The Greater Latrobe Partners in Education Foundation is pleased to announce Dawna Joyce Richards Bates as the 2024 Alumni of Distinction Honoree. Mrs. Bates will be honored at the annual Loyal & True Dinner to be held on Thursday, March 14th at Saint Vincent College’s Fred Rogers Conference Center. The Alumni of Distinction Award was established to acknowledge excellence among alumni of the Greater Latrobe School District. This award recognizes outstanding levels of professional achievements, service to the community and/or service to the Greater Latrobe School District.
Mrs. Bates grew up in Latrobe and was a member of the last graduating class in 1966 from the former Greater Latrobe High School on Ligonier Street. She earned a bachelor degree, and a master’s degree from Slippery Rock University. Mrs. Bates started her teaching career at Donora High School as a Health and Physical Education teacher. She then returned to her alma mater to teach at Pleasant Unity, Sixth Ward and Northern Area schools. During her 36 years in education she taught at the Junior High, Mountain View, Baggaley and Latrobe Elementary Schools, she became Department Head for Health and Physical Education, was the longtime 6th Grade Camp Director and coached Junior High girls basketball for 24 years.
Mrs. Bates married her high school sweetheart, Craig Robert Bates, in 1970. They have a daughter, Jody, who graduated from Greater Latrobe School District in 1996. Jody is married to Mitch Marklow and lives in Pittsburgh where she is a Project Manager for Planning, Design, & Construction for the University of Pittsburgh and is a registered Architect.
One of Mrs. Bates career highlights was when she was hired to be coach of the new Junior High Girls Basketball Team in 1982. Eventually, there would be 3 separate teams by grade and Mrs. Bates remained the 7th grade team coach until her retirement in 2006. After her retirement, Mrs. Bates remained 6th Grade Camp Director and helped move the camp location to Heritage Reservation and the great tradition of 6th Grade Camp continues for current students.
Mrs. Bates shared, “I had the honor to work and attend Sixth Grade Camp for over 40 years and be the Camp Director for 15 years. I am very proud of being a part of this educational experience that creates so many great memories. Students will tell you that this is one of the best memories of their education. Our district has been able to provide our students, since 1976, with this outstanding unforgettable educational experience. Some students would not have been able to ever have this outdoor educational experience if the school district did not provide it.”
Another career highlight for Mrs. Bates came from the American Heart Association (AHA) in 1987 when they asked GLSD to start a Jump Rope Demonstration team to help promote their Jump Rope For Heart Project. Many states had Demonstration teams and they wanted to start one in PA. Mrs. Bates shared, “The school district gave permission for me to lead this initiative and begin traveling regionally to put on demonstrations. The first year we had 100 students who tried out from grades K-6 who were divided into 3 teams-10 students each. In 1990 the school district wanted the Jump Rope Team to include all three elementary schools. Because of the amount of interest, we increased to 5 teams and those students who were on the team in 6th grade could continue to be on the team. The Jump Rope Team through the years performed at over 300 schools, numerous events, including the State Capital, and even filmed a public service video with the former Lt. Governor Mark Singel and former Steeler Robin Cole.” Through her work on the Jump Rope Team, Mrs. Bates received numerous awards, served on the Westmoreland Division of AHA board and was a part of the GLSD school community efforts to raise over $500,000 in support of this AHA initiative. In addition to her impactful career in education, Mrs. Bates has been and continues to be a very active community volunteer.
Mrs. Bates began volunteering with the American Red Cross in 1970. Mrs. Bates says, “I started out as an Instructor Trainer/Instructor of First Aid and CPR which I continue today. I have provided instruction to many students and teachers throughout the area. Each year I am happy to provide Greater Latrobe and Derry Area support personnel with First Aid and CPR training.” Mrs. Bates helped to secure funding for AEDs for all the schools. She served on disaster teams across the area as a shelter manager and received the Clara Barton Award in 1992, and the Carol Navarre Memorial Award in 2009.
Her service with the American Red Cross would be forever changed on September 11, 2001. Mrs. Bates remembers her original days following the tragic events of September 11, “The local Red Cross was asked to prepare to provide food and shelter if planes needed to land in Latrobe. Later that night we were told we could stand down, that all planes were down. The Red Cross then asked for immediate assistance at the Flight 93 plane crash site in Shanksville, PA. GLSD granted permission for Dr. Gene Leonard and I to volunteer at the site. We helped provide support for all the first responders and families for the first week following the crash. I had the opportunity to place an angel that I made in remembrance of the victims and as I and Roseann Jioio placed the angel a news reporter took a picture of us hugging as that would be our last day there. This picture ended up in the Reader’s Digest and was later decided by the design committee to be a permanent part of the display in the Flight 93 Visitor Center. On the 20th anniversary I placed a replica of the original angel and she stands there proudly today.”
Mrs. Bates has continued to volunteer at the Flight 93 crash site, which became the Flight 93 National Memorial, as she wanted to help to keep September 11 as a day that our country would never forget. She has assisted with cultural resources, the oral history project, historical interpretation and numerous educational projects. In 2012, Mrs. Bates became a Flight 93 Ambassador, directly assisting hundreds of thousands of people who visit the memorial every year. Mrs. Bates states, “I continue my volunteer efforts in observance of all who were lost on September 11, 2001, and in particular, the passengers and crew of United Airlines Flight 93. Along with being a National Park Service volunteer, I am also a member of the Friends of Flight 93.” The Friends of Flight 93, the official non-profit supporting partner of Flight 93 National Memorial, focus on sharing the Flight 93 story and educating the next generation about the events of September 11, 2001. The Friends provide volunteer and financial support for projects at Flight 93 National Memorial by raising funds and providing support for the National Park Service.
One of her other long standing volunteer efforts is with the 4th of July Celebration Committee where she has been involved since 1976. She was co-coordinator of the 4th of July Intrafaith Patriotic Service for many years with Mary Stynchula and has served as the coordinator since 2012. Additionally, Mrs. Bates volunteered to help with the building of Playland and coordinate summer basketball camps for Latrobe Parks and Recreation. She has served as a board member with the Latrobe Area Historical Society. Mrs. Bates is a talented quilt maker and has donated over 15 quilts to charitable organizations including one of her proudest that earned the charitable organization over $8,000 during a live auction.
Mrs. Bates is a lifelong member of Bethany Church and has served in various positions such as choir director, trustee, administration board chair, choir and bell choir, Sunday school teacher and a member of mission team volunteering in several states. Mrs. Bates’ talents as a gifted baker are very useful for Bethany Church’s Annual Homemade Fondant Easter Egg sale and she has been making these special treats for over 50 years.
Tickets to the Loyal & True Dinner are $50 and may be purchased on Eventbrite.com – search for Loyal & True. The Class of 1974 will also be recognized in honor of their 50th reunion year. All event proceeds benefit the GLPIEF Annual Fund.