As she retires, Stephanie Campano reflects on long career as TJ athletic secretary
Friday, July 19, 2019 | 8:23 PM
For years, students entering the Thomas Jefferson athletic office were greeted by secretary Stephanie Campano.
Campano worked in the athletic office alongside athletic director and football coach Bill Cherpak, cordially known as Cherp, from 2002-19. She seemingly always greeted anyone going into the office with a smile or kind word.
She also worked in the attendance office from 2002-10 and health office from 2011-19.
Campano, who is married to Tony, retired at the end of this school year. West Jefferson Hills School Board members recognized retirees at their June 25 meeting.
Superintendent Michael Ghilani said he recently received an email from a parent whose son was being highly recruited by Division I schools. As the family visited each school, they found everyone from the recruiting coordinator to the coach, “knew Stephanie Campano from Thomas Jefferson High School by name,” he said.
“Not only did they praise her,” Ghilani said, “but they said of all the schools they visited across the entire country, she is by far the most pleasant, easy to deal with person that they could ever come across.”
At the meeting, Cherpak talked about the “enjoyable” time the two had working together at TJ.
“She really was like the first impression for people when they came to the school here,” he said. “She enjoyed coming to work. She loved the kids. She would always remind me to give them extra water breaks at practice and things like that or give them ice cream. She just loved being around the kids and having the kids come into the office and getting to know them and the coaches.”
The Campanos have two children, 2006 and ’14 Thomas Jefferson graduates Mia and Anthony. They also have one grandchild and another on the way.
Mia was a member of the cheerleading squad in high school and graduated from WVU in 2010. Anthony competed on the golf and basketball teams at TJ. He graduated from Penn State in 2018.
After finally stepping away from her office duties, Campano participated in a Candid Closeup interview focusing on her career at TJ.
Q: What are some of your fondest memories working in the TJ athletic office?
A: Some of my fondest are from when my children, Mia and Anthony, attended. I was able to interact with them and their friends. The WPIAL and PIAA state championships were so exciting. Traveling to Hershey for three PIAA state football championships with family, co-workers and friends was amazing. I can still see the smiles on the football players’ and coaches’ faces as they were escorted back to the high school by the local police and fire departments. That was good stuff.
Q: What did you enjoy the most?
A: I really enjoyed the friendships I made over the years with other secretaries and athletic directors. You may never have met them in person, but it felt like you knew them all of your life because you spoke with them so frequently.
Also, Cherp and I have an open-door policy where any student can stop in to see us. That is how you really get to know the students. They can be themselves, and that is really special. (Maybe they just come in for all of the candy Cherp has for them.)
Q: What have been some of the most rewarding aspects in your role as athletic secretary?
A: One was knowing that you really can make a difference in a student’s life — maybe just by listening, caring or even a simple good morning, or how nice you look today, or how was your evening? A minute of your time goes a long way.
Q: What were some of the challenging aspects?
A: There are a lot of changes and cancellations during spring sports due to the weather and field conditions, so change is constant.
Q: Any pleasant surprises?
A: Lots of surprises. Knowing four football players that played or are playing in the NFL is unbelievable: Tyler Reed, Dom DeCicco, Lucas Nix and Chase Winovich. And also knowing Richard Costanzo, who played professional soccer. These players all had such passion for their sport and worked so very hard.
All the college coaches that came to TJ to recruit our student-athletes — such as James Franklin, Mark Staten, Terry Smith, Dave Wannstedt, Luke Fickell, Brady Hoke, Mike Vrabel, Pat Narducci and Paul Chryst — you really get to know these coaches and spend time with them. They are super nice and humble and are so great with our kids. I always looked forward to those days when Cherp said they were going to be visiting. Cherp would make the coffee, and I would bring in my homemade pizzaelles. My mother said I should have kept a guest book. She was right.
Q: What are you going to miss the most?
A: I will miss the interaction with our great student body which has kept me young and current and working with Bill Cherpak.
Q: What is it like to work with Cherpak?
A: Working with Bill Cherpak has been amazing. He is the reason why retiring was such a difficult decision. I never minded going to work. We were a great team. He cares about every sports program TJ has and cares about all of our student-athletes. He is a great guy, great coach and great AD.
Q: What are the strengths of the West Jefferson Hills athletic community?
A: This community loves sports. All of our programs are competitive. I can really say that our high school coaches are so committed to the sports programs. They really care about our kids and devote a lot of time so their programs are successful. I will miss them.
Q: Are there any other interesting or unique stories that you can share?
A: Unique to TJ is the Camp for the Stars for Down syndrome children held every June and hosted by TJ or Woodland Hills. Julie Tomsula is the founder of this fantastic camp. Her husband, Jim Tomsula, played football with Cherp at Steel Valley. Their coach was George Novak. The players, one from each team, will work with with a camp star. It was wonderful for those players to give back. It was held over two evenings, the first being a practice and the second the game. They would get the cheerleaders involved, too. Everyone loved it. A great time was had by all. You could feel it.
Q: What early plans do you have for your retirement?
A: To do some traveling and catch up on some well-earned rest.
Q: Any other thoughts?
A: I have to thank Dr. Bart Rocco for giving me this opportunity when he hired me in 2002. He was principal at that time.
It has been an emotional time for me. The administration, school board, faculty and staff have all been so wonderful. I am overwhelmed by it all. I am wishing them continued health and success as they continue on their journey to 830 Old Clairton Road.
Now, a little more on the lighter side:
Q: Do you have an athletic background?
A: I do not.
Q: Do you have a favorite sport? (Or, should I ask, outside of football, what is your favorite sport?)
A: Besides football, I like to watch golf and basketball with my husband and son.
Q: Do you like to travel? What has been your all-time favorite vacation?
A: My favorite vacation spot is Southampton, N.Y.
Q: Do you enjoy cooking? If so, what is your favorite meal to cook?
A: I’m Italian. I love to cook. Every Sunday I make a pot of homemade tomato sauce with meatballs and hot sausage. I make homemade dishes for Christmas that my mother and mother-in-law used to make to carry on their traditions.
Q: Are you a regular book reader? If so, what is the title of the last book you have read?
A: Hopefully, now that I am retired I can begin to read some books.
Q: What is the last movie you saw at a theater?
Q: Do you watch much television? What is your favorite TV show?
A: We watch a lot of sports on TV. Sometimes, I will rent a movie.
Q: If you could have dinner with anyone past or present (outside of your family), who would you choose?
A: It would be those friends that you sort of lose touch with because life leads you on different paths.
Q: What are three of your favorite foods?
A: Salmon, pasta and every fruit on this earth.
Q: Do you have any hobbies?
A: Going to the gym, cooking and baking. I like to go to the gym or walk with my daughter and grandson.
Q: What is something that people may not know about you?
A: People would be surprised to know that I worked in the telecommunications industry for 20 years.
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