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Getting There

The son of a truck driver and a homemaker, Epstein has always felt a special affinity for Pitt, which gave him opportunities he otherwise might not have had ... “Education is like getting a ticket to a ball game. It lets you into the game.”

Written by Niki Kapsambelis

A Pitt alumnus helps today’s students appreciate the stakes

Epstein

Epstein

Having just seen his daughter, Margo, graduate from law school in Harrisburg, Pa., attorney Arnold Epstein found himself in the family car zooming along the highway toward Washington, D.C. Sitting beside him, his sister was panicking: “We’ll never get there.”

When he first found out that his two daughters would graduate from law school and medical school on the same day, at overlapping times, in two different cities, all Epstein could do was shake his head. “I thought, ‘This is impossible,’” he recalls.

But here he was—having just e-mailed daughter Lauren a picture of her sister Margo’s graduation from Widener Law School—roaring along a highway in a furious attempt to make the end of Lauren’s medical school ceremony at George Washington University. To further complicate the trip, he made a wrong turn coming out of Harrisburg. But Epstein—a lawyer with the Pittsburgh area firm of Brennan, Robins & Daley—is not a man who is easily deterred.

“I said: ‘We’ll get there,’” he recalls, and they did, swooping in at the last minute to see Lauren walking along the aisle to pick up her degree. “I was worn out, but it was well worth it,” he adds.

One daughter is now an assistant solicitor for Allegheny County and the other a third-year medical resident in Boston. Their success is a reflection of Epstein’s passion and dedication to making the lives of young people better. From the start, he and his wife encouraged their daughters to learn, to be confident, and to never give up.

A member of the University’s Alumni Leadership Council, where he serves on the student subcommittee, Epstein (EDUC ’69) shares the same messages with the young people he meets through his alumni volunteer efforts.

He’s most proud of the University’s work to draw students into the embrace of the alumni network from day one. Arrival Survival—new students’ first week on campus—enables students to form friendships and begin to feel at home away from home. If members of the alumni council are there to bond with students, he says, we are more likely to bond with them for life. In the end, if they find friendships and have good experiences, they are more likely to come back and contribute their talents and support to the University.

Through his nearly 30-year role as an adjunct instructor in the legal studies program in Pitt’s Graduate School of Public and International Affairs, Epstein has been able to keep in touch with students’ changing lifestyles and expectations. His voice is an important one as the alumni association’s student subcommittee shapes activities and outreach for today’s 21st-century students whose hurried rhythms of life are guided by Google, text messaging, and digital-age academics.

After he earned his Pitt undergraduate degree in education with a focus in history, Epstein taught high school for a year while he toyed with the idea of pursuing a PhD in history. Ultimately, he wound up attending law school in Ohio and became a managing partner in a small general practice firm that is a couple of traffic lights from his home in Churchill, Pa. But—since the days when he shared life lessons with his daughters—education remains a love.

“Teaching was always at the back of my mind … the satisfaction of students learning something, gaining knowledge that I’ve given to them,” he says.

The son of a truck driver and a homemaker, Epstein has always felt a special affinity for Pitt, too, which gave him opportunities he otherwise might not have had.

He appreciates the doors of advancement that Pitt opened for him. His volunteer work with the alumni association is motivated by his desire to provide every student with the same opportunity. “I want students to know that attending Pitt is an investment in yourself,” he says. “Education is like getting a ticket to a ball game. It lets you into the game.”

His dreams began at Pitt, he says, and he is deeply connected to the University. It was here that he met his wife, Barbara Appelbaum, a Pitt graduate who works on campus as director of the Health Sciences Library System. His sister and her husband are Pitt graduates, too.

With Pitt providing such linkages to the past and connections for the future, it’s easy to understand why Epstein says: “Every time I look at the Cathedral, I feel like I’m home.”

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