School of Labor & Employment Relations Mourns the Loss of Amy Dietz

On March 11, the School of LER lost a very special member of our community. Amy Dietz was an LER major, a graduate of our Master’s program, a staff member, an academic advisor and a faculty member. She was a tremendous advocate for our School and was beloved by our students, faculty and alumni. She will be greatly missed.

Amy came to LER in the late 1990s as a staff assistant. Several years later she was promoted to the position of Administrative Coordinator (Office Manager). In her spare time, Amy completed her undergraduate degree with Honors and became one of the first students in our 5-year Undergraduate/Graduate program, earning her master's in HRER.

Our School has always tried to be a “student-centered” program committed to making sure that “every student in our program has the best academic experience possible.” This was Amy’s guiding principle in everything she did for our School.  

One example of how Amy put this principle into practice was her role in starting what has become a great tradition in our School --the Annual LER Spring Student/Alumni Networking Trip. The tradition started in 2005 when Amy took 15 LER majors on an overnight trip to Washington, D.C. to visit the workplaces of our alumni, network with them and learn about different career opportunities.  2017 was the 12th-straight year that Amy led the trip. Over the years the trip varied between one and two nights and the destination rotated each year between Philadelphia, Washington, New York, Pittsburgh and Cleveland. One year it became a five-to-six-night spring break trip to Chicago, with stops in Pittsburgh and Cleveland on the way. Over the years the spring trip has become one of the highlights of the year for those majors chosen to go. And the trip was all Amy’s doing. She got the alumni to “volunteer” as hosts, she made up the schedule, she prepped the students and she even drove the bus (actually one of Penn State’s 18 passenger vans, which she had to get certified to drive)! 

Amy was also instrumental in helping to build our online program, something that has been a very successful endeavor for our School. In its early days, however, there were doubts—would students sign up to earn a Penn State degree online and could they meet the high standards we set for the program? Amy, however, had no such doubts. She said the answer to both questions was “Yes!” Amy’s confidence stemmed from the fact that she was the School’s point of contact for our earliest online students and she talked with them on a daily basis. Amy kept telling us that our online students were very appreciative of the chance to earn a Penn State degree, that they deserved the opportunity to do so and that they were so committed to succeeding that they would do whatever it took. And she was right.

Once the program was underway, she moved into a new position advising our online master's students. And over time she began teaching in the program as well. Her enthusiasm for our School and our field rubbed off on her advisees and her students. She gave them everything she had and they responded in kind.

Whatever Amy did she did with passion. This was the case with the pastime she adopted several years ago--extreme physical fitness. She started with exercise classes and quickly graduated to 5k races, then 10k races, then half-marathons and marathons, all in a matter of a few years. She then added cycling and swimming long distances so she could compete in Ironman competitions.  And compete she did, in Pennsylvania where she was the Age Group Winner of the Jim Thorpe, Pennsylvania Ironman Contest, and beyond in places like Oregon, Bermuda and Cuba.

Last September, while in Georgia for an Ironman competition, Amy became ill.  She came home and was rushed to Hershey Medical Center where, after a battery of tests, she received a diagnosis of pancreatic cancer. Once the shock of the diagnosis wore off, she took on the challenge of beating the disease. Through weeks and months of procedures, tests and exhausting chemo treatments, Amy kept the positive attitude that was her approach to life. And while the cancer spread and attacked her body, it never touched the part of her that was bigger and stronger than the disease—her heart. 

Amy entered hospice in late February when she had run out of treatment options. Even there her main concern remained the people she loved--her family, friends, colleagues and students. 

It’s safe to say the LER community will never see another Amy Dietz. She was committed 110 percent to what our School does and what it stands for. Our community will honor her by continuing to do the work she believed in.

- Written by Paul Clark, School Director and Professor

A memorial service is planned for April 14 at 10 a.m. at Pasquerilla Spiritual Center. Small reception to follow.