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Posthumous Honors to Be Accorded Heroic College Alumnus

A 1996 Pennsylvania College of Technology graduate, who died Sept. 27 while attempting to rescue a young swimmer at Ocean City, Md., is this year’s selection for an Alumni Citizenship/Humanitarian Award at the College’s Dec. 20 commencement exercises.

Brian J. Firkal of Nesquehoning, a Graphic Communication alumnus and a printing instructor at Lehigh Career and Technical Institute in Schnecksville, was on vacation with his wife when he joined the effort to save an 11-year-old boy trapped in the roiling surf. The youth was brought to safety, but the 27-year-old Firkal a volunteer firefighter with the Nesquehoning Hose Co., drowned.

Firkal was an active member of the Nesquehoning fire department for about 1 1/2 years. He previously was a member of the Summit Hill and Lansford companies, and joined Nesquehoning’s unit when he moved to that community. News of his death traveled quickly among his colleagues, and members of the Maryland chapter of the Red Knights an international motorcycle club for firefighters rode five hours from Ocean City to Nesquehoning in tribute.

“Brian Firkal epitomizes the kind of volunteer firefighters we have in this area,” editorialized his hometown newspaper, the Lehighton Times-News. “He’s young, not embarrassed to go door-to-door selling raffle tickets to buy a new piece of firefighting equipment; never hesitant to get out of bed in the middle of a freezing winter night when the alarm sounds.”

To those who knew him best, that description did not just apply to his fire-company service.

Among the many comments heard upon his death was this from Dennis Boyle of Andreas, one of Firkal’s roommates while he attended Penn College: “He was a good friend and hard worker diligent in his job and learning more about it, as well as in his studies. He helped his friends with problems, helped them work things out. He is a true hero and I dearly miss him.”

Such testimonials were echoed Dec. 9 in the state House of Representatives, which passed a resolution honoring Firkal as “an individual who unselfishly gave his life in attempting to save the lives of others,” and noting his “positive and lasting impact” as a teacher and friend.

The Citizenship/Humanitarian award, inaugurated last year, promotes the responsibility of graduates to participate in their communities, and recognizes alumni who have provided distinguished community or volunteer service. Firkal’s widow, Jane, will accept the award on his behalf.

Penn College also presents Distinguished Alumnus/Alumna and Alumnus/Alumna Achievement awards at its May graduation exercises, as well as Mentorship Awards at August commencement. For more information about alumni news and events, visit on the Web.

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