Putting Others First

Issue Date: 
March 30, 2009
Robert M. and Georgia C. HernandezRobert M. and Georgia C. Hernandez

For Elyssa Gerst, helping others and serving her community comes first.

The Pitt senior, who is double majoring in psychology and communication, will graduate in April. In addition to serving as vice president of finance for her sorority, Alpha Epsilon Phi, Gerst works as a research assistant and as a sexual-assault peer educator. She participates in activities at The Edward and Rose Berman Hillel Jewish University Center and also was active in the 2008 U.S. Presidential campaign. While many students Gerst’s age are focused on building impressive résumés, she is working to make a positive impact on others.

Gerst’s passion for making a difference made her an excellent selection for the Selma N. Hernandez Scholarship Fund, established in July 2000 by Robert M. and Georgia C. Hernandez. The fund supports merit scholarships for Pitt School of Arts and Sciences students. The gift was matched by the United States Steel Foundation.

Gerst received the award at the beginning of the 2008-09 academic year and says it was a most welcome gift.

“I’m paying for college myself, so receiving this scholarship right before my senior year began was a great feeling,” Gerst explains. “I notice myself worrying less and enjoying my last months here as a student. Paying rent is no longer a burden, and I can look forward to the future.”

Robert Hernandez says he and his wife created the fund “to honor my mother and meet an important undergraduate need in the University. By establishing the Selma N. Hernandez Scholarship Fund, not only will her name live on, but we are also helping deserving students.”

Hernandez earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in economics and mathematics in Pitt’s College of Arts and Sciences in 1966 and a Master of Business Administration degree in the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania in 1968. He serves as vice chair on Pitt’s Board of Trustees; he retired as USX’s vice chair and chief financial officer in 2001. Hernandez is currently chair of the board of RTI International Metals, Inc., one of the world’s largest producers of titanium, and chair of the board of the BlackRock Open End Equity-Bond Mutual Fund Complex. He is also a director of ACE Limited, Tyco Electronics Corporation, and Eastman Chemical Company.

After graduation this spring, Gerst plans to spend a year gaining hospital experience before applying to graduate school to earn a PhD in psychology. (Brittney Gillison also contributed to this story)