Meet Alumnus Vera Spina

Penn State alumnus Vera Spina (photo courtesty of Vera Spina)

By Melissa Gemballa

“I’m here to ‘wow’ you,” Kelly Sieja declared at the January meeting of the Alle-Kiski Society (AKS), the local chapter of the Penn State Alumni Association.

Sieja, an applied psychology major and THON Chair at Penn State New Kensington, revealed that THON’s current fundraising efforts totaled $32 thousand, with two canning weekends still to go. This total was already in excess of that reached in the previous year, which incidentally had set a campus record. Sieja, however, was still not satisfied. She confided to the AKS board that she would like to reach $50 thousand.

“Oohing” and “aahing” louder perhaps than anybody else was Vera Spina, one of the youngest members of the AKS board. Having served as THON Chair during her time at Penn State New Kensington, she recalls the work needed to raise just $10 thousand. In fact, Spina created the first ever Mr. PSU pageant to aid fundraising efforts during her time in office. Male contestants solicited sponsors, modeled casual, evening, and even swim wear, and finally subjected themselves to a Q & A session as part of the competition. The event not only generated the needed funds but also features as one of Spina’s most cherished memories. She claims that the pageant scepter and crown are most likely still stored somewhere on campus.

In addition to THON, Spina participated in the Drama Club and served as president of Lion Ambassadors during her two years at the New Kensington campus. She spent her final two years at University Park and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in journalism with a minor in political science in 2003. Spina currently works as a contract compliance coordinator for the Westmoreland County Courthouse.

Her job, of course, does not define her. Spina openly admits that she is a “neat freak” and is “crazy-organized.” She enjoys shopping and baking and shines her brightest at Christmastime. No surprise that she’s a fan of the Food Network, Bobby Flay and Guy Fieri in particular. She also watches “Bones,” “CSI,” and has just recently discovered “Glee,” citing her favorite episode thus far as “The Rocky Horror Glee Show.”

Spina also revealed a burning “need” to own a wiener dog (I believe the politically correct term here is “dachshund”). She is an avid sports fan, following the Penguins, the Steelers, and, of course, the Nittany Lions. In fact, “Stanley” is a forerunner on the list of possible names she has made for her future wiener dog. Spina has an intellectual side as well, unhesitatingly pronouncing “Catcher in the Rye” as her favorite book. She identifies quite naturally with the rebellious spirit of the novel, which is in keeping with her life’s theme of “bigger, badder…better.”

Already familiar with the AKS through her association with THON, Spina began attending meetings shortly after graduation and officially became a board member in 2004. Always one to get her hands dirty, she began organizing events such as a Just Ducky Tour for alumni and students and most recently, along with fellow board member Ashley Traini, the Alumni Central Tent at last year’s Fall Festival. She enjoys the camaraderie of the AKS, noting “the love of the blue and white” as a common bond that cannot be found in the workplace.

Spina feels strongly that alumni should be “cheerleaders for the students.” She understands well the challenges that students face but encourages them to “thrive in every minute of it.” Recalling her own glory days at Penn State New Kensington, she fervently declares that she would exchange “18 credits, three clubs, and a broken ankle” (sustained during a campus Powder Puff football game) for the hassles of the real world any day.

Find Vera Spina and other local alumni by searching “Alle-Kiski Society, Penn State Alumni Association” on Facebook. For more information about meetings or events, contact Melissa Gemballa, SGA Alumni Affairs Rep, by e-mail at mag5320@psu.edu.

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