A newsmaker you should know: Point Park professor well-versed on area's Cold War history
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Robert "Rob" Skertich's work as an assistant professor and a program director at Point Park University keeps him pretty busy.
But he also serves as fire chief of Hampton Township Fire Department and as a deputy commander with the National Disaster Medical System through the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
And, somehow, he also has found time to do extensive historical research about the Pittsburgh area, particularly about the Cold War era.
"The history is something I really enjoy doing. Thanks to the Internet, it is a whole lot easier than it used to be," Mr. Skertich said.
Mr. Skertich and his fellow amateur historian, Tom Koedel, will present "Cold War Sites in Pittsburgh" on Tuesday at the Friends of North Park meeting.
As a state fire instructor, Mr. Skertich teaches at the Allegheny County Police and Fire Academy at North Park. One day, Mr. Koedel, a retired Ross police officer who also teaches at the academy, started telling him about the old Nike Missile site on the grounds behind the academy building.
Mr. Skertich said he had done a bit of research about the area, but he "began in earnest" after his conversation with Mr. Koedel about five years ago, about the same time he completed his doctorate.
"I grew up in Etna and knew that there was a missile site near [the current site of an] Eat'n Park but didn't know about all of the other sites in our area," he said.
Mr. Skertich and Mr. Koedel pooled their research efforts, and last year, they gave a presentation about their findings about the Nike Missile sites in the Pittsburgh area at the academy.
"After that presentation, people started contacting us who served in that area and who lived in the area during that time and we were able to get a lot more information," Mr. Skertich said.
The two used those interviews and additional findings to create the new presentation about this area. According to Mr. Skertich, they will discuss the history of Pittsburgh's air defense sites, the military technology and the social and political issues that exist today.
In addition to his historical research, Mr. Skertich continues to teach at the academy, serve as Hampton fire chief and work with the National Disaster Medical System, which may land him in places around the country or the world.
"I was in Haiti for 10 days after the earthquake and was sent outside of Washington at the 10th anniversary of Sept. 11," he said, "But we are only on call four months out of the year, so it works out well."
Mr. Skertich's role with Point Park University has allowed him to combine his education with his other skills. He has recently spearheaded two new 18-credit certification programs designed for those in fire service and emergency medical services administration. The program allows credit for prior coursework and certification, he said.
"They can also use those credits toward s a bachelor's degree in public administration. It is a great way to help these professionals receive the certification and degrees that may help them advance in their careers," he said.
"Cold War Sites in Pittsburgh" by Mr. Skertich and Mr. Koedel will be presented at 7 p.m. Tuesday at the Allegheny County Police and Fire Academy in North Park. The presentation is free and will include tours of the missile site, if conditions permit.
First Published April 26, 2012 5:35 am