Dunmorean of the Month: Jeff Mallas

By Steve Svetovich

Dunmore’s Jeff Mallas and Penn State Scranton have gone hand in hand for the past 42 years.

Mallas, a 1971 Dunmore High graduate who lettered in track and football,, has been a major part of the athletic department at the Scranton Penn State campus, located on Ridgeview Drive, Dunmore, since 1979. 

He has served as athletic director since 2000. In 2018, Mallas received the prestigious Robert J. Scannell Roll of Honor Award at University Park. The honor is bestowed upon an athletics administrator, coach, faculty or staff member who has served Penn State Commonwealth Campus athletics, intramurals and recreation programs with distinction.

Below is an excerpt from Mallas’ nomination, submitted by athletic department staff at Scranton:

“If there is one person at Penn State Scranton who truly ‘Bleeds Blue and White’ it’s Athletic Director, Jeff Mallas.  As a 1975 graduate of Penn State University, Jeff has been a strong supporter of Penn State and athletics, serving the university through non-profit work, coaching, teaching, and administration.” 

He was the assistant athletic director under Joe Simoncelli from 1980 through 1999. “I learned a lot under Joe Simoncelli,” he said. “You learn from good people. He was my cross country coach and advisor when I attended Penn State Scranton as a freshman.”

Mallas is married 35 years to the former Karen Phillips. The couple has a son, Doug, a 2012 Penn State graduate who teaches biology at North Pocono High School. 

Mallas is credited with starting the baseball program at Penn State Scranton in 1981. He coached baseball at the Dunmore campus for 25 years. 

Penn State Scranton’s athletic director Jeff Mallas, center, is shown in 2018 receiving the Robert J. Scannell Honor Roll Award at University Park. Shown with him are Maureen Cooper, left, and Ryan Ehrie, right.

He named Dunmore graduate Dave Rubino, Dwayne Broad of Mid Valley and Kevin Yanul and Jerry Calpin of Scranton Tech as a few of his key players on the first Penn State Scranton baseball team in 1981. 

“Our home games were initially played at Schautz Stadium in Dunmore,” he said. “We used to practice at Weston Field. 

“In 1982 and 1983 I helped put our baseball field together at the school. Herb Rogers, the Penn State Scranton maintenance foreman at the time, did most of the work. He was the expert. I helped put the infield in. The Army Corps of Engineers did the landscaping.

“Of course our baseball field was totally renovated a few years ago and was named after Matt McGloin.

“Gino Tempesta of Dunmore, who still coaches baseball at North Pocono, helped me coach baseball for many years. He was great with the kids and a huge asset.” 

Mallas, always enthusiastic and an optimist when it comes to Penn State, also coached soccer for 20 years at the Dunmore campus. He ran a soccer camp at the local college for kids ages 7-13 for 16 years. He credits Dunmore’s Joe Baltrusaitis, who currently coaches soccer at the local campus, for his assistance helping him with the soccer program.

Penn State Scranton won a soccer championship in 1990 with Mallas at the helm.

Mallas has been involved with the Greater Scranton Penn State Alumni Chapter for the past 35 years. He has served as president for seven years, including the past five years.

 “We raise scholarships for students,” he said. “We invite  speakers from the State College main campus and had Joe Paterno five times for the event.”

Mallas played football under coach Lou Costanzo at Dunmore. “He made boys into men. He was tough, but a real gentleman off the field. He played football at Michigan State and was a great running back at Dunmore. What an honor to play for him. Our 1970 team went 7-2 and had some tremendous players.”

Mallas also ran track at Dunmore and played Legion baseball. Dunmore won the Lackawanna League track title in his senior year. 

He graduated from Penn State with a bachelor of science degree. in education in 1975 and went on to receive an M.Ed in Health and Physical Education from East Stroudsburg University in 1984. 

Mallas began coaching tennis and soccer at Penn State Scranton in 1979 and started a lengthy career teaching the physical education activity classes which he continues to do to this day. “I have been teaching activity classes at Penn State for 42 years.”

Well-rounded in  all sports, Mallas coached the Penn State Scranton bowling team, leading it to many championships.

As athletic director, Mallas is responsible for 11 men and women’s sports, including baseball, basketball, cross country, softball, soccer, golf and volleyball. He praised every single coach in all of the programs.

