Esch receives staff recognition award

Staff association honors work during pandemic

Rick Esch

Rick Esch, vice president for business affairs at the University of Pittsburgh at Bradford, was chosen by his fellow staff members to receive the university’s Staff Recognition Award for his leadership in helping the campus navigate the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We never would have gotten through this challenging time without Rick,” said Dr. Catherine Koverola, Pitt-Bradford’s president. “He is the bedrock of Pitt-Bradford and embodies servant leadership.”

Esch was nominated for the award by Kathy Moonan, manager of accounts payable who has worked with Esch for many years; and James Baldwin, vice president for enrollment management, and Pat Frantz Cercone, executive director of communications and marketing, who serve with Esch on the President’s Cabinet.

“His leadership enhanced the safety and well-being of all concerned during a time when almost everything was uncertain,” Moonan wrote in her nomination. “This stability provided a needed sense of security during a difficult time.”

For nearly 18 months, Esch, who oversees several campus departments, including budget and financial reporting, auxiliary services and facilities management, has represented Pitt-Bradford and Pitt-Titusville on the Chancellor’s Resilience Steering Committee and has worked closely with Pitt’s COVID-19 Medical Response Office. He also has collaborated with local, regional and state agencies, including the McKean County and Crawford County Emergency Management agencies, UPMC and Bradford Regional Medical Center.

Baldwin said, “Rick has provided leadership in responding to COVID-19 such that safety for students, faculty, and staff was maximized; disruptions were minimized; communications flowed; and teams worked well together.

“I personally know that Rick’s days started before sunrise and ended long after sunset. He worked those same hours on most weekends.”   

Esch also assembled and led a COVID-19 Mitigation Response Team, which included representatives from most offices at Pitt-Bradford and Pitt-Titusville. Under his leadership, the team successfully implemented many changes on campus, including testing asymptomatic students weekly; isolating and quarantining symptomatic students; adapting the physical plant, including the dining hall and classrooms, to enable physical distancing; purchasing masks, signage and other materials; and identifying vaccinations sites. 

“It shouldn’t be forgotten,” Cercone added, “that Rick did all of this while still performing all of his other important duties. And, during this incredible time of change, Rick led with patience and calm, despite the frustrations, the disappointments, and the last-minute changes.” 

Esch, who is a 1983 Pitt-Bradford alumnus, started his career at his alma mater in 1994 as the director of auxiliary services. In 1999, he was named chief business and administrative affairs officer, and in 2003 was promoted to vice president for business affairs.

He holds a Master of Business Administration from the University of Pittsburgh Katz School of Business Executive MBA program and a Bachelor of Science in environmental science from Pitt-Bradford.

The annual Staff Recognition Award honors employees whose performance consistently exceeds the standards and expectations set for their position at the university or whose work in the community surpasses the expectations of the organizations for whom they serve and whose commitment and effort have made a significant impact on the community.

Esch is also active in the community, including serving as president and a charter member of the Tuna Valley Trail Association, a board member and vice chairman of the Bradford Economic Development Corp., and a member and past chairman of Journey Health System.