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McMahon receives Wagner LHU Achievement Award for leading LHU's COVID Institutional Response Team

Beth McMahon

In 2019, Dr. Beth McMahon retired after 22 years of teaching in Lock Haven University’s Health Science Department. She had no idea that just a few months later a global pandemic would bring her back to The Haven, but when she received the call asking her to become LHU’s COVID coordinator she knew it was an opportunity she couldn’t pass up.

“Service is in my soul. It’s in my DNA. It’s what inspires me,” McMahon said. “I was so honored when I got that call [from former LHU President Robert Pignatello] and so proud to work with such a remarkable group of people.”

Lock Haven University has been a model of success as McMahon, along with her recently appointed successor, Jessica Abernathy, and the group of students, faculty and staff that formed LHU’s Institutional Response Team (IRT) have developed and implemented mitigation strategies to help keep The Haven community safe from COVID.

For her service — along with her philanthropic support — McMahon is the recipient of the 2021 Wagner Lock Haven University Achievement Award. Presented at LHU’s annual James C. Reeser Scholarship Brunch, the Wagner Award is given each year to an individual or individuals whose extraordinary and genuine efforts come from the heart and have impacted others at Lock Haven University in a positive way.

Not only did McMahon oversee the university’s Institutional Response Team from August 2020 until June 2021, but along with physician assistant program director Anna Mae Smith, chief administration and finance officer Deana Hill, and LHU students McCartney Register and Luke Kreider, she is responsible for establishing the Be the Solution Award.

The Be the Solution Award was inspired by the brave members of the LHU family who modeled tireless commitment, self-discipline, grace, persistence, and determination and refused to succumb to COVID’s many challenges. The award will engage LHU students into taking social responsibility to develop creative solutions to complicated problems and ultimately better the world in which they live. 

McMahon has pledged to match the first $5,000 in contributions to the scholarship with a $5,000 donation of her own. She is hoping that faculty and staff will help to fund the scholarship for the outside-the-box-thinking students eager to solve the world’s problems of tomorrow.

Throughout her teaching career, McMahon worked alongside LHU students and faculty to conduct community-based participatory research. One of her research lines included implementing focus groups to investigate high school students’ perspectives on mental health issues and at-risk behaviors in the high school population.

Over the past 15 years, her students presented at local, state and national conferences and in 2018 they were honored as the Pennsylvania Rural Health Program of the Year, an achievement McMahon described as one of the proudest in her career. In 2020 McMahon, Dr. Jennifer Rudella, and LHU students Kara Wendling, Alexa Paredes, and McCartney Register also had research published in the American Journal of School Health for their focus group results.

McMahon said she has major concerns about how living through COVID-19 may have long-term effects on Gen Z’s academic performance, professional development, mental health, and overall wellbeing, but she also believes the commitment LHU made during one of the most vulnerable times in students’ lives will assist them in building resiliency that will last a lifetime. 

McMahon is no longer COVID Coordinator, but she is still a volunteer for the IRT and will continue to assist in any way she can be of service.

“We are in a once-in-a-century pandemic,” McMahon said. “I’ve worked with community and public health coalitions my whole career. If you’re in the health and science field and you don’t get motivated by a once in a lifetime pandemic, something’s wrong.”

Anyone interested in making a gift to the Be the Solution Award can do so at www.givegab.com/campaigns/be-the-solution-award or by contacting Major Gift Officer Jeff Ross at jtr1152@lockhaven.edu.

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