On Friday, October 14, Shippensburg University honored 10 alumni at the annual Alumni Awards Ceremony during its Homecoming Celebration. The alumni were recognized in five different categories that recognized their achievements and contributions professionally and in their community.
Barrie Ann George – Distinguished Alumni Award
Barrie Ann (McBride) George received her bachelor’s degree in Government Administration in 1988 and master’s in Public Administration in 1989 from Shippensburg University. She has a 30-year career in non-profit human services and resource development. She has worked for the United Way of Carlisle & Cumberland County and Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Capital Region and is currently the Vice President of Development and Communications at Safe Harbour, Inc. She has also been a freelance fine arts writer for ten years with two newspapers. She is very active within her community and has taken on many responsibilities locally and at the state level. She is especially involved with the Kiwanis Club where she has held many leadership roles and positions. Her honors and awards include the Shining Star Luminary Award, 2020; Business Woman of the Year Nominee, 2020; and Diplomat of the Year, Carlisle Area Chamber of Commerce, 2018. Barrie Ann has two children, Trent and Sydney, who have both attended schools in the PA State System of Higher Education. Barrie Ann lives in Carlisle with her husband of 30 years, Joseph George.
Robert J. Lieblein – Distinguished Alumni Award
Rob Lieblein graduated from Shippensburg University in December 1983 with a degree in Accounting and Mathematics/Computer Science. Rob was hired by KPMG and enjoyed a successful career there for the next 13 years. Always having a desire to be an entrepreneur, Rob left KPMG and started a business with his good friend, John Zentgraf ’80. Over the years Rob and John acquired several companies, and at the same time started a consulting and investment banking firm that ultimately became focused in the insurance industry. Over time, Rob focused all his efforts on the consulting and investment banking in the insurance industry, which led Rob to be recognized throughout the country as one of the leading investment bankers in the insurance distribution industry. To follow his dream of entrepreneurship, Rob started his own financial services firm by merging 24 of his clients from across the nation to create one of the largest financial services firms in the country. On January 1, 2017, the Alera Group was formed and 5 years later was one of the top 15 financial services firms in the country with over $1 billion in revenue and over 3,500 plus employees in over 150 offices across the country. While Shippensburg created a tremendous academic opportunity for Rob, the experience was beyond academics, and really helped to shape Rob’s personal and professional life. Rob joined Acacia Fraternity his freshman year and those experiences and relationships still exist today. Giving back to Shippensburg has always been a goal for Rob so other students can experience being part of the Shippensburg University family. Rob is excited to establish the Robert J. Lieblein College of Business Scholarship to help deserving students live the Shippensburg University experience. Rob will meet his first scholarship recipient during the 2022-2023 school year. Rob serves on the John L. Grove College of Business Advisory Board. He is a father to two daughters. Rob and his wife, Kelly, support various causes throughout the United States through their foundation.
Barbara King Walters-Phillips – Distinguished Alumni Award
Barbara King Walters-Phillips received her bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education from Shippensburg University in 1971. She started her teaching career in Hagerstown, MD where she taught fifth grade students. Barbara grew up around aviation in Mifflintown, PA with her dad, Melvin King, being a private pilot who owned a Cessna 172. She shares her passion for flying with her husband, retired US Air Force Pilot Lt. Col. Patrick Phillips, and has always looked for ways to incorporate her passion into her classroom. In 1986 she attended the National Congress on Aviation & Space Education which charted a new life course for her. She saw the potential in using aviation to motivate and teach her students. She obtained AAUW’s Eleanor Roosevelt Education Grant to start Aviation Invasion, which was an aerospace program designed to motivate middle school girls to study math and science. During this time a family friend, Beth Alphin, allowed her to use their private hangar at Hagerstown Regional Airport to teach the course. Two years later, in 1992 she and her husband relocated to Florida where she continued to teach the aviation course at Orlando Executive Airport. Her program caught the attention of the local Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) who then had Barbara write their curriculum for the classes at the Orlando Youth Aviation Center. She continued teaching at Glenridge Middle School in Orlando, FL where she again found ways to incorporate aerospace education into her classroom with a Cessna 150 cockpit as a learning tool. She is credited with integrating the Civil Air Patrol’s Aerospace Connections in Education Program into the Orange County, Florida, school system. In 2011 she served as director of a national CAP event to inspire over 750 at-risk youth toward a better future using aviation and STEM. She continues to work with teachers as a Math and Science coach at Little River Elementary School in Orlando. She has received many national honors and awards, but most recently received the Katherine Wright Trophy in 2019 for her contributions to the advancement of the art, sport, and science of aviation and space flight.
