eventually joining the Penn State Beaver Advisory Board in 2001.
“Kate (Hertneky’s daughter) always accused me of joining the advisory board to have a set of eyes on her because she had entered as a freshman,” he said with a laugh, “which I vehemently denied. But she couldn’t make a move on campus without me knowing.”
Hertneky said joining the advisory board felt like the right thing to do. He said he had reached a point in his career where he wanted to do something to give back.
He has remained committed to supporting the campus ever since. In addition to being a current member of the advisory board, he was the co-chair for the development campaigns that ran from 2007 to 2014 and 2015 to 2022. He has been involved with the annual Alumni Society golf outing “for more years than I can remember,” and has served on the committee for the annual wine and ale fundraiser for nearly 20 years.
He recently completed a term as the board president for the Beaver Valley Hub for Innovation, Venture, and Entrepreneurship (the B-HIVE), which will be opening in Beaver Falls this year and will be a home for the Beaver Valley LaunchBox, an Invent Penn State initiative.
Hertneky and his wife, Kristine, also have funded two scholarships for the campus and are supporters of many events and activities that take place on campus.
"John is a servant leader and it's great to have someone like him involved in what we do here at Penn State Beaver. He is a proud Penn Stater and he supports our campus in so many ways," said Andrew DiPietrantonio, director of campus development.
“I wouldn’t do anything different,” Hertneky said of his years of service to the campus. “One of the things that I think has always kept me connected with the Beaver campus are the people.” He mentioned previous and current administrators, faculty and staff who he said became like family to him over the years.
Hertneky was presented with the Outstanding Alumnus award on Jan. 25. His daughter, Kate Becker, spoke about the influence her father has had on her, in addition to the many contributions he’s made to Penn State Beaver. Becker said her father has always led by example.
“He embodies the values that his parents taught him. Treat everyone with respect. Be patient. Be kind. Be grateful for the blessings that life has bestowed upon you. Give back to your local community. Moreover, it’s OK to make mistakes, learn from them. No one’s perfect,” Becker said. “My dad inspires me to be the good the world needs and deserves.”
This is the second time Hertneky has been awarded with the Outstanding Alumnus Award. He also was honored in 2013.
“John is the essence of all that is good about Penn State. His service to the campus has been exemplary. I can’t imagine a Penn State Beaver without him."
—Carey McDougall , Penn State Beaver interim chancellor