Longtime PTA program leader to serve as Penn State Hazleton commencement speaker

Close up photo of woman with light brown hair.

Rosemarie Petrilla will serve as guest speaker at Penn State Hazleton's 54th annual spring commencement ceremony.

Credit: Penn State

HAZLETON, Pa. — Rosemarie Petrilla, teaching professor of physical therapy and coordinator of the physical therapist assistant (PTA) program at Penn State Hazleton, will serve as guest speaker at the campus’ 54th annual spring commencement ceremony on Friday, May 3, in the Dr. Thomas M. Caccese Gymnasium. 

An experienced licensed physical therapist, Petrilla joined Penn State Hazleton’s physical therapist assistant program faculty part-time in 1991. She was hired full-time as an assistant professor of physical therapy in 1993 and was named coordinator of the PTA program in 2001. In June, she will retire after more than 30 years at Penn State Hazleton. 

During her tenure, the PTA program has enjoyed tremendous longevity. Based on its initial accreditation by the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE) in 1983, the PTA program is tied for oldest in the state, according to the American Physical Therapy Association. It was the first program within Penn State. 

Since arriving at Penn State Hazleton, Petrilla has leveraged her extensive knowledge and skillset in the physical therapy field to educate students, including roles as a staff physical therapist at Hazleton General Hospital and John Heinz Institute of Rehabilitation Medicine, a supervisor managing inpatient and outpatient physical therapy departments at St. Joseph Medical Center and as a per diem physical therapist at Greater Hazleton Health Alliance, AllCare Home Care and Modern Therapeutics. 

As program coordinator, Petrilla played a key role in developing new courses and assessments of existing curriculum to ensure quality and proper measurement of program outcomes. 

In addition, she served as an integral part of the program as its enrollment and reputation grew, its labs and classrooms in the lower level of the Physical Education Building expanded, and it successfully completed several reaccreditation cycles through CAPTE.  

She has also served as a team leader for CAPTE since 2006, a role that saw her complete numerous on-site visits to other PTA programs as those programs navigated their own accreditations, which provided insight into best practices she incorporated into Penn State Hazleton’s program and policies.

Consistently mindful of bolstering her professional development, Petrilla participated in numerous webinars, workshops, seminars and conferences in the physical therapy field. She has also shared her own expertise as a presenter at other professional development events at Penn State Hazleton, the University and throughout the region. 

Additionally, Petrilla has served as a member Penn State Hazleton Faculty Senate, where she advocated for faculty members and addressed faculty-related concerns. She also served on the campus’ Strategic Planning, Faculty Affairs, Academic Integrity committees. 

At the University level, she was elected to numerous other roles within the Faculty Senate. She was twice elected as a University College Representative on Senate Council. From 2018-21, she served in the Faculty Adviser Council to former Penn State President Eric Barron. Additional committees included chair of the Promotion and Review Committee for Teaching Professor, co-chair of the Commonwealth Caucus, vice-chair of the Faculty Affairs Committee and chairperson of the Intra-University Relations Committee. She was also a representative for the University College Curriculum committee. 

At Penn State Hazleton, she was honored with the Chancellor’s Excellence Award in 2007 and 2010 in recognition of her service, scholarship and teaching. 

Petrilla received her bachelor’s degree and master’s degree, both in physical therapy, from the Philadelphia College of Pharmacy and Science. She earned her doctorate in physical therapy from Temple University. She is a member of the American Physical Therapy Association.