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Lifelong justice advocate establishes scholarship for Bourger Women with Children Program at Misericordia

Rosemary Dvorsky Gido ’67, Ph.D., has spent her entire professional career ensuring that the societal tenets that she learned as a college student from the Sisters of Mercy – those of Mercy, Service, Justice and Hospitality – are not forgotten when it comes to the care of the more than two million inmates currently incarcerated in U.S. prisons.

The Wilkes-Barre native and daughter of second generation immigrants experienced her first look at social justice concerns as a student at G.A.R. High School, when she completed an internship at the Wilkes-Barre Area School District’s Pupil Personnel Office in 1962. It was there that she found her passion – a need to ensure justice for those who found themselves on the wrong side of what is right. For the past 58 years, she has been a student of criminology and a tireless advocate for all facets of care and concern for prisoners, including the unanticipated health care crisis brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Never encouraged to go to college, the valedictorian of her 1963 high school class used her strong business skills to secure a job as a secretary in an advertising firm following graduation. There a co-worker told her about the academic programs offered at what was then College Misericordia. It was while taking classes in the evening and on weekends that she met Sister Mary Hildegarde, RSM, an education professor and future mentor who helped find a scholarship for her so she could attend full time.

“It was very fortuitous. I thank God for places like Misericordia, where there is a strong social justice mentality,” Dr. Gido says looking back on her college education. “Sister Mary Hildegarde and the other faculty carried the Mulier Fortis (valiant woman) spirit in their heads and their hearts. I was so lucky they took me under their wing.”

A stellar undergraduate student, she took honors classes and worked in the Admissions Office for Sister Mary Virginia. Dr. Gido earned her B.A. in Sociology and Education magna cum laude from Misericordia in 1967. She happily adds that an additional benefit of attending Misericordia was that she met her future husband, John A. Gido, at a dance at King’s College. They were married a year after her graduation.

Dr. Gido began her career teaching high school sociology classes in the Pittsburgh area. Once married, the couple moved to Schenectady, New York, and while there, Rosemary earned a masters in sociology at the State University of New York (SUNY) at Albany. They expanded their family with the birth of two sons, Stephen and Jeffrey.

Dr. Gido returned to school part time and presented her dissertation on jail admission rates in New York State, to earn her Ph.D. in Sociology of Crime and Deviance at SUNY Albany in 1985.

Her illustrious career includes work with the New York Commission of Correction, where she conducted the first of its kind study in the country on inmate mortality due to the AIDS virus in the N.Y. correctional population. A paper on the study was honored by the National Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences.

The family returned to Pennsylvania in 1991, relocating to Boalsburg, where both Rosemary and John took positions at Penn State University in nearby State College. Both sons are graduates of the university, with degrees in finance.

Rosemary was among a group of Penn State faculty that included former police officers from New York City who revamped the university criminology program, earning her an outstanding teaching award in the university’s College of Liberal Arts. She did a five-week residency in 1997 and 2001 in Templemore, County Tipperary, Ireland, teaching classes and conducting research at the Irish police college for the Garda Síochána, the country’s peace-based police force.

Her career accomplishments earned her Misericordia University’s Mother Mary Catherine McGann Alumni Award in 1996 for outstanding contributions in the fields of education and criminology.

Dr. Gido accepted a fulltime tenured teaching position in the Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice at Indiana University of Pennsylvania (IUP) in 1997 and is happy to report she is still in contact with many of the undergraduate, master’s and Ph.D. students she had the pleasure of teaching and mentoring. She was named Professor Emerita upon her retirement from IUP in 2011.

Sadly, John passed away in 2017, following a career as a project manager with General Electric Co., and years with Penn State University as director of PenTAP and head of the Penn State Economic and Workforce Development program. He was author of the book, “Successful Project Planning,” in its seventh edition at the time of his passing. Rosemary is blessed with her wonderful sons and their families: Steve and Teresa and Sophie (12) of Arlington, Virginia, and Jeff and Wendy and Matthew (21), Alex (18), Allison (16) and Meghan (15) of Saddle River, New Jersey.

Based on her experience garnered from decades of writing and presentations focused on corrections, alternatives to prison, jails and HIV-AIDS, Rosemary co-authored the book “Turnstile Justice,” (1998 and 2000) on major issues facing corrections, and published “Women’s Mental Health Issues Across the Criminal Justice System,” (2009) regarding women’s mental health needs from arrest through community reentry from prison.

Reflecting on her career from the deck of her Boalsburg home, Dr. Gido lists among her proudest accomplishments her work with The Prison Journal (TPJ), an academic peer reviewed journal, which has been published since 1848 by the Pennsylvania Prison Society (PPS) and now Sage Publications. She became TPJ editor in 2000 and continues to serve as editor of the six issues published annually. Founded in 1787, the PPS is the oldest organization in the country that works to ensure humane prison and jail conditions and advocates for sensible criminal justice policies.

She earnestly points out two recent TPJ editions she felt carried significantly important articles –the first focused on prison arts programming (September 2019, online) that included video links to the programs, and the second offering a look at inmate reintegration into society through the lens of #BlackLivesMatter (September 2019 issue).

During the summer of 2019, she expanded her interest in social justice issues in the community by establishing a five-week research study on concentrated poverty in two urban and two rural counties in Pennsylvania with three former IUP doctoral students (now faculty) and the former district attorney of Centre County, Pennsylvania. She intends for this work to be the basis for recognition of programs that achieve success in poverty eradication.

“Having grown up as a poor child, I also wanted to focus a study on rural girls of color and the impact that lack of access to STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) education has on their educational opportunities,” she explains. “I was so blessed to have the Sisters of Mercy at Misericordia help me achieve my goals. I felt very enriched – it was just what an undergraduate education should be – everyone had the same wonderful spirit to do more for humanity.”

In an effort to carry forward what she calls “the wonderful jewel that is Misericordia,” Dr. Gido has established a named scholarship which she plans to endow with a planned gift to benefit students in the Ruth Matthews Bourger Women with Children program at Misericordia University.

“Misericordia is a model of education in promoting service and social justice, and I want to see it continue to change the lives of women,” Dr. Gido offers. “The Sister Hildegarde’s Justice and Mercy Scholarship for Women with Children honors the impact she and the Sisters of Mercy have had on my life and my ability to pursue my dreams. I want to see that continue for others.”

The Bourger Women with Children program provides free housing and social service support for academically qualified student mothers at the poverty level, and their children, while they earn a bachelor’s degree. Established in 2000, the program has graduated more than 30 women and will expand capacity to 20 student mothers and their children at four houses on campus in the fall of 2020.