June 2001


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Alumni Association Notebook


Keith Schaefer shouldn’t have worn his yellow jacket that spring evening 30 years ago. The then-undergrad was heading back from the Pitt library when he ran into a spontaneous dorm raid. As Schaefer (Arts and Sciences ’71) watched, water balloons rained down from Brackenridge Hall. A moment later the cops arrived—and scooped him up along with the guilty, his bright jacket flagging him like a shiny apple in a bowl of mashed potatoes. Still, it’s a story with a happy ending. Remembers Schaefer, “The good Chancellor Posvar came down and bailed us out of jail.”

That is one of the rare times Schaefer has been simply a bystander. Although he started out in sales with Procter and Gamble, he’s worked in high tech since joining Atari as head of sales and marketing in 1980. There he helped the company mushroom from $25 million in annual revenues to $2 billion in about three years. In the early ’90s, he hopped onto the Internet bandwagon. Last April in San Francisco, he founded Liquid Thinking, a business which works with companies wanting to get onto the Web.

As chair of the Alumni Association communications committee, Schaefer wants to carry Pitt to those who can’t be here, using the Internet: streaming audio/video of Discovery Weekend, a virtual tour of the association’s new home in the Masonic Temple, the ability to find classmates you’ve lost track of, or simply the chance to follow what is going on here. The Web, he believes, is the way to stay connected to Pitt. (Schaefer connected with Pitt last month when Chancellor Mark A. Nordenberg visited with the Bay Area club.)

Schaefer traces his own connection and debt to Pitt very precisely —to one classroom and one day. During a debate about communism’s possible demise, a poli sci professor pushed Schaefer and the other students to imagine themselves into the lives of the underclass around the world and to consider what communism’s appeal might be for them. For the 20-year-old from the South Hills, it was an “epiphany.” In a way he never had before, Schaefer found himself understanding that the world was a “very complicated and large place” and most of it “wasn’t us.” Says Schaefer, “I have never, ever, from that moment since, gone back to thinking of myself as just a Western Pennsylvania boy.”—Mark Jacobs

A Taste of Membership

Mary Ellen Callahan (Arts and Sciences ’90) made some friends among the East European contingent when she went to work at the Library of Congress after graduation. So when the Alumni Association began to plan a stop in Washington, DC, for “A Taste of the University of Pittsburgh,” the stalwart Pitt Club member arranged for the reception to be held at the Hungarian embassy. The event, sponsored by both the Hungarian and Slovak embassies and with the Slovak ambassador in attendance, offered alums a chance to meet with Provost and Senior Vice Chancellor James V. Maher and be serenaded by members of the Heinz Chapel Choir. Callahan, now a DC lawyer, was a Chancellor’s Scholar at Pitt (and WPTS-FM sportscaster). Recently she cemented her support of the University by becoming a life member of the Alumni Association.

Callahan took advantage of the new rate structure for life membership, which now ranges from $300 to $600. Since the reduction in the cost of lifetime dues, the number of alums who have signed up has risen from 150 to about 600. The lifetime dues go into a permanent endowment for the Alumni Association.

For Bill Cully (Arts and Sciences ’49), signing up for life membership was a natural next step. Since becoming involved with the association in the past five years, Cully, the owner of a glass distributing company, has contributed glass to the renovation of the Alumni Association’s offices in the Masonic Temple and has also made donations to the athletic department. Cully says he has made “tremendous acquaintances” through the association and has had his “most enjoyable experiences and relationships with Pitt” ever. It’s somewhat of a sea change from his student years, when the commuting undergrad left for home directly after class each day. He says, looking back, that he would have liked to have known more of his classmates. But now, thanks to the Alumni Association, he’s making up for it.

Lifetime memberships allow the Alumni Association, which must generate 70 percent of its own budget every year, to maintain and expand its benefits and programs. Lifetime members get some extra benefits, have the satisfaction of knowing they’re providing long-term support to Pitt, and never have to bother with a dues notice again. To join the Alumni Association as a lifetime or annual member, click on or call 1-800-ALU-PITT.—MJ

Get Back on the Bus

Every year, the Pitt Alumni Association takes a busload of alumni to Harrisburg to advocate for better funding for higher education. This year, the trip took place on February 12. It is easy to pick out those who have been on it before. At the legislative breakfast, the experienced alums know their legislators on sight, and they negotiate the labyrinth-like halls of the capitol building as if they worked there. Carolyn Hill (Public and International Affairs ’91, Arts and Sciences ’81), Nancy Nelson (Education ’66, ’60), Dan Boyd (Business ’57), and Pat Pelkofer (Business ’53, Education ’48) were four of those among that number. Newcomers John (Business ’41) and Mary Roth Toerge (Business ’44), and Gene Ewing (Dental Medicine ’53) were impressed by the number of legislators who turned out for the breakfast at the Whitaker Center for Science and the Arts to hear Chancellor Mark A. Nordenberg. Also seen at the breakfast were Dan Jenkins (Arts and Sciences ’90), and Nello Giorgetti (Arts and Sciences ’79). In addition, numerous alumni from other parts of the state, including Seth (Arts and Sciences ’92) and Amy Mendelsohn, Jim Ayre (Business ’57), Richard Utley (Arts and Sciences ’72), Gary Hoffman (Law ’67, Arts and Sciences ’64), Glenn Miller (General Studies ’86), Richard Nowe (Engineering ’67), Jeannette Quirus (Engineering ’95, ’94), and Jim Kirkwood (Pharmacy ’65) joined the bus contingent for breakfast. Afterwards, they went to visit their legislators in their offices. Fran Gargotta (General Studies ’79) managed to collar two of hers and left a note for a third. At noon, the Pitt Symphonic Band, led by Jack Anderson (Arts and Sciences, ’70), who won this year’s national Paula Creider Outstanding Band Director Award, entertained in the capitol rotunda. Steve Russo (Public and International Affairs ’93, Arts and Sciences ’89), and Bebe (Medicine ’55, Arts and Sciences ’50) and Gwen (Education ’83) Miller were seen swaying to the music. At the end of the program, game legislators took up the baton to guest conduct “Hail to Pitt” to the amusement of all assembled. Then Grace Ghoshhajra (Education ’79), Joan Lanctot (Arts and Sciences ’86), Tom Bianco (Pitt-Johnstown ’72), and Mike McMullen (Arts and Sciences ’92), and the others from Western Pennsylvania reboarded the bus for the return trip to Pittsburgh having learned about how the system works and actually being part of the process. They also enjoyed the feeling of purpose and camaraderie that is derived from coming together to advocate for a worthy cause.

Mimi Koral

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