COLUMBUS — A former area resident was among The Ohio State University’s four most dedicated and generous supporters, recently honored with the institution’s highest honors for philanthropy and volunteerism.
Catherine Zavatsky Baumgardner, valedictorian of Wintersville High School’s class of 1980 and a graduate of OSU where she received her bachelor’s degree in business administration and her master’s degree in health administration, was named the recipient of the John B. Gerlach Sr. Development Volunteer Award, Recognize “great dedication and personal investment in university fundraising efforts.”
Georgie Shockey was also honored in this capacity while George and Justine “Tina” Skestos was awarded the Everett D. Reese Medal, the university’s highest honor in recognition of outstanding service in private philanthropy.
Baumgardner is the daughter of George and Mary Styrcula Zavatsky of Bloomingdale’s.
“The word ‘philanthropy’ has its roots in the Greek and Latin words for ‘kindness, benevolence and love of mankind’, and I can’t think of better examples of these worthy traits than George and Tina Skestos, Catherine Baumgardner and Georgie Shockey,” said President Kristina M. Johnson of the distinguished recipients at the Celebration of Excellence held Sept. 29 at the College of Veterinary Medicine on the Ohio State campus.
“Their generosity and vision advance the innovations of our researchers, energize our faculty, and encourage our students to pursue – and achieve – their highest educational aspirations through scholarships. We are grateful for their continued commitment and support to the State of Ohio, and we will continue to strive to uphold the high standards they have set,” Sketos added.
Baumgardner and the three other winners are “Model leaders who care deeply about the State of Ohio and the people we serve. Their important contributions will lead to a brighter future for all of us,” said Michael C. Eicher, Ohio State’s senior vice president for advancement and chairman of the Ohio State University Foundation.
“Our university is forever changed because of their philanthropic support and generous investment of time.”
Engaged with the university on a voluntary basis for many years, Baumgardner, according to a press release, served on numerous committees and the alumni advisory council before being chosen to serve on the association’s board of directors. ancient. She was elected to a two-year term as president in 2019, “and while ensuring the board remained remarkably productive throughout the pandemic, she led the transitions of alumni association president and CEO and university president.”
The association has nearly 590,000 graduates from around the world.
Baumgardner “loyally gave to areas of the university for three decades, including establishing a scholarship in honor of her parents, the Women’s Scholarship Fund, and Styrcula-Zavatsky Family Philanthropy.”
“I hope to inspire others to give of their time, talent and treasure, as they define their own Buckeye traditions and legacies,” commented Baumgardner, who is an associate professor and director of professional development and student engagement at Penn State University’s School of Public Policy and president of Catherine Baumgardner & Associates Inc., a consulting firm specializing in career development. leadership and organization.
“My volunteer journey at Ohio State has been the adventure of a lifetime, and I can’t wait to see what lies ahead,” noted Baumgardner, who resides in Lancaster, Pa., with her husband, Brad. They have two adult children, Julia and Will.
Asked about her thoughts on receiving the award, Baumgardner replied via email that “I am so humbled and honored to receive this incredible recognition for the volunteer work I do for the State of Ohio. To be celebrated in the presence of my family has been the experience of a lifetime. I am so blessed to to be able to impact the past, present and future of the Buckeyes with my work.I also have to admit that I am still in shock and it is much easier for me to recognize than to be recognized.
Serving in a volunteer capacity with Ohio State has been important to Baumgardner, who has been involved as a volunteer leader for the past 20 years.
“I started in 1999 as a member of the External Honors and Scholars Advisory Council, which later led to me representing undergraduate studies and admissions on the Alumni Advisory Council (advisory committee to the President of university) which I chaired for two years”, Baumgardner had explained in a 2020 Herald-Star article that she had been elected chair of the board of the OSU Alumni Association. His next stop was a member of the Ohio State University Health Plan Board of Trustees, Executive Committee and Planning Committee of the College of Public Health Institute of Management, member of the Board of Trustees of the Ohio State University Alumni Association (serving as treasurer for two years) then president of this group.
Baumgardner’s two terms as chairman of the OSU alumni association board have since ended, but not this one’s experience.
“Working with the Ohio State leadership team as we navigate these unprecedented circumstances has been a test of Buckeye’s resilience and perseverance…and has been a great joy,” noted Baumgardner, who now works closely with the College of Public Health Alumni Society and is a member of the Ohio State University Foundation Board Development Committee.
Creation of the scholarship to honor his parents and grandparents “means so much” to Baumgardner, who explained that recipients meet certain criteria, including Jefferson, Belmont, or Harrison counties. The first recipient is Kayana Jones, a third-year student at OSU who graduated from Martins Ferry High School and whose father graduated from Indian Creek High School.
“I know I wouldn’t be where I am today without their sacrifices,” Baumgardner said of his parents and grandparents. “Thanks to their help and the help of scholarships, I was able to graduate without any debt. I wanted to be able to return these kindnesses to future students and their families. I started by sponsoring an annual scholarship in honor of my parents and grandparents and got to a point a few years ago where I endowed the scholarship to live on in perpetuity for the honor and help others,” she says.
“I decided to staff earlier rather than later in life so they can enjoy meeting the students who are being helped.”
Credits Baumgardner “so many more examples of Ohio Valley Buckeye” as inspiration for her volunteer work for the State of Ohio.
They include his mother, College of Nursing Class of 1961, “who taught me the OHIO song and the Buckeye battle cry before the nursery rhymes; my dad for those crisp Saturdays listening to Buckeye football on the radio; and Anthony Violi, class of 1946, who was the director of my orchestra in college and the wonderful Buckeye. He dotted the i’s at 100 and passed away a few years ago, but he was a great friend and mentor to name a few. she says.