New stats professor “truly home” at Saint Vincent

by Sarah Eidemiller, Staff Writer

Jennifer Hedden, the new statistics teacher in the psychology department, remembers being four years old and sitting in the back of her father’s statistics class at Saint Vincent College.

“It was a last minute thing because there was no babysitter,” she recalled. “My brothers came, too, and they fell asleep. I have no idea how he kept us quiet! We were so young.”

Hedden never dreamed that one day she would be in front of a Saint Vincent classroom teaching stats, just like her father, Dr. William Hisker, who still teaches business statistics at SVC.

After Dr. Hisker told her about the death of Dr. John Serafin, who was a personal family friend, Hedden told him to let her know if there was anything that she could do to help. Dr. Serafin taught at the college for 30 years and was renowned for his teaching skills in statistics. His sudden death shocked the psychology department and the entire campus. A week later, Dr. Hisker said that putting her name in to teach the statistics courses for the spring semester would be a great help.

“Originally I was not sure, because I knew that I could not take Dr. Serafin’s place in any way,” she said. “I remember going over to the Serafins’ house as a child. I was the oldest of the children, so I always helped to look out for the younger kids as we had cookouts in the backyard. I remember I always felt comfortable in their house. I feel honored that the Psychology Department was willing to take a chance on a relatively new teacher to take care of Dr. Serafin’s students.”

Hedden, 39, was born in Augsburg, Germany, grew up in Latrobe, and attended Greater Latrobe High School. She received her undergraduate degree at Saint Vincent, where she majored in anthropology and minored in German. She originally thought she would get a doctorate in anthropology but found herself interested in management and policy analysis and ended up at Carnegie Mellon University for a master’s in Public Policy and Management. Before she became a full-time mom is 2002, she was the director of Lebanon County Historical Society, and she also worked at the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission.

She now resides in Murrysville with her husband, the Rev. Joseph Hedden, also a Saint Vincent alumnus, and their two daughters, Miriam Noel, 9, and Elizabeth Jane, 4. They also have a miniature pinscher/Tibetan spaniel mix named Sizzles.

“I loved the Liberal Arts focus at SVC and the fact that I could interact with the professors because of the small class size,” she said. “Through the engagement of several of the professors, I was also able to earn a grant to study abroad in Leipzig, Germany for two months. I also met my husband at SVC.”

She met him in her freshman year at the Halloween Dance on campus, and they were engaged by her junior year. He is currently the pastor at Emmanuel Reformed United Church of Christ, in Export.  In July, they will have been married for 17 years.

“From the time I was small, I was with my father as he worked in the Saint Vincent community,” Hedden said. “I met his students growing up and was inspired to keep asking questions. I also saw the joy that he had in both learning and teaching new material. I always wanted to have a job that was so much fun and rewarding. I think I always wanted to be a professor, but I was not always sure what subject I wanted to teach.”

Hedden’s mother is also a teacher and teaches sixth graders English at Valley School of Ligonier.

“I would go to my mom to help get papers edited and then I’d go to my dad for math help,” she laughed. “When I was in college and took my dad’s stats class a long time ago, I never thought it was a subject I was going to use. I would say, ‘I won’t ever do stats again,’ and my dad would tell me not to make those kinds of statements. In my life, I think that God always put me in situations that were the best place for me to be at the time.”

In her spare time, Hedden enjoys reading Jane Austen, traveling, and delving into English and German history. She is happy to be on board at Saint Vincent, and says that she feels like “she’s truly come home.”

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