About Executive Director & CEO

Joe Pfadt, Ph.D. 

Joseph (Joe) P. Pfadt (Ph.D., MAJ-Ret.) is the Executive Director and CEO of the Oliver Hazard Perry Shipyard (OHPS), a nonprofit spearheading a project to bring a Perry Class Frigate and establish it as a museum in Erie, Pennsylvania.

Joe has dedicated his life in service to the nation – in his role as an educator, as a National Guard member, and through his ongoing work to promote and honor veterans. The Perry Shipyard project is the culmination of decades of community-building initiatives Joe has led.

After 30 years of service in the U.S. Army National Guard and a deployment to Kosovo in 2003- 2004, Joe retired from the military in 2014. For over 26 years, Joe was a high school studies teacher at Harbor Creek High School. He designed and taught new courses in criminal justice and U.S. history, and successfully raised +$500,000 in grants to fund initiatives like Career Pathways which reoriented the district’s scheduling and curriculum to focus on a career-minded course of study.

His impact as an educator and advisor is significant, and throughout his career he counseled and discussed military opportunities with hundreds of students, some of whom went on to serve.

Following the loss of three former students killed in action, in 2013 Joe founded Warriors to Washington, a nonprofit that honors veterans who deployed after 9/11. Each year Warriors to Washington sponsors a trip for a group of northwestern Pennsylvania veterans and their guests to Washington, D.C. as a morale builder where they tour national landmarks like Arlington National Cemetery, the Pentagon, and the Capitol.

Joe’s leadership in the community can be seen through projects that promote a better understanding of local history, encourage public and private partnerships for education and research, and generate an economic impact. Notably this includes the Tom Ridge Environmental Center (TREC) and the Presque Isle Light Station.

Since 1995 Joe has been an active member of the Presque Isle Advisory Committee. Joe conceived of the idea for a visitor center on Presque Isle State Park and led the effort to build TREC which was approved in 2001. To date TREC has welcomed more than 1.7 million visitors and served as a platform for public education and scientific research about Presque Isle.

He was the first president of the Presque Isle Lighthouse and a founding member of the organization responsible for its operation. His initiative began the transition from a private residence to a National Historic Structure open to the public.

Joe is an Erie native and is committed to the city’s growth. Joe created the television series “All About Presque Isle” to feature the state park and its public uses which has aired on local public educational and governmental cable channels since 1999.

Among his professional achievements, Joe has received several commendation medals including the Meritorious Service Medal with Oak Leaf Cluster, Pennsylvania Commendation Medal, National Defense Ribbon with Two Bronze Stars, and Military Outstanding Volunteer Service Medal. Joe was selected to attend the State of the Union Address in 2019 and was read into the Congressional Record in June 2018.

Joe earned his Ph.D. in Organizational Learning and Leadership at Gannon University (2020). He holds a master’s degree in educational leadership and administration (2007), a B.S. in secondary educational social studies (1993), and a B.A. in speech communications (1988) from Edinboro University of Pennsylvania.