BY TOM LAVIS
Businessman Mark Pasquerilla has an abiding pride in the city of Johnstown and the things that made it great.
That is part of the reason he serves on the Johnstown Area Heritage Association’s board of directors.
Pasquerilla’s association with JAHA began with the flood centennial events led by Richard Mayer in 1989.
At that time, he never imagined that he would one day serve as board chairman.
“When speaking about downtown Johnstown, JAHA has been able to provide a network of tourist attractions that serve more than 70,000 visitors, and who come away with a positive impression of the city and pride in its heritage,” Pasquerilla said.
“We offer world-class exhibits on the history of Johnstown and how our city fits into the American immigration/melting pot story.”
The board meets bimonthly at Heritage Discovery Center and meetings are generally well-attended.
The executive committee, which also serves as the finance committee, conducts a weekly conference call.
Board members serve three-year terms with officers elected annually.
Select board members work with the staff directly on aspects of JAHA operations.
“Our board had a vision to move the story of Johnstown beyond the flood, and we have,” Pasquerilla said.
“This network of museums and historic districts are also an important resource for regional schools, so we formed a partnership agreement with 37 school districts.”
Pasquerilla’s duties as chairman have been formidable.
“I became chair when JAHA was planning to start construction on Peoples Natural Gas Park, and launch the silent phase of its capital campaign,” he said.
“About six months ago, our director (Richard Burkert) took a leave to get a successful kidney transplant, so this job has been challenging to say the least.”
In regard to Burkert, Pasquerilla said JAHA has no greater champion when it comes to preserving the history of Johnstown.
“Richard lives and breathes the history of this city and our facilities represent a lifetime of work for him,” Pasquerilla said.
“Richard is determined to make Johnstown a larger tourist attraction because we have a real story to tell.”
There have been many changes in board members in the past several years. There is a limit of 19 members. The term is three years with a two consecutive-term limit. Replacement is by nomination, followed by election.
“We always welcome new, potential members who bring fresh ideas and help us in our development mission,” he said.
The board is always open to suggestions. Pasquerilla pointed to the recently installed exhibition at the discovery center focusing on the Jewish community in Johnstown.
“It was in direct response to a request for JAHA’s help in celebrating the 125th anniversary of the Johnstown community’s founding,” Pasquerilla said.
“The exhibit was funded by the Community Foundation that had interest in the Jewish community. The opening was a major homecoming for our important Jewish community.”
In addition, Pasquerilla touted JAHA’s Flood City Music Festival, which he called one of the finest roots music celebrations in the eastern United States.
“We also have an outdoor music venue that is second-to-none between Pittsburgh and Harrisburg,” he said.
“We offer sophisticated yearlong music opportunities as a yearlong continuation of the summer festival.”
Pasquerilla also complimented the tremendous effort of volunteers who labor to make the music festival a success.
“The chairman of this event is Todd Wagner, who puts in countless hours of time and is not on JAHA’s payroll,” Pasquerilla said.
Pasquerilla credits a team spirit among board members who are dedicated to JAHA’s success and the accomplishment of its mission.
He said board members offer business skills, advocacy, even hands-on skills.
“We are grateful for their time and talent,” Pasquerilla said.
“Our board members are a mixture of businesspeople, with some academics, retirees and government officials blended in for good measure.”
As a longtime board member, Pasquerilla learned early that virtually all museums operate in the red.
“It requires a great deal of annual operating support for museums to break even, but the benefits of museums to the community as a whole are enormous,” he said.
Increased public support is needed to continue the mission.
“Our board wants to be a major partner in revitalizing the central core of Johnstown in the coming decade,” he said.
He encouraged people who believe that telling the Johnstown story is important or want sophisticated musical entertainment for adults, should become members of JAHA.
“We need the public’s support to sustain our programs and operations, and to continue to enhance the quality of life in Johnstown,” Pasquerilla said.
Board of directors
Officers and members of the board of directors of Johnstown Area Heritage Association are:
Chairman: Mark E. Pasquerilla, Westmont.
First vice chairman: Edward J. Sheehan Jr., Westmont.
Second vice chairman: Elmer C. Laslo, Richland Township.
Treasurer: John J. Saracena, Westmont.
Secretary: Lana Custer, Westmont.
Assistant treasurer: Todd Wagner, Westmont.
Legal counsel: Mike Parrish, Westmont.
Karen Azer, Westmont.
Mary Ann Bennear, Upper Yoder Township.
Mary P. Borkow, Westmont.
Paul Carpenter, Westmont.
Brad Clemenson, Westmont.
Tim Dabbs, Westmont.
Edward L. Dreikorn III, Westmont.
John H. Follansbee III, Upper Yoder Township.
Dr. Jyothi Kamal Gella, Westmont.
Carole Gigliotti, Rydal, Montgomery County.
George Griffith, Westmont/Ligonier.
Lee Manges, Pittsburgh.
Richard Mayer (life trustee), Upper Yoder Township.
Ron Repak, Richland Township.
E.R. Walker, Westmont.
David F. Ward, Stahlstown.
Keith Newlin (ex-officio), Martinsburg.
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