“You are only as good as your coaches and the people who surround you,” he said. “And we have great people. We have the best.”

He is credited with bringing women’s basketball back to the Dunmore campus in 2002.

“We try to get as many kids as possible involved in our sports programs,” he said. “We make sure they have a positive experience and graduate. We try to retain every kid.”

There are a little more than 1,000 students in the local college and 162 are active in sports. “That’s a better than 12 percent rate and that’s pretty good,” he said.

Vito Ruggiero, Dunmore borough manager, was recently named the new baseball coach at Penn State Scranton. 

Mallas said the local campus is looking to add tennis as a future sport.

The sports teams at the Dunmore campus participate in the Penn State University Athletic Conference, with championships played at University Park at State College. Title teams then go on to participate in the United States Athletic Conference playoffs.

Mallas credits Dr. Marwan Waffa, the school chancellor, for doing great things at the local campus. “I cannot say enough for what he has done and is doing,” he said. “He does so much for this community here.”

Well-versed, Mallas has also been a PIAA basketball and soccer official since the early 1990’s. 

He is assisted in his athletic director duties by Sara Rinkunas who coaches men and women’s cross country and serves as sports information director at the local college. 

“My life basically has been Penn State,” Mallas said. “And I love it.” 

Dunmorean of the Month: Bridget Walsh

Bridget Walsh recently received the Grant Burger Media Award in Division III Sports Information category. She is a Sports Information Graduate Assistant at King’s College, Wilkes-Barre. (Photo courtesy: Tom Weishaar/One More Shot Photography)

By Steve Svetovich

Bridget Walsh, 24, Dunmore, recently received the Grant Burger Media Award in Division III Sports Information category.

Daughter of Mike and Cathy Walsh, Dunmore, the Scranton Prep graduate is a King’s College Sports Information Graduate Assistant. She is scheduled to receive an M.S. in Sports Administrators this May from Canisius College, Buffalo, New York. 

Walsh received her B.S. in Communications Cum Laude in 2019 from DeSales University where she was a four-year member of the basketball team. She was a key player for the DeSales basketball team helping the squad to an NCAA Sweet 16 appearance as a senior.

She played four years of both basketball and softball at Scranton Prep. She was a Lackawanna League first-team Division I all-star in both sports as a senior and for softball as a sophomore. 

The Grant Burger Media Award is a national honor provided on an annual basis to an individual who has been involved in the advancement of the sport of volleyball through consistent coverage of all mediums. It is presented by the American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA). 

Grant Burger was former Director of Sports Information and Associate Director of the AVCA from 1988 through 1992. 

King’s College head men’s volleyball coach Bernie Kachinko called Walsh “highly motivated, well rounded, very organized in taking pride at getting the job done right.” He said Walsh is “a winner who sets very high standards for herself.”

Walsh, during her assistantship, is in charge of media contact for both the men’s and women’s volleyball teams at King’s. 

With the women’s volleyball team, she helped promote a team with 21 wins. She assisted in promoting Becca Goldberg and Taylor Mueller, All-MAC Freedom Award winners, and also nominated two Middle Atlantic Conference Freedom Players of the Week.

She was the head contact for the inaugural varsity season of King’s College men’s volleyball. She helped promote five MAC Players of the Week before the season was halted due to COVID-19.

James Chagnon, King’s College Director of Sports Information, said there is no more deserving individual than Bridget Walsh. He added Walsh has become one of the leaders in coverage of college volleyball. He praised the Dunmore resident’s connection with student-athletes, adding she has a strong work ethic second to none and a bright future in sports information. 

Walsh was also a four-year student worker in the sports information department during her time at DeSales University. 

She became a graduate assistant in the sports information department at King’s College in the summer of 2019. And she has remained there since, covering home games of several sports and daily sports related events. 

“Three of us are department contacts for a handful of sports,” she said. “I have seven of them to cover. I do pre game reports, lineups, press releases, contacts for game day, game recaps, nominate players for honors and awards. And that is just a small aspect of the job. It is definitely a busy job and over 40 hours of work a week, but I love it. It’s a very big job. There is a lot involved. I love every second of it.

“I love being in sports information on the college level. My goal after graduation is to go full time into an assistant role in sports information and then move into a sports information director position on the college level. And then the goal down the road someday would be moving into a sports administration position.”