Meg Dameron Christenson – Outstanding Young Alumni Award
Margaret ‘Meg’ (Dameron) Christenson received her bachelor’s degree in History from Shippensburg University in May of 2005 with a minor in Art. She started her career as a Curatorial Coordinator at the Washington County Museum of Fine Arts in Hagerstown, MD. Since 2007, Meg has worked for Volvo Construction Equipment in Shippensburg with roles in Corporate Communications and Marketing. She is currently the Director of Content Marketing and Public Relations. Highlights of her work have included short term global assignments in Brazil and Brussels. She is valued for her strategic perspective and diplomacy and her skills in change management, coaching, and team development. Meg enjoys people and is very involved in her community. She co-founded a GED program at Hope Church in Shippensburg and has taught the GED Social Studies course there for fourteen years. She previously served on the United Way Board and Shippensburg Public Library board and currently serves on the Naugle Foundation Board. As a SU Honors Program alumna, she is pleased to continue her engagement by serving on the Wood Honors College Board. She and her husband Chris live in Chambersburg, where they tend chickens and Meg keeps bees.
Alston M. Ellis – Outstanding Young Alumni Award
A member of the honors fraternity Beta Gamma Sigma, Alston received his bachelor’s degree in Business Administration in 2003 and master’s in Business Administration in 2007 from Shippensburg University of Pennsylvania. He is currently the Chief Financial Officer of MIB Group Holdings, Inc., overseeing the direction, control, and coordination of all financial activities for the organization. He joined MIB in 2021 as VP of Member Solutions. Prior to that, Alston worked with Crump Life Insurances Services for many years, holding multiple roles within the organization, including leadership positions in areas of financial planning & analysis, internal sales, and marketing, most recently serving as Vice President of Marketing – Internal Sales and Customer Relationship Management. From 2014-2016 Alston was awarded to the Crump Circle of Excellence for recognition of outstanding performance in leadership and sales results. His efforts in the insurance industry helped him gain recognition in 2017 as one of Life Insurance Marketing Research Association’s (LIMRA) 2017 Top 25 Rising Stars in Distribution under the age of 40. Alston is devoted to promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion, is a member the National African American Insurance Association (NAAIA) and has served on the John L. Grove College of Business Advisory Board for Shippensburg University since 2018.
Justin R. Birckbichler – Outstanding Young Alumni Award
Justin R. Birckbichler received his bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education from Shippensburg University in 2013. After working in elementary education for eight years, he currently works as the Senior Project Manager at Savvy Cooperative, the first and only patient-owned co-op that empowers people to use their health experiences to inform new products and services through surveys, interviews, product testing and more. In October of 2016, Justin discovered a lump on his left testicle. Later that month an ultrasound verified that the lump was testicular cancer in Stage IIB. Justin went through a strenuous course of 21 treatments which concluded in January 2017. Two months later a scan showed that Justin was in remission and continues to remain in remission status today. Through his own journey Justin has become an advocate for men’s health. He created his blog, A Ballsy Sense of Tumor (ABSOT) to help others diagnosed with testicular cancer find the resources he wished he had during his cancer journey. Since starting his blog, he has worked with the Virginia Department of Education to create a health education video in hopes of spreading awareness throughout the state of Virginia and the US. He also led, participated in, and reviewed research studies about men’s health along with interviewing a number of top experts and advocates in the field. He served on boards of non-profit organizations and health organizations while also consulting with pharmaceutical companies and industry leaders. In 2019, Justin performed a TEDx Talk in Tyson’s Corner, VA, entitled “Carpe Scrotiem: Why Men Must Start Discussing Their Health.” His blog, ABSOT, has been awarded for the Best Advocacy and Awareness Cancer Blog. ABSOT was also recognized as one of the Top 60 Men’s Health Blogs and Websites for Men and was again chosen as one of the Best Men’s Health Blogs by Healthline. He was also recognized as one of the 15 People Who Raised Cancer Awareness in 2017, was chosen as one of 40 Under 40 In Cancer, and was named as one of Cancer Health’s 25 Change Makers. He lives in Virginia with his wife, son, two cats, and a dog.
