Dominion VITA Award

Volunteers in the Arts (VITA) Awards

Dominion and WQED Multimedia Partner to Promote the Arts in Southwestern Pennsylvania.

Do you know a deserving volunteer who has devoted their time to an arts organization? This is your opportunity to formally recognize any deserving volunteers in the arts that show excellence in their volunteer area.

>Nominations for 2015 are now closed.

For 27 years, the Dominion VITA (Volunteer In the Arts) Awards, coordinated by WQED Multimedia, has honored dedicated individuals who have given their time and talents to ensure that the arts thrive in our region.

“The VITA Awards recognize the vitality volunteers bring to arts organizations,” said James Mesloh, executive director of the Dominion Foundation. “It is no surprise that Western Pennsylvania has wonderful arts organizations – it has wonderful arts volunteers. Dominion is proud to help honor them.”

A committee of Pittsburgh area professionals interested in celebrating this invaluable volunteer arts force selects the winners. Since its inception in 1988 Dominion has honored more than 240 volunteers from more than 170 arts organizations throughout western Pennsylvania. As a result numerous individuals and their organizations have been given recognition on WQED-TV, WQED-FM 89.3 and at the annual VITA Awards reception.

“As the nation’s first community-supported broadcaster, WQED has always relied on volunteers for support,” said Deborah L. Acklin, president and chief executive officer of WQED Multimedia. “Without dedication from members of the community, no arts organization could survive. We are so pleased that with Dominion we have been able to recognize, thank and be the voice for volunteers who have given of their time, talents and energy to support the non-profit arts community in Pittsburgh and the surrounding region.”

The 2015 VITA Award honorees are:

Kevin FarkasKevin Farkas is Director and Executive Producer of the Veteran Voices of Pittsburgh Oral History Initiative, an educational media organization that captures, preserves, and shares the experiences of local veterans. He is also director of multimedia with the Veterans Breakfast Club, a local nonprofit that creates communities of listening around veterans and their stories.

Kevin has produced hundreds of oral history interviews and multimedia projects, including audiobooks, dramas, podcasts, videos, and live storytelling events throughout Western Pennsylvania.  He is co-editor and publisher of Veteran Voices: The Magazine of the Veterans Breakfast Club, and his creative audio short story series based on local veterans has been noted by Donald Ritchie, Historian Emeritus of the United States Senate, as part of an important new genre of public-minded oral history.

“Every veteran has an important story to tell,” Kevin insists, “but a story not told is a story not heard.”  That’s why his work emphasizes the importance of sharing veterans’ stories in ways that inspire others to think and feel more deeply about military service—one of our most significant American institutions—and to recognize the humanity within veterans’ experiences.

At seventeen, Kevin enlisted in the US Navy and served aboard the USS Saratoga.  After his enlistment, he hiked the Appalachian Trail and traveled throughout the country by bicycle.  After attending New Mexico Highlands University and receiving degrees in English, he taught in several universities throughout the US, including the Navajo Nation.  Prior to starting the Veteran Voices of Pittsburgh Oral History Initiative, Kevin was corporate director of training in the electronics manufacturing industry.

Kevin is a native of Beaver County, Pennsylvania, where he now lives.

Geraldine Jackson-McCorrGeraldine Jackson-McCorr is an educator and Executive Director of the Center for Creative Arts Expression located in Beaver Falls, PA.  Throughout her career, Geraldine has sought to use art as a vehicle for expressing her own creativity, as well as to reach others inspiring them to pursue their own creative path. Geraldine holds an Associates degree in Visual Communications from the Art Institute of Pittsburgh and a Bachelors degree in Education from Indiana University of Pennsylvania.  Certified in Art K-12, she has been teaching Art in the Big Beaver Falls Area School District since 1999.

An accomplished artist in her own right, Geraldine has an extensive record of exhibitions, awards, and honors. Her works have been included in juried shows and she has served as a judge herself. She was awarded the Pittsburgh 250 Community Connections Grant for “ARTreprenurship”. In 2008, she was invited by First Lady Laura Bush to attend a White House Christmas reception where her holiday ornament was included as part of the official White House tree.

Through the CCAE, she has been able to host numerous art shows featuring the work of local artists, as well as providing instruction to youth and adults in a variety of creative arts forms.  The Center is open on a daily basis and has a series of programs available to all ages and skill levels.  In 2012, she opened Center for Creative Arts Music Annex to offer piano, guitar and violin lessons, as well as providing rehearsal space for area musicians. In the spring of 2015, she organized a trip to Europe for students, parents, and community members to experience some of the great works of England, France, and Italy.

