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April 11, 1996

University Senate announces first community service award winners

Winners of the University Senate's first Community Service Recognition Awards include a children's health advocate, a community organization leader, a mental health nurse who helps abused women and grieving widows and widowers, and a church volunteer who is active in projects ranging from delivering hot meals to the elderly to organizing a gang-peace summit.

The four awardees will be honored at a May 10 luncheon at noon in the Chancellor's Suite, 12th floor, Bruce Hall.

The Senate's community relations and commonwealth relations committees started the awards to honor full-time Pitt faculty and staff who performed significant public service during the previous year — "regardless if [the service] is performed by the faculty or staff member on a voluntary basis, reimbursed by Pitt as part of the University's mission, or funded by a grant," according to the award guidelines.

Unlike the Chancellor's Distinguished Public Service Award, the Senate award is not limited to academic public service and does not provide a cash grant.

Senate leaders say they hope the awards will heighten awareness of Pitt faculty and staff contributions to the community. The Senate and Pitt's Commonwealth Relations office will invite Pennsylvania lawmakers to attend the awards luncheon and present certificates to winners from their districts.

The four awards recipients include:

* Mary Carrasco, associate professor of medicine, assistant professor of health services administration, and director of the community health section at Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh.

Mark A. Sperling, chairperson of the Children's Hospital pediatrics department and Carrasco's supervisor, credits her with persuading Children and Youth Services and city and county police to work with medical and social work staff at the hospital in preventing, and intervening in, cases of child abuse. "This team provides medical and psycho-social assessments of child abuse that are now crucial to the decisions made by child welfare and the police. Dr. Carrasco and her staff examine over 1,000 children who are suspected victims of child abuse and neglect," Sperling wrote in nominating her for the award.

Carrasco also helped to establish family support centers in Braddock, Rankin, Sto-Rox, Turtle Creek and Wilkinsburg. Each center is within walking distance of families in the area it serves, and each provides social and medical services such as home visits by nurses. "In Rankin, the infant mortality rate before Dr. Carrasco's nurses began their work was 11.2 deaths per 1,000 live births," Sperling wrote. "In the first three years of her program, the rate fell to 8.6 deaths per 1,000 live births. In the subset of Wilkinsburg in which this program operates, the infant mortality rate fell from 36.6 deaths per 1,000 live births to 19 deaths per 1,000 live births." With funding from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Carrasco also established a program to provide primary health care to thousands of foster children through Children's Hospital and a network of private physicians.

* Rose Constantino, associate professor, School of Nursing.

Janice L. Holmes, Pitt community health nursing coordinator and an assistant professor, wrote of her colleague: "Since 1992, Dr. Constantino has uniquely provided the combined services of a mental health nurse and pro bono attorney to abused women seeking court protection. Since 1990, she has also volunteered her services in helping widows and widowers whose spouses committed suicide." With funding from the National Institutes of Health, Constantino completed a research study of widows who survived the suicides of their spouses. Among other findings, the study indicated that at least 70 percent of the survivors experienced some form of abuse, especially verbal abuse, from their spouses prior to the suicide.

As an attorney, Constantino is assigned by Neighborhood Legal Services of Allegheny County to three or four cases each week by involving abused women and children who are seeking court protection.

"I believe Dr. Constantino has changed lives," Holmes wrote. "Her relentless efforts have made an impact on the mental health and well-being of many disadvantaged families as well as on the judicial system."

* Beatrice J. Grier, staff specialist III, Department of Africana Studies.

As an active member of the Nazarene Baptist Church since 1982, Grier has taught Sunday School and worked on a wide variety of projects. Africana studies chairperson Brenda Berrian wrote: "I have been especially impressed with Mrs. Grier's concern for and work with the African American youth. She has presided over many programs and sacrificed numerous evenings and Saturdays to organize events for them." In 1995, Grier developed a cultural learning program for Homewood youth. It included a lecture series held on 10 consecutive Saturdays. Grier arranged for Pitt professors and artists to participate.

Grier also delivers and serves hot meals to the disabled and elderly; collects and distributes clothes for the needy, and helps to maintain an emergency/crisis fund for church members.

During the city's Gang-Peace summit in May 1994, Grier, a Homewood resident, served as a liaison person and researcher.

* Kenneth M. Kornick, associate director of arts and sciences development, Office of Institutional Advancement.

During his nine years as a member of the board of Ursuline Center, Inc., Kornick served as board chairperson (1990-94) and chairperson for development and communications (1994-present). He led the center's efforts to develop a five-year strategic plan, hire a new executive director, acquire a new, favorable lease and become affiliated with the United Way. Kornick also developed the agency's first comprehensive marketing and promotional plan.

As a member of the Brentwood Development Corp. board, Kornick helped the organization to secure and administer a multi-million dollar grant from Allegheny County for revitalizing store fronts in the Brentwood business district.

He directs a basketball program for third-to-sixth grade boys in the Brentwood public schools and serves as a coach and pitching clinic director for Brentwood Athletic Association youth baseball.

As members of Concordia Lutheran Church, Kornick and his wife led the effort to establish the first before-school, extended kindergarten, and after-school program to serve the needs of working parents with children in Brentwood schools. Kornick also serves on the Yugoslavian Nationality Room Committee and the Pitt Alumni Association Legislative Network.

— Bruce Steele

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