Vermeil, Roker, poet Hazo honored with Common Wealth awards

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The achievements of nationally renowned broadcaster Al Roker, Pro Football Hall of Fame coach and sports broadcaster Dick Vermeil, and poet Dr. Samuel Hazo were the focus of celebration at the 45th annual Common Wealth Awards of Distinguished Service.

Vermeil

These individuals were recognized in the fields of mass communication and literature.

This year’s honorees were celebrated during the Common Wealth Awards hosted by The PNC Financial Services Group Friday, April 12, at the Hotel du Pont in Wilmington.

“In professions spanning news and sports broadcasting to literary arts, the 2024 Common Wealth Award recipients represent a diverse range of accomplishments that place them among the elite in their professions,” said Joseph G. Meterchick, PNC regional president for Philadelphia, Delaware and southern New Jersey. “We applaud this year’s honorees for their singular commitment to excellence and generous spirit that demonstrates the best of who we are.”

As host and weatherman of NBC’s Today Show, Roker is seen by 30 million viewers per week every weekday morning as America prepares for school and work, along with some appearances on the evening newcast.

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Roker conducts interviews with celebrities and newsmakers during a career that spans more than 40 years and 14 Emmy awards – and in addition to reporting on the weather. Roker also co-anchors the popular 3rd Hour of Today, presenting homespun lifestyle segments.

 Vermeil had one of the most distinguished and unusual coaching careers in National Football League history. He spent 15 seasons as an NFL head coach and member of the league’s coaching fraternity for 19 seasons. In addition, Vermeil has had a career as a football broadcaster, analyzing both NFL and college games.

Roker

Vermeil is one of five NFL head coaches leading three teams into the playoffs. Vermeil’s 15-year tenure as an NFL head coach began with the Philadelphia Eagles franchise in 1976. In seven seasons with the Eagles, he engineered four playoff appearances, highlighted by an NFC Championship win over the Dallas Cowboys and a trip to Super Bowl XV versus the Oakland Raiders in 1980. Vermeil is a NFL Hall of Fame Coach in the class of 2022.

Vermeil, who grew up in northern California’s wine county, won a Super Bowl as coach of the then St. Louis Rams after taking a long break from coaching and serving as a broadcaster. He also established a wine company.

Spanning six decades and circling the globe, Dr. Hazo’s works include poetry, fiction, drama, essays and various works of translation. He has published more than 50 books that have been translated into numerous languages, and his literary distinctions include The Griffin Award for Creative Writing from the University of Notre Dame and the Maurice English Award for Poetry. 

A life-long resident of Pittsburgh, Hazo graduated Magna Cum Laude from the University of Notre Dame before earning graduate degrees from Duquesne University and the University of Pittsburgh. He is the McAnulty Distinguished Professor of English Emeritus at Duquesne University, where he taught for 43 years, and he served as the inaugural Poet-In-Residence at La Roche College.

Hazo

Named Pennsylvania’s Poet Laureate by Gov. Robert Casey in 1993, Hazo served for 10 years, receiving the Hazlett Award for Excellence in Literature from the governor. Twice recognized as Pittsburgh’s Man of the Year in Arts, he has also been awarded 12 honorary degrees, an honorary membership in Phi Beta Kappa, and the Forbes Medal for Outstanding Cultural Contributions to western Pennsylvania. 

The Common Wealth Awards of Distinguished Service were first presented in 1979 by The Common Wealth Trust, which was created under the will of Ralph Hayes, a business executive and philanthropist. The Common Wealth Trust makes the awards. In the 44-year history of the Common Wealth Awards, more than $7 million has been awarded to 215 honorees.

Ralph Hayes, creator of the Common Wealth Awards, served on the board of directors of one of PNC’s predecessor banks in Delaware from 1935 to 1965. Through the awards, he sought to recognize outstanding achievement in eight disciplines: dramatic arts, literature, science, invention, mass communications, public service, government and sociology. The awards also are an incentive for individuals to make future contributions to the world community.

For more than four decades, the Common Wealth Awards have recognized heads of state, scientists and inventors, explorers, authors, performing artists and activists. Past winners include 11 Nobel laureates, among them, human rights leader Archbishop Desmond Tutu, statesman Henry Kissinger and authors Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Toni Morrison, Joyce Carol Oates, Amy Tan and John Updike.

Other high achievers on the Common Wealth Awards roster include 43rd president of the United States, George W. Bush; former Secretary of State Colin Powell; H.M. Queen Noor of Jordan; dance legend Mikhail Baryshnikov; Hollywood icons Steve Martin and Martin Short; astronauts John Glenn and Buzz Aldrin; primatologist Jane Goodall; ocean explorer Robert Ballard; television journalists Walter Cronkite, Bob Schieffer and Anderson Cooper; and social activists Betty Ford and Christopher Reeves. 

The award event has been low-key in recent years after a long period when it included an educational component, a press conference, and a gala dinner.

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