WCCC professor pushed disability rights
Mary Ellen Beres was a champion of people with disabilities before disability rights was a national priority.
Mrs. Beres was a student support counselor and professor for special populations at Westmoreland County Community College for 30 years, retiring in 2015. During her career, she worked to make WCCC a more inclusive place for people with disabilities, her daughter Joanna Beres said.
“She really had this desire to help others, and she saw a need,” Joanna Beres said. “Prior to her, there was nobody at the college who did what she did. She really formed that office and did a lot to establish a successful program.”
Mrs. Beres was motivated by a “passion to help everyone get an education and to help them succeed,” she said.
Mary Ellen Beres of Hutchinson died Monday, Dec. 31, 2018, at home. She was 69.
Born in McKeesport on July 27, 1949, she was a daughter of the late Joseph and Josephine (LaCivita) Brush.
She got a degree in social work from the University of Pittsburgh in 1973 and worked for a time in Allegheny County. She went back to school and received a master’s in counseling from California University of Pennsylvania.
At WCCC, she ensured that students with disabilities got the support services they needed, whether it was a note taker, an interpreter or extra time to take an exam. Among the classes she taught was a student success course designed to help incoming freshmen make the adjustment to college.
“It was a course for kids that might have needed extra help with organization skills or study skills — the whole tool kit they needed to be a success,” her daughter said.
Mrs. Beres also traveled to area high schools and libraries and conducted programs for students with disabilities and their parents to ease their transition to college.
“A lot of times, people just tread water and don’t necessarily have the support they need,” Joanna Beres said. “She really helped a lot of people over the course of her career.”
The WCCC board of trustees passed a resolution acknowledging Mrs. Beres upon her retirement and named her professor emeritus.
In her spare time, Mrs. Beres enjoyed crocheting, baking, gardening and going to Pitt football games.
“She crocheted like it was going out of style,” Joanna Beres said. “We all have afghans that she made for us.”
Mrs. Beres is survived by her husband of 42 years, Andrew “Steve” Beres Jr.; three children, Joanna E. Beres of Hutchinson, Stephanie M. Parrett and her husband, Steven of Chambersburg and Andrew S. Beres III of Fox Chapel; and two sisters.
Friends will be received from 2 to 4 and 6 to 8 p.m. Friday at William Snyder Funeral Home, 521 Main St., Irwin. Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated at 11 a.m. Saturday at St. Edward Catholic Church, 120 St. Edward Lane, Herminie. Those attending the Mass should go directly to the church. Interment will follow at Good Shepherd Cemetery, Monroeville.
Stephen Huba is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Stephen at 724-850-1280, email@example.com or via Twitter @shuba_trib.