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Literary Diet

Joogie was teased without mercy. It didn’t help that he tipped the scale at 220 pounds by the time he graduated from high school. But something changed during the next year. Joogie shed 80 pounds. When he came home on leave from the U.S. Coast Guard, his mother didn’t even recognize him.

Something else changed while he was away. He became a voracious reader—started writing, too. A mantra formed in his head: Fall nine times, get up 10. “It’s hard for kids to be different,” says author Lee Gutkind, derisively called “Joogie” by his family and worse by his schoolmates. “I was different.”

What really makes Gutkind different is his touch for turning setbacks into strengths. Take the creative nonfiction course he began teaching at Pitt in 1973, perhaps the first of its kind.

Colleagues snickered at this new genre of writing, which encompasses all literary nonfiction—memoirs, essays, reportage—and other forms, too, including the nonfiction novel and what some have called the literature of reality.

At Pitt, he pioneered a creative nonfiction writing program that was soon copied by universities nationwide. Gutkind thought he had the last laugh.

Then, came the 1997 Vanity Fair article. Cultural critic James Wolcott singled out Gutkind as the “Godfather” of a writing genre that he derided as not much more than “navel gazing.” Gutkind—a professor of English and founder and editor of the literary journal Creative Nonfiction—was stunned. But he did what he does best. He grabbed the insult with both hands and ran with it.

He titled his memoir, Forever Fat: Essays by the Godfather. Last August, he began a national lecture tour featuring writing workshops and readings. The tour also spotlights the 10th anniversary of the founding of Creative Nonfiction.

Little could Wolcott have imagined the unintended effect of his literary rebuke. “It put the journal and genre in a spotlight that it never had before,” says Gutkind, who has performed as a clown and crisscrossed the country on a motorcycle while researching numerous books and essays. “It invigorated my career.”

Writing creative nonfiction also afforded him something he’d craved since his adolescence. “I needed to prove myself. I needed to fit,” he says. “And I had to fit in such a way that people would confide in me.”

Kris B. Mamula

Chairman of the Board

As a teenager in the early ’60s, Ralph J. Cappy spent one too many Western Pennsylvania summers cleaning out horse barns and steel mill furnaces. When he complained, his parents were quick to remind him that, in life, “the choice was either to use your brains or use your brawn.” Cappy got the message. He was the first in the family to graduate from college.

Today, Cappy (CAS ’65, LAW ’68) is Pennsylvania’s highest-ranking judge—chief justice of the state supreme court. He is in his second 10-year term with the high court, joining in 1990.

Before becoming a judge at the age of 34, Cappy spent a decade in private practice, where he thought he’d return after five or 10 years. Still “trapped” behind the bench, as he jokingly puts it, he is dedicated to improving administrative efficiency. He is also passionate about the fair treatment of women in the workforce, having witnessed, he says, too much discrimination over the years.

Cappy is passionate about Pitt, too. In June, he was appointed chairman of the University of Pittsburgh’s board of trustees, of which he’s been a member for 11 years. He is also chair of the law school’s board of visitors, a legacy laureate, and the recipient of the law school’s distinguished alumnus award.

He enjoys working with Pitt students and feels fortunate to have several law students clerking in his chambers. “It’s invigorating,” he says. “They’re always on that wonderful cusp of life where their expectations are enormous.”

Looking back on his own expectations and those summers doing manual labor, Cappy can’t help but chuckle. “I wanted to find a field you could think your way through. I’ve certainly found that field!”
—Alison D’Addieco

Good Word

Follow the Leader

When it comes to football stadiums, San Diego State University seems envious of Pitt: “There’s no question the Aztecs would benefit from a new stadium, too, especially with the kind of partnership the University of Pittsburgh Panthers and the NFL’s Pittsburgh Steelers enjoy at 2-year-old Heinz Field, which both teams call home.”

—from 360, the magazine of San Diego State University (summer issue)

A Royal Tribute

The path traverses the mountainside under a canopy of vine-laden trees. Green, bathed in shade, blankets everything.

In this remote section of Uganda, Holmes Rolston III whacks his way through jungle thorns and vines in the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest.

Insects whir. Birds jabber. “Wow, he’s huge!” was Rolston’s first thought, as a silverback gorilla appeared from the deep shade behind a fig tree. The hairy hulk, with shining eyes, was a mere 15 feet away. He was pure black, except for the silver-white band on his back, a mark of maturity. Rolston had found what he was seeking: a face-to-face encounter with the rare mountain gorilla.

On this trip, he says, such encounters continued a lifelong search for human origins and future hopes. Only about 600 of these gorillas remain on the planet, all in this region of East Africa. They can only be seen wild in their natural habitat because they don’t survive in captivity.