Walsh, while at DeSales, completed an internship in the sports department of The Scranton Times in the summer of 2017. She worked under Scranton Times sports editor Chris Imperiale and learned from the likes of Marty Myers, Joby Fawcett, Donnie Collins, Scott Walsh and other notable sports writers. “They are a great group of guys and I learned a lot,” she said.

“I even had the opportunity of doing a big feature on the Scranton Wilkes Barre RailRiders.”

The hard working graduate student said her parents have always been an inspiration. “Growing up, I was not always confident about choosing a career path,” she said. “But we grew up with sports and my parents knew I loved it. My dad loves Notre Dame and watches all the games. I was admiring the work of the Notre Dame sideline reporter, Alex Flanagan. My parents told me I can do that. And they made me believe it.

“Initially, I wanted to get into sports broadcast journalism and then I leaned towards print journalism. I found out it is not a wide open field now. I did an internship in sports information as a college junior and fell in love with it. So it all fell into place. But my mom and dad gave me the inspiration.

“My parents always taught me about hard work and dedication. Both were always extremely hard workers and they taught me that.”

Walsh said there is nothing like the experience of playing four years of college basketball. “It will always be one of the most memorable, rewarding experiences of my life. I made friends to last a lifetime. The teamwork skills you learn take you through life. The teammates you have create a special bond that lasts a lifetime. My dad came to every single one of my games.” 

Walsh is enjoying the contacts and friends she is making in the sports information world. “I have met so many people. I will be able to network when graduation comes along. I have learned so much and am enjoying every minute of it.”

Dunmorean of the Month: Mike Judge

By Steve Svetovich

Mike “Didge” Judge is the kind of guy who loves getting up and going to work everyday.

And the Borough of Dunmore and its people are lucky for that.

A Dunmore DPW employee for 34 years and head of the department for the past 20, Didge is diligently at work everyday at 6 a.m. 

He has 25 full time DPW employees under him and they all share his work ethic. 

“I love Dunmore,” he said. “I don’t mind doing what I do for a living. In fact, I love it. Not too many people can say that about their job. My day flies by because I love my job.

“I like to stay involved as much as possible and help the people of Dunmore. I love helping people, especially in this town. Our DPW employees are all like that. We try to make Dunmore a great place to live. And it is.”

Judge said his department has been following all COVID precautions right from the get go. “We do not go into the building other than to punch in and punch out,” he said. “We go right to our trucks. We don’t even use the lunch room. We stay out of the building as much as possible. We sanitize the trucks, wear masks, wash our hands and follow all COVID precautions. It has certainly been a different kind of year.

“Not one member of our crew has contacted COVID or been sick all year. And I run the garbage collection too. I can’t believe through all of this that no one has been sick, but that is a good thing.”

Didge said the DPW crew will be busy decorating all of the poles at and around Dunmore corners with Christmas lights and decorations Friday and Saturday, Dec. 4 and 5. A new Christmas tree with lights will be placed by the clock at Dunmore Corners, he added. 

“It’s going to look real nice,” he said.

Didge said the Dunmore DPW department is already prepared for the winter season. “We have seven trucks filled with salt ready to go,” he said. “Plus we have a full barn with 500 tons of salt in the DPW building. 

“We already had a trial run one morning last month at the higher elevations like Mount Margaret and the Boulevard. We are set and ready to go for the winter.”

Didge, 63, a 1975 Dunmore graduate, is married to the former Lisa Coccicci. His wife is a Valley View graduate. The couple has three boys: Michael, 28, a heavy equipment operator for the Lackawanna County Roads and Bridges Department; Patrick, 25, and Robert, 23, both full time employees for the Dunmore DPW. 

“My boys and I are in the same line of work and two of them work for me,” said Didge. “We all like helping the public and doing what we do.” 

Judge worked for almost 15 years at RCA in the Keystone Industrial Park prior to going full time with the Dunmore DPW department. 

“I’ve had only two full time jobs my whole life and loved them both,” Didge said. “I guess I’ve been pretty lucky.” 

Well known and highly respected in Dunmore Borough, Didge is looking forward to continuing to serve the public.

“We have a great DPW crew here in Dunmore,” Judge said. “It makes it easy coming to work everyday at 6 a.m. The guys do a great job and like what they do for a living. I can’t wait to get up and go to work everyday.”