Ruth E. Hodge – Lifetime Achievement Award
Ruth E. Hodge received her master’s in Library Science in 1972 from Shippensburg University. Ruth is an archivist, author, librarian, educator, and community activist. From 1960-1980, she was employed by the US Army War College Library and from 1980-1993, she was then employed by the US Army Military History Institute, Carlisle Barracks. In 1992-1993, Ruth organized and executed the 1st and 2nd Conference on African Americans in World War II at the Carlisle Barracks. The conferences presented the top and noted Black military officers, staff, and historians, beginning with General Benjamin O. Davis, Jr. of the Tuskegee Airmen. The conferences were attended by the Black military and interested people throughout the United States. In September 1981, she was asked to teach “Cataloging” at Shippensburg University, for the first semester, due to an emergency. She retired from Carlisle Barracks in 1993 and was then hired by the PA State Archives as an archivist. Her duties were to assist researchers, assist in the organizing and planning of the annual Pa. Black History Conferences, and to research and publish a book to be titled Guide to African American Resources at the Pennsylvania State Archives. The Guide was published in 2001 and received the MARAC Frederic Miller Finding Aids Award. Ruth has participated in many research projects sponsored by the Cumberland County Historical Society, such as researching African Americans of Cumberland County who served in World War II and the Civil War. Additional community contributions of her work includes: the 2009 dedication of the historical marker for one of the first religious institutions to be built west of PA’s Susquehanna River, the Bethel AME Church in Carlisle, which played a key role in the operations of the Underground Railroad during the American Civil War; the naming of Carlisle’s high school for Emma Thompson McGown, one of Carlisle’s earliest African American teachers, and the only building named for an African American in Carlisle; and, participation in the 180th Anniversary of Education in the Carlisle Area School District. For this celebration, she told the story of the “Black Education Experience from Segregation to Integration” with a large exhibit, November 2016. Ruth has received many awards and honors during her lifetime including the Outstanding Alumni Award from Lycoming College, 1983; the Dept. of the Army Achievement Medal for Civilian Service, 1993; the PA Commission for Women Award; the Albert Nelson Marquis Who’s Who Achievement Award, 2019; and the Cumberland County Historical Society “Historian of the Year” Award, 2020.
A. Stephen Rosa – Lifetime Achievement Award
A. Stephen Rosa graduated from Shippensburg University in 1975 with a bachelor’s in Business Administration with an Accounting concentration. Shortly after graduation, he was hired at a small accounting firm, Mathieson Aitken & Co. (MACO), in Philadelphia and became a partner of MACO in 1984. Through many mergers the firm later became Clifton Larson Allen (CLA) and at the time was the 9th largest firm in the country. Today CLA is the 8th largest firm with Stephen as partner from 1984 until his retirement in late 2015. Throughout his time at CLA, he had many responsibilities including leading the nonprofit practice for 15 years. That sector grew from five people to more than 30 with a billing volume that grew from $750,000 to $7,000,000. From 2001-2015 he personally served as engagement partner to more than 100 nonprofit clients including membership organizations, colleges, and universities (including Shippensburg University), churches and religious organizations, foundations, private and charter schools, arts and cultural organizations, and social service organizations. Just prior to his retirement, CLA’s CEO asked him to become Executive Director, a volunteer position, of the newly formed CLA Foundation which raises money from contributions from CLA principals and employees. Since 2016 the foundation has raised enough funds to issue grants exceeding $7.0 million to organizations that support the mission of providing grants to nonprofits with programs that support employment readiness and career development, education and training, and entrepreneurship and small business establishment. Stephen was a founding member of the Rotary Club of Blue Bell in 1989 and was involved with the Rotary Club at local and district levels. He has been very active in his local community as a coach and volunteer. He served on the board of the Montgomery County Community College Foundation for over 20 years. He and his wife, Judy A. (Waybright) Rosa ’75, established a scholarship fund at the Montgomery County Community College in honor of their late son and named a room in honor of their daughter in the new Physical Therapy wing of the Physical Education Center. He participates in several events to raise awareness of various types of cancer as he is a survivor of Pancreatic Cancer himself since 2014. In 2001 both he and his wife each received the Township’s first Outstanding Citizen Award in recognition of volunteer contributions to the overall community. He is a proud father of three and grandfather of 5. He and his wife are lifelong supporters of the SU Foundation. He is thankful for his experience at Shippensburg University where he credits much of his success.