Months earlier, Rolston (FAS ’68) was in a much different setting. He was honored in England’s Buckingham Palace as the recipient of the 2003 Templeton Prize. The award, presented by Prince Philip, carries a monetary tribute of roughly $1.2 million—more than the Nobel Prize. Established by Sir John Templeton 30 years ago, the annual prize rewards “progress toward research or discoveries about spiritual realities.”

The British honor recognizes Rolston’s reputation as the father of environmental ethics. Through his worldwide writings and lectures, as well as his teaching as a university distinguished professor at Colorado State University, he elaborates on his conviction that nature should not only be respected but also revered as a sacred gift, an integral part of creation. For him, nature is about “life persisting in the midst of perpetual perishing.”

Rolston originally studied physics, math, and biology as an undergraduate. Then, he embraced his father’s career as a Presbyterian minister, earning a divinity degree and a PhD in theology and religious studies. In his 30s, he continued his search for a philosophy of nature and earned a master’s degree in philosophy of science at Pitt.

He loves the classroom and the great outdoors equally, he says. Shortly after his return from Africa, he was on a trail ride in Montana and, in September, back in the classroom teaching environmental ethics. He’s still at work on a philosophy of nature, and he has already coined an apt epitaph for his life: Philosopher Gone Wild.

Cindy Gill

Presidential Journey

He was born in Muskogee, Okla., but reared in the South when segregation was still the norm.

“I learned to keep a keen awareness of my external environment and to read subtle dynamics everywhere I went,” remembers Adam Herbert, who is African American.

He also remembers using segregation as a motivation. That motivation led to a college degree, including, in 1971, a PhD in urban affairs and public administration from Pitt’s Graduate School of Public and International Affairs.

Today, Herbert doesn’t live in Oklahoma, in the South, or in Pittsburgh. This past August, he moved with his wife and “kids” (two dogs—Ebony and Dusty) to Bloomington, Ind., where he was recently sworn in as Indiana University’s new president.

“I’ve been blessed with good vision,” he says metaphorically of his rise to the top of the academic world. "I have the ability to see what kind of future an enterprise holds and how to get there 10, 20 years down the road—much as an artist looks at a blank canvas and can see things that aren't there or a musician sits down at a piano and composes an opera."

As for Pitt, he still diligentley supports Panther athletics and looks for more competition between his alma mater and Indiana in the years to come. Ever the diplomat, he wont comment on his allegiance.

—Kate Dunfee

MTV Exposure

A sign outside Pittsburgh’s Epiphany Fitness Studios reads:

The LAST personal trainer you will ever need.

Inside, the studio’s personal trainers and owners, Janalyn Budzik (CAS ’02) and Tom Tadlock, are nowhere to be found. That’s because they are at the MTV Beach House in the Hamptons. They were picked from more than 1,000 couples to compete on MTV against five other pairs for the “hottest bods” couples' contest.

They didn’t win the 2003 competition, but Budzik says becoming a finalist was the real accomplishment. She thinks the repeated broadcasts will help her get more clients, which is why, upon her return, she placed another sign in the studio window: SEE US ON MTV.

—KB

Change in Direction

A stream of tired men begins draining from the Kettering, Ohio, factory when a whistle announces a shift change. Idling at the plant gate is a ’57 Chevy. A young mother is at the wheel. In the back seat is a 6-year-old boy, looking for his father. Son and dad spot each other, jubilant. Smiling wide, dad climbs into the front seat. The car rumbles off.

Dad slips out of a dirty work shirt and into a clean uniform shirt. He catches up with his family. His wife is driving him to a second job as a gas station attendant. But that’s not the end of it. Saturdays, he will be behind the counter at a hardware store.

These are among Jeff Long’s memories of his father. Long says he brings his dad’s same work ethic to his new job as Pitt’s athletic director. He’ll need it. His role includes marketing, sales, fundraising, and much more. What Long, 43, also brings is experience in college athletics. Most recently, Long—who earned an MA in education at Ohio University—was senior associate athletic director at the University of Oklahoma.

–KBM

Lights! Coach! Action!

Jamie Dixon has a starring role, succeeding his mentor and friend, Ben Howland, as men’s basketball coach. Howland’s departure for UCLA after two seasons of advancing Pitt to the NCAA Tournament’s Sweet 16, leaves Dixon with the task of having to produce in the glare of the spotlight.

He’s done that before. At age 5, in fact. That’s when Dixon had his first close-up—a starring role in a Volvo TV commercial. “It wasn’t DeNiro,” he recalls.

Growing up in North Hollywood, the son of parents who were involved in show business, Dixon would go on to appear in several commercials.

While working as a graduate assistant coach and earning his master’s degree in economics at the University of California at Santa Barbara, Dixon realized that he loved being in the arena more than on the sound stage.

