PennWest Clarion Alumni Association presented its annual Distinguished Awards March 15 in Gemmell Student Center. The premier event was established in 1966 to recognize exceptional alumni and friends.

“The true measure of a university's greatness can be found in the achievements of its alumni and friends,” said Ann Thompson, PennWest Clarion executive director of Alumni Engagement. “Many Clarion graduates have made outstanding contributions to their profession, community and/or the university. The Alumni Association is proud to honor them.”

This award recognizes alumni and friends who, over an extended period of time and/or through a singular achievement, have achieved exemplary success in their own field, extraordinary service to Clarion, their community, state, nation or all of humanity. Through their citizenship, service, and caring and generous spirits, they have personified qualities and character for all Clarion students and graduates to emulate.


Distinguished Alumnus

Christopher Albrecht ‘95

In 1995, Christopher Albrecht was a recent graduate of Clarion University with a master’s in elementary education. In his first year of teaching, Albrecht was tasked to bring his entire K-8 school into the internet era. That year, which he documented in his first book, “Unconventionally Successful,” he empowered a group of 10 seventh graders to network hundreds of computers and create the first school web page in West Virginia history. For his pioneering work, he was recognized as the Sallie Mae First Class National Teacher of the Year (1996).

Returning to his hometown of Rochester, N.Y., in 1998, Albrecht taught grades four and five in suburban Brockport. His unique educational approach spanned a range of initiatives including Team Jomar, a group of over 50 runners with diverse ages and abilities started in 2016 by Albrecht and a fourth grader with cerebral palsy. His many state and national accolades include a CBS Golden Apple, the State University of New York’s Roy Bubb Award for Exceptional Teacher Mentorship (2017) and the New York State Teacher of the Year (2018).

In 2019, Albrecht was inducted into the National Teachers Hall of Fame. The following year, he published his second book, “The Rediscovery of Hope and Purpose,” and received the National Education Association Foundation’s Award for Teaching Excellence. In 2022, New York Gov. Kathy Hochel honored him with the Excellence in Education Award.

Albrecht spends his summers as a National Park Service ranger with a devotion to teaching and publishing about the power of outdoor education. He currently is stationed at Olympic National Park, Washington. In 2022, he received the National Park Service Star Award for exceptional service to the public.

Albrecht and his wife, Jenny, raised three children: Autumn, Cory and Aaron. He is working on a master’s degree in creative nonfiction at SUNY Brockport. 


Distinguished Alumna

Milissa Bauer ‘84

Milissa Bauer majored in business administration at Clarion University and swam under then-coach Dr. Rebecca Leas. She received a Bachelor of Science degree in 1984 and returned to Clarion in 1990 when she accepted a position with the Kriebel Companies.

In 2007, Bauer and her former coach partnered to create the Dr. Rebecca Rutt Leas Women’s Swimming Scholarship. Bauer was appointed to the Council of Trustees at Clarion University in 2012 and served on the Pennsylvania Council of Trustees from 2016 to 2022.

A vocal advocate for Clarion County, she supports educational and recreational efforts. Bauer and Al Lander, Esq., co-founded the Children’s Scholarship Fund of Pennsylvania. CSF of PA provides scholarships to students in pre-kindergarten through 12th grade across Pennsylvania whose families meet income guidelines, raising nearly $7 million for Clarion County students alone. Bauer was the Clarion County YMCA board president during the planning and building phase of its new facility. She and Lander served as co-chairs of the Capital Campaign Committee, which raised more than $12 million.

In 2018, Bauer joined Clarion County Economic Development, working with the state Department of Community & Economic Development to have two townships designated as Keystone Opportunity Zones. She also works with the CCEDC on developing and implementing the strategy for the 2030 Clarion County Connected Plan.  

In 2020, Bauer created Clarion County Adventures to help organizations develop, plan and fund community projects. She serves on the financial committee of Clarion Blueprint Community for construction of the multi-generational 2nd Avenue Blueprint Park in Clarion Borough and supports Rail 66 Country Trail in northern Clarion County.

Bauer received a Papal Honor award from Pope Benedict in 2006 and the title of Lady of Saint Gregory. In 2020, she received the Women of Influence Award from the Pittsburgh Business Times.

She and her husband, Todd Bauer, have a son, Zakary.


Distinguished Faculty

Dr. Dipendra Narayan Bhattacharya

Dr. Dipendra Narayan Bhattacharya, popularly known as Dr. Dip, began his career in 1962 as a physics teacher in his hometown, Varanasi, India. He worked at the Atomic Energy Establishment for a short time then again taught physics at a rural school in Mau, North India. He completed a Master of Science in mathematics in 1966, did extremely well and was appointed as a lecturer in mathematics at Banaras Hindu University the same year.

In 1968, Bhattacharya was awarded a teaching assistantship at the State University of New York Stony Brook, where he completed his Master of Science in applied mathematics. He then completed his Bachelor of Science in Education in mathematics and physics at Queen’s University Canada and taught mathematics for the Hamilton Board of Education in Ontario, Canada.

He received a teaching assistantship and resident advisor position at the State University of New York Buffalo and completed his doctorate in mathematics education in 1982. He worked as an instructor in the Gifted Math Program at SUNY Buffalo until he was hired by SUNY Fredonia as an assistant professor in 1984. In between, Bhattacharya received several teaching awards including Excellence in Teaching and Best Instructor for the Upward Bound program at SUNY Buffalo.

