University of Pittsburgh


Collective Value

Alumni honor the past, invest in the future

Written by Renee P. Aldrich



The teen, just out of high school, pilots a B-17 aircraft on dangerous missions over Germany during the fiercest months of World War II fighting. “Yes, we were concerned for our safety, but we just did what we had to do,” recalls William Cully about his service in the U.S. Army Air Corps during the last years of the war. The young airman piloted more than 30 missions, steering his 18-ton high-altitude Boeing plane over the skies of Europe with the lives of nine crewmen in the balance. Every time, the crew accomplished its task and returned safely to base.

After his service in the air corps, the new veteran made his way to the University of Pittsburgh. The days ahead would be far different than those he spent as a pilot. He entered a welcoming world where the Western Pennsylvania native reconnected with neighborhood friends, found caring teachers, and sowed the seeds of a lasting attachment to Pitt. He took a range of courses in the School of Arts and Sciences and, within three years, earned an undergraduate degree in business. Success would continue to characterize Cully’s life.

Today, Cully (A&S ’49) is the chief executive of United Plate Glass, Inc., a leading custom-manufacturer of glass and architectural framework for multiple industries and purposes. His leadership qualities, so evident in his early forays as a youthful airman, have extended to many aspects of his life well beyond his corporate role. He has, for instance, been a longtime champion for Pitt, providing enduring support and resources in a variety of ways.

An enthusiastic Pitt sports fan, he’s an ardent supporter of the Panther Club Scholarship Fund, as well as women’s basketball and men’s soccer. An alumni association Life Member, Cully also is a director emeritus of the organization. He contributed to the award-winning refurbishment of Alumni Hall in the mid-1990s. More recently, in addition to his sustained record of giving to Pitt, his generosity benefited the School of Nursing. In 2007 he was named the school’s volunteer of the year for his efforts with the Nancy Glunt Hoffman Memorial Fund and Golf Outing.

Alumni leaders like Cully are part of a record number 50,881 donors who have contributed to the University this past year, making fiscal year 2008 the University’s best fundraising year ever. With $183 million in fiscal-year gifts and pledges from individuals and foundations, the University campaign has reached $1.273 billion, progressing toward its historic $2 billion goal.



It takes a community of enthusiasts to envision progress and new possibilities and to commit the resources needed for enduring success. This bountiful group of Pitt people includes many others beyond Cully who are as diverse as their gifts—among them Mary Ellen Callahan and J. Roger Glunt.

An enthusiastic 17-year-old walks into an interview for a Pitt Chancellor’s Scholarship. She has the springy confidence that comes from being a top high school graduate. The interview topics veer from academic questions to popular culture. The teen confesses that, even though she loves classic black-and-white films, she has never particularly enjoyed watching the famous actress Katherine Hepburn. The scholarship committee chair feigns alarm and disbelief. He leans closer. “Why?,” he implores. Callahan maintains her poise and spends the next few minutes making a case for her dislike of Kate.

Not long after that interview, Mary Ellen Callahan was accepted into the University Honors College with a Chancellor’s Scholarship that covered four years of tuition and room and board. This was especially meaningful to Callahan, who had witnessed her mother’s struggle to make ends meet as a single parent of seven children. Her father had died when Callahan was 5-years-old. “I came to understand early,” she says, “that this chance at Pitt would not have happened for me without the availability of those funds.”

Callahan (A&S ’90) made the most of her scholarship and Pitt education. Today, she is a partner with the law firm of Hogan & Hartson in Washington, D.C. Beyond her routine support of the University, she has been a generous contributor to the refurbishment of Honors College space on the upper floors of the Cathedral of Learning, and the college has created a Medallion Fund in her name. Callahan also supports a host of scholarships and research efforts, including an undergraduate research fund in her name. “I am doing what I think others should do,” she says. “I’m giving so that someone else, in time, can do the same.”

On an autumn day, a reserved Pitt student takes a seat in his first public speaking class, an elective he uses to help overcome his shyness. He’s not a “talker,” and he’s not looking forward to a semester of public speaking. He sits at the wooden desk and wonders how he’s going to get through it. The speech professor, Phyllis McIntyre, notices the young man’s unease and takes him under her wing. “Stand up, speak out, be confident,” she counsels. Over the weeks, he sees how much the teacher believes in him, and J. Roger Glunt begins to believe in himself, too.

This wasn’t his only life-altering lesson at Pitt. He gained leadership skills in his ROTC classes. He learned discipline and respect from four years in the Pitt Band, where the director taught him to “strive for the highest.” He developed the self-assurance to be president of his fraternity twice during his undergraduate years, and he laid the foundation for a successful career in business—all with the help of a speech professor who saw the potential in a student who sat quietly at a classroom desk, waiting for direction.



Glunt (KGSB ’60) is now president of JR Glunt Development Co., Inc., a top general contracting firm for homes and commercial buildings. Since his days at Pitt, he also has served as president of the National Association of Home Builders and has made presentations to the U.S. House of Representatives and other influential groups about the importance of home ownership and its power to change people’s lives.

Though still soft-spoken, he can’t hide his passion when it comes to talking about his support for the University. He gives broadly to research, scholarships, and other worthy causes, including, most poignantly, the Nancy Glunt Hoffman Memorial Fund, which he created to honor his sister, a 1963 Pitt nursing graduate who lost her battle with cancer in December 2001.

The record-breaking generosity of Pitt alumni and friends is a testament to the campaign theme of Building Our Future Together. These gifts and those that will follow represent a tremendous investment in the lives of tomorrow’s achievers, whose hard work, leadership, and bright aspirations will continue to offer hope for a better world.