Wanda Polk Bankhead – Exceptional Service Award
Wanda (Polk) Bankhead graduated from Shippensburg University in December 1979 with a bachelor’s degree in Behavior Management. Shortly after graduation, she found a career in the insurance industry and held many leadership positions within Allstate Insurance during her 31-year career. During her time at Shippensburg University, she was an active student on campus and was a part of the Afro-Am organization, Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., and an Act 101 peer counselor. Wanda had a great Shippensburg University experience and loved her interactions with peers and professors. Wanda serves Shippensburg University in many ways. She serves as a member of the Shippensburg University Foundation Board of Directors and is the Immediate Past National Co-Chair for the Annual Fund. Wanda is a member of the Annual Fund leadership team where she serves as an advocate for Shippensburg, encouraging others to give back to and support the mission of Shippensburg University. Wanda has also served on the Alumni Board of Directors, serving as President of the Alumni Association in 2004. Beyond her work with the SU Foundation and the Alumni Association, Wanda is engaged as an alumna participating in events and serving as a volunteer. She has increased her involvement and dedication to serving Shippensburg over time which shows her commitment to seeing the university be successful. Wanda is married to Charlie Bankhead. She raised three sons, has four grandsons, and remains an active volunteer in many community organizations such as the Valley Forge Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta and Ezion Mount Carmel United Methodist Church in Delaware.
Colonel (R) Ingrid Ava Parker – Cultural Impact Award
Colonel (Retired) Ingrid A. Parker was commissioned a Military Intelligence Officer from the Army ROTC Program at Shippensburg University in December 1993. Upon graduation she received her Bachelor of Arts in Sociology and has since gained three master’s degrees. She is currently writing her dissertation, entitled “Women Leaders in Iraqi Civil Society and American Women-in-Arms: An Army Officer’s Investigation into Similarities through Life Stories” for her completed interdisciplinary doctoral coursework for a PhD. Prior to serving as the Military Advisor for Policy and Strategy, she commanded the 470th Military Intelligence Brigade in San Antonio, Texas which provided regional intelligence on Central and South America for US Southern Command. Ingrid has developed and worked with many technologies during her time in the miliary and during her educational work and studies. She has given many different presentations and speeches in a number of settings, but primarily at universities and college campuses. She has created many proposal writings and publications including her most recent in 2018, “Developing a Big Data Strategy: Where We Are and Where We Need to Go” in the Military Intelligence Professional Bulletin and Small Wars Journal. She has received many awards and medals. She has many civilian awards as well. These include the Women in Justice Excellence Award from the College of Saint Elizabeth, 2016; an Honoris Causa and Doctor of Humane Letters from the College of Saint Elizabeth, 2016; a dissertation fellowship in the amount of $12,000 from the Graduate School, University of Maryland for superior research, 2014; a Director National Intelligence and National Counterterrorism Center Counterterrorism National Intelligence Professional Award for exemplary service for enhancing the collaboration and information sharing across all 17 intelligence agencies and most combatant commands, 2014; and was awarded $1000 from the Army Women’s Foundation Legacy Scholarship Program at the 6th Annual Army Women’s Foundation Summit on Capitol Hill for exemplary research in Women’s Studies in 2014.