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 June 2001
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Pedagogical Power Education students get a high-tech take on teaching, thanks to Buhl gift

At Pitt’s new football training facility on the South Side, Coach Walt Harris sits in a conference room with players, watching game footage on state-of-the-art video technology. They’re analyzing plays, studying what happened, learning to become better players.

Alan Lesgold, dean of Pitt’s School of Education, thought it was high time to use that same pedagogical power to teach prospective teachers to hone their teaching skills. Now, thanks to a $650,000 capital campaign gift from the Buhl Foundation, those efforts have begun in the school’s newly renovated and expanded Computer and Curriculum Inquiry Center (CCIC).

CCIC is the first of three computer labs to be completely refitted using funds from the Buhl Foundation. CCIC houses two computer clusters, where classes can be held, and a library. The main cluster features 32 new Macintosh G4s and three Gateway PCs, all with dual processors for video editing and the ability to produce single-copy DVDs. A smaller back lab, equipped with PCs, has comparable video-editing technology.

“When we talk about multimedia capability, we mean more than words,” says Susan Pittman, the school’s director of technology and media services. “We mean photographs, short movies, animation, interactive conferencing, digital editing, camcorder capability, special effects, zoom-in features, softening and sharpening focus, audio capability, music, titles.” You can download files from the Web, record voice-overs, create your own movie, then take it home, play it on your VCR, even e-mail it.

The smaller facility is well suited to advanced methodology classes. A large SMART Board at the front of the room accepts commands from the podium console and also functions as a huge touch screen. Special pens enable the user to make notations directly on the screen pages. Then, unlike conventional boards, SMART Board technology allows the user to save the notes in HTML, post the files to a course Web page, and e-mail them to a distribution list.

“It’s been very clear to us,” said Doreen Boyce, director of the Buhl Foundation, “that there was a need to be sure that teachers are well prepared to employ technology for the enhancement of student learning. What may help slower-learning students may not be appropriate for high-performing students. Teachers need to learn to manage that difference to the benefit of each.”

“A student can now go out, use a low-end camera, take some video in a classroom situation, bring it back, and talk about it in class,” Lesgold explains. “A supervising teacher can film a teaching activity by one of our master’s students or professional-year students.” That way, student teachers can see their performance from their students’ point-of-view and assess what’s working—and what could stand improvement. Funds from the grant will also support a substantial upgrade of the school’s website and the creation of an archival database. “It’s essential that a school of education as distinguished as the University of Pittsburgh’s prepare their teachers with up-to-date technologies and teaching and learning techniques,” Boyce commented. “I’m delighted that the school has taken on the challenge. And we, at the Buhl Foundation, are very proud to be partners in that challenge.” —Karen Levine

The Jurenko Effect Engineering alum provides computer engineering support

The Jurenko family must be a School of Engineering legend. Between 1956 and 1970, four Jurenko brothers completed bachelor’s degrees in electrical engineering at Pitt: Robert in 1970, Donald in 1963 (and a master’s degree in 1966), David in 1960, and the eldest, John, in 1956. And today, thanks to John Jurenko, the Jurenko presence lives on.

After receiving his bachelor’s degree, he went to work for the government and electronics division of Philco in Philadelphia. There he worked up through the ranks from junior engineer to department manager in 1968. In 1969, he was co-founder and VP of engineering for II Corp. He left the company when it was acquired in 1972, joining Tele-Dynamics as marketing director. Three years later, in 1975, he joined Universal Data Systems (UDS) and led its sales force until 1986 (building sales from less than $1 million to more than $100 million a year). In 1986, he and six others founded Adtran Inc. The first few years were hard ones. The company’s founders took no salaries and looked for no outside investment, insisting on supporting the venture themselves. Adtran is now a $460 million company that trades on the NASDAQ exchange, and Jurenko has retired.

Knowing that digital data communication is a key curriculum component for anyone who wants to succeed today, Jurenko and his wife established the John A. and Ruth R. Jurenko Charitable Lead Annuity Trust in 1998. The trust provides the computer engineering program $1 million over 10 years, including funds for the John A. Jurenko Professorship in Computer Engineering, which will help the school to attract outstanding faculty. In addition, the funds were also used to establish the John A. Jurenko Computer Engineering Laboratory. Most recently, Jurenko endowed a scholarship for undergrads and a laboratory maintenance fund for the computer engineering labs.

Jurenko’s goal in making his generous gifts is clear. “I would like to see the computer engineering program at Pitt be the most reputable in the country,” he says. And with the Jurenko effect behind it, the possibilities are endless. —Mimi Koral

Always Taking an Interest in Life Class of ’28 alumna creates Alden Forbes Family Scholarship

Mary Gordon Forbes (Arts and Sciences ’28) was born 80 years too soon. At least that’s what she says. And once you meet her, you can see why she might feel that way.

“I’m alive and taking an interest in life,” she says upon answering the phone in her apartment in Pittsburgh’s West View section. And she certainly is. Ninety-four years old, she’s active in her church, she’d be glad to talk to you about the recent election, and she made sure to attend Pitt’s Discovery Weekend last fall to catch up with the latest developments at her alma mater.

Forbes—who likes to be remembered as “Mary F., ” the name her classmates used for her, short for Mary Frances—emphasizes the important role Pitt played in her life. “The knowledge my husband and I gained at Pitt allowed us to do what we did,” she says. And that’s why, in 1999, she created a charitable gift annuity to establish the Alden Forbes Family Scholarship Fund, so that Pitt may continue to influence lives.

Born in the Oklahoma Territory before it became a state, Forbes, along with her family, moved on to Virginia and then Pennsylvania as her mother pursued a career in music. It was Forbes who put girls’ pigtails in the inkwell back when she was a grammar student in a one-room schoolhouse. (“That’s what inkwells were for, after all!” she exclaims.) After her family moved to Pittsburgh, you could find her “climbing any old tree” in the orchards of Mt. Lebanon, or swinging from her trapeze.

You might also have found the young Forbes identifying various plants and animals—a fascination that would lead her to study at Pitt. “I’ve been interested in biology since I was born,” she says.

Forbes met her late husband, Alden Forbes, at Pitt when she was a freshman. He worked for Professor Fish—head of the zoology department—taking care of the rabbit genetics experiment in a building referred to as the rabbit house, located on the lot that would become the Cathedral lawn. By the time Forbes graduated, Alden had hit on the idea of creating his own biological supply business. Together they founded and ran Alden H. Forbes Laboratories, which supplied biological materials to schools and research laboratories. The business, which she sold after her husband’s death in 1979, is still in operation today.

Forbes fondly recalls the days when the company was run out of their house and Jonas Salk would stop by to pick up rabbits for his experiments. The burgeoning business kept them on their toes. “Our car never saw the garage because it was full of pickled things,” she remembers. “We had rabbits, rats, mice, guinea pigs, and chickens, and on the third floor we had amoebae and protozoa.”

Forbes made sure to attend Chancellor Mark A. Nordenberg’s State of the University address during Discovery Weekend. Had she stayed for the pyrotechnics and laser light show Saturday evening on the Cathedral lawn, she no doubt would have reflected on just how much the lawn has changed.

She remembers when her world revolved around the two zoology houses on what was then mostly a big field, and how they used to take the rabbit cages out from the barn so the animals could sun themselves on the grass. And she can still hear the thunder of the machinery as the foundation was dug for the great new building. But reminisce as she might, she’s thrilled with the direction Pitt is taking today. “I think it’s marvelous the way Pitt has grown,” she says, emphasizing her enthusiasm for the current administration. “Pitt today is bigger and more beautiful than it was then.” —Alison D’Addieco



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