Geraldine is married to the Rev. Walter D. McCorr and resides in her hometown of Beaver Falls, PA.

Virginia NetchiVirginia Netchi
Thinking of herself as a teacher first, Virginia has spent over 30 years teaching instrumental music in the Fox Chapel Area School District. With a BM in Music Education and a MM in Music History and Flute from West Virginia University, Virginia has been involved with community band and orchestra since graduating. All the while, she has been involved with the Butler Symphony. Her ‘music education’ continued allowing her to continue to learn and be challenged in much the same way as her young students. Without much behind the scenes knowledge, Virginia accepted the opportunity to learn what it takes to run an arts organization. Virginia quickly realized there are lots of lessons to be learned form the back of the hall.

Main Lesson Learned: No one does any job without assistance.
Board members assist during rehearsals, concerts and concert night with paper work and physical labor. Considering what it takes for an arts organization to survive and thrive, Virginia feels it is a privilege to be a part of one that has been in  that mode for 67 seasons. All due to the effort of many, many hard working, generous people.

Virginia and her husband Ron, who has played with the Butler Symphony, have two daughters; Nina who lives in Chicago and Nancy who lives in Pittsburgh

Edward F. RockmanEdward F. Rockman, CPA (Inactive)

Ed and his wife, Mary Ellen Johnson, have lived in Ben Avon Heights for 34 years. Children include Elena, who lives in Connecticut with her family, and Jonathan, who lives in San Francisco. Ed serves on the Board of the Society for Contemporary Craft and is its immediate past Chair. During his service, he has worked closely with Board and staff to enhance the financial strength and flexibility of the organization. He is currently the chair of the audit committee. He also serves on the audit committees of the national Arthritis Foundation and its Great Lakes Region. He and his wife are active members of the Unitarian Universalist Church of the North Hills, where he completed a three year term on the Board in June 2015, serving as President in 2013-2014.

Ed retired in 2007 as a partner at Alpern Rosenthal (now part of BDO), where he was head of Quality Control for the accounting and auditing practice. He headed the firm’s not-for-profit services group, serving numerous arts and other organizations. Ed has an extensive background in financial, accounting and auditing services for not-for-profit organization, with over 45 years in the profession.

A leading figure on the national accounting scene, Ed has been active in various roles within the CPA profession including as a member of the AICPA’s Auditing Standards Board. He is currently a co-author of audit manuals used by CPA firms across the country, including a guide for audits of not-for profit organizations.

Ed is a member of the American and Pennsylvania Institutes of Certified Public Accountants. He received his undergraduate degree from Dickinson College and holds an MBA from the University of Pittsburgh.

Becky TorbinBecky Torbin

After graduating from Duquesne University and working for five years for a national insurance company, Becky’s initial portal into the volunteer world was with the Pittsburgh Ballet Theater in 1974. Becky continues to serve the PBT to this day. When she began volunteering, the PBT was a new and struggling company with significant challenges. Her first endeavor was to raise much needed, a task that is just as important today. Becky joined the Guild volunteer organization and later formed a second volunteer organization of young couples to organize fundraising activities. Many of these young people were recruited to take positions of leadership on the Board in the coming years. While joining the PBT’s Board and eventually, the Executive Committee, Becky’s main focus was on fundraising and development. These efforts included: co-chairing the 1989 PBT Ball, chairing the 1990 PBT Ball, chairing the 1999 PBT Ball Auction, creating the Individual Gifts Committee in 2006 and chairing the 2008 Nordstrom Grand Opening Gala. The Individual Gifts Committee spun off the Patrons Circle of contributors and thus deepened the commitment and support of individual donors to PBT. Becky feels that being a part of the enormous transition of a ballet company from humble beginnings to become one of the finest companies in the country has been an amazing experience.

Concurrently, while serving the PBT, Becky was active with the following Pittsburgh area non-profits: the Junior League of Pittsburgh, the Pittsburgh Children’s Museum, the Carnegie Museum of Art Women’s Committee, Pittsburgh Zoo, Western PA Human Society, Pittsburgh Dance Council and Pittsburgh Council for International Visitors. In addition to the local organizations, while in Vero Beach, Florida Becky volunteers with: The Circle at the Vero Beach Museum of Art, Impact 100, HALO Animal Shelter and the National Elephant Center.

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