He joined Clarion University as an associate professor in 1986 and was promoted to full professor in 1990. Bhattacharya was known as a professor students could call at any time to get help with math, no matter what course they were taking. This was not limited to only Clarion students. He was a resource person to the students and teachers in and around Clarion County.

To inspire students to take math or math education courses, he donated $100,000 to the Clarion University Foundation, Inc., for use as scholarship funds.

He is enjoying his retirement as a professor emeritus, helping students to excel in math and chess.

He was unable to attend the awards presentation.


Distinguished Young Alumna

Lauren Bovard ‘16

Lauren Bovard graduated from Clarion University with a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration, concentrating in human resource management, in 2016. She was actively involved on campus, participating in the Society for Human Resource Management, working at the Alumni Association, and supporting Clarion University Athletics as a proud Clarion cheerleader. In 2015, she was honored as Miss Clarion University.

Post-graduation, Bovard embarked on her career in human resources, gaining diverse experience across various industries. Following her passion for people and the planet, Bovard joined Graham Packaging, a global leader in the design and manufacture of sustainable plastic packaging solutions. Since joining in 2018, she has become an integral part of the corporate human resources team. In her present role, Bovard specializes in employee relations, policy design and administration, training and facilitation, and talent management.

Bovard is dedicated to involvement in various community committees. She serves on the board at the Samaritan Counseling Center, a nonprofit organization committed to providing affordable counseling services, mental health awareness and teen suicide prevention in Lancaster County. She lends her expertise to the DEI Council at the Lancaster Society for Human Resource Managers, where she collaborates on community initiatives and educational workshops for other HR professionals. She recently became a member of the Clarion University Alumni Board of Directors.

Bovard is enrolled at Cornell University, pursuing a certification in organizational development and design. In May, she graduated from a nine-month program that taught her how to be an emerging leader in her career and community.

She credits Clarion University with playing a pivotal role in shaping her: “During my time at Clarion University, I had wonderful experiences, formed lasting relationships, and benefited from professors who genuinely cared about my education. These factors collectively equipped me with the courage and confidence needed to graduate and take on anything I set my mind to.”


Distinguished Service

Dr. Pamela J. Gent

Dr. Pamela J. Gent, daughter of Joyce and the late Paul L. Pogany, earned a Bachelor of Science in Education summa cum laude from Youngstown State and Master of Education and doctorate degrees from Kent State. In 1988, she began her 34-year tenure at Clarion. Hired as an assistant professor, she moved through the ranks to full professor, served for six years as chair of the Department of Special Education and Rehabilitation Sciences, four years as associate provost, and three years as provost, retiring in 2022 as provost emeritus.

During her tenure at Clarion, Gent taught approximately 1,250 special education block students. She published or presented more than 140 articles, chapters, and professional papers and authored over $750,000 in funded grants. Her book,“Great Ideas: Using service-learning and differentiated instruction to help your students succeed,” was published in 2009. She developed Clarion’s first Pennsylvania Department of Education-approved curriculum for autism. In 2019, Gent received the Pennsylvania Council of Exceptional Children President’s Award.

As provost and associate provost, Gent used her background in education and pedagogy to enhance both faculty teaching and student success, and she developed the first student resource pantry. The successful 2021-2022 Middle States Accreditation review was completed under her tenure. She garnered approval of eight new degree programs and 43 new minors, concentrations and/or certificates. She led the task force to develop seven-week online courses and infrastructure. This proved essential when the university pivoted to online instruction under Gent’s leadership during the pandemic. She co-led the Academic Affairs Functional Implementation Team for integrating Clarion, Edinboro and California universities into Pennsylvania Western University.

Gent served on the Clarion County Economic Development Council Board of Directors and volunteers for the Middle States Substantive Change Committee and Wickliffe Circle Christmas Committee. She and her husband, Rich, are the proud parents of two adult children.


Distinguished Alumna

Kári King-Hill ‘95

For 30 years, Kári King-Hill has been an active force in the professional world as an educator and administrator for institutions of higher education, as well as public, private and charter schools in Pennsylvania and New York. Hill notes that Clarion University propelled her on a lifelong pursuit of learning, community and public service, and a commitment to transform the lives of children and adults through academics and ministry.

A Philadelphia native, Hill went on to earn graduate degrees in education and a Pennsylvania Superintendent’s Letter of Eligibility. She has completed her coursework in the educational leadership doctoral degree program at Arcadia University.

With a combined tenure of 17 years as an elementary school principal, she has also worked as a classroom teacher, instructional coach, curriculum writer and school leader.

Hill has served in church ministry since the age of 6. At Faith Emanuel Baptist Church in Philadelphia, she was the first female licensed into the evangelical preaching ministry (1998) and the first female ordained minister (2006) in its history. Presently, Hill serves at Jones Memorial Baptist Church in Philadelphia. She was president of the Women’s Ministry for the Pennsylvania Eastern Keystone Baptist Association, a consortium of more than 100 churches. In 2019, the National Congress of Black Women presented Rev. Hill with the Anointed Vessel Clergy Award for outstanding ministerial service to her church and community.

In 2019, Hill was appointed to the Clarion University Presidential Diversity Advisory Committee, focusing on enhancing academic and student life for all students of color.

Her civic organization memberships include Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc.; Black Women’s Educational Alliance; and Teaching to Change Lives, Inc. An Air Force Reserve veteran, she is a sought-after preacher, revivalist, conference speaker and lecturer.

Hill resides in Collegeville, Pa., with her husband, the Rev. Warren Hill, and their daughter, Jessica.