As for his new role as head coach at Pitt, he doesn’t plan to tinker with the success he was a part of during his 10 years as Howland’s assistant. “I’m not going to change for the sake of change,” he says. “I’ll make adjustments when I need to adjust.”

He’d better. He knows he can’t fall back on show business. “That’s a tough business,” he says, “and I lost my looks.”

—Bill Modoono

Full Court Press

In the early morning, on the top floor of the Petersen Events Center, Agnus Berenato sits at her desk, talking on the phone to Jeff Long, Pitt’s athletic director. Through the slits in the office’s blinds, the basketball court glows eerily, illuminated by the scoreboards.

The new women’s basketball coach hangs up, only to begin talking with her assistant coaches. There is no time to lose for Berenato, who earned a BA in sociology at Mount St. Mary’s College in Emmitsburg, Md. Although she has been working long hours, she still exudes energy. She grabs the lone picture off the wall opposite her desk. It’s of a sold-out game. This, she says, is what she wants the Petersen to look like for every game. She’s excited. Not long after her arrival in May from Georgia Tech, she recalls how she heard a ball bouncing on the court. She admits she wanted to peek through the blinds, but it was the off season, so she refrained. Moments after the dribbling stopped, a young woman, not so coincidentally, popped into Berenato’s office to say hi. Evidently, her players are excited, too.

Meghan Holohan

Remembering Peter Safar

The white-haired man across the table offered to describe the inside of my ambulance. His eyes focused on something invisible, just above me. “It has a seat at the head of the stretcher,” he began, playfully.

Yes. We paramedics call that the jump seat.

“And you have a smaller seat at the right side of the patient. That’s so chest compressions can be easily done during cardiopulmonary resuscitation.”

Right again, I said, still only vaguely aware of whom I was interviewing for my “other” job as senior editor of Pitt Magazine.

How do you know these things?

“That’s my design,” said Peter Safar. “I modeled it after the anesthesiologist’s position in the operating room.”

Safar, 79, Distinguished Professor of Resuscitation Medicine, often called the father of modern CPR, died last August from cancer. Helping design the modern ambulance is a footnote in a career of medical innovation that spanned 42 years at the University of Pittsburgh.

Chancellor Mark A. Nordenberg succinctly and accurately defines all that Safar accomplished: “He fundamentally reshaped approaches to medical treatment and helped save hundreds of thousands of lives.”

Mankind’s dream of bringing dead people back to life is as old as the Bible. Safar helped make that dream come true for thousands of people.

He developed the first hospital intensive care unit in America and pioneered the paramedic-staffed ambulance, a model copied around the world. At Pitt, he created the world’s first critical care medicine program that trained doctors in intensive care. In recent years, he explored the use of therapeutic cooling to limit brain damage from stroke, heart attack, and other injuries. Three times he was nominated for the Nobel Prize in medicine.

But Safar is perhaps best known as the father of CPR. His interest in resuscitative medicine was forged by two painful events: the asthma death of his 11-year-old daughter, Elizabeth, in 1966, and the sudden fatal heart attack of his 50-year-old sister, Hanni, in 1978, in his native Vienna. His sister’s death followed efforts to save her by his 87-year-old mother and his teen-age nephew.

Heart attacks kill around 680 people every day. That was never acceptable to Safar.

The steps he helped perfect for people who have stopped breathing have become as familiar today as the stethoscope. People may not immediately recognize the Safar name. But his legacy flourishes in the simple airway, breathing, circulation steps that he refined, instructions that even youngsters master today in CPR classes.

During that interview with him two years ago, he brightened when I mentioned that I worked as a paramedic, too. Although I scarcely knew it then, his discoveries had made it possible for me to help save the lives of at least two people. That’s when he offered to describe my ambulance.

Safar’s autobiography bulges with expressions of gratitude for a long life, for the kindness of others. That was no surprise to the Chancellor. “Peter Safar was a man of great personal warmth,” he says.

Safar also advocated access to healthcare for all people, regardless of ability to pay; opposed nuclear weapons; and was an outspoken advocate for world peace.

But Peter Safar was not about pretense. He was a self-described workaholic who often answered the phone, “This is Peter Safar.” He was just as quick cutting to the chase when talking research.

Patrick Kochanek, professor in the Department of Critical Care Medicine, Safar colleague, and head of the Safar Center for Resuscitation Research, says all of Safar’s medical pursuits boiled down to answering one question: “What are you doing to make the patient better?”

I talked with Safar a half-dozen times after that Pitt Magazine interview. His optimism never waned. When he told me cancer had spread throughout his body, he said, who knows, maybe he would wind up like champion bicyclist Lance Armstrong, a cancer survivor.

When my original interview neared the end, I asked him what advice he could offer. He told me our first calling is to use the gifts we are given, our first vocation is to make the world a better place. By that measure, he claimed modest success.

“I have a feeling that I have made use of my life,” he said.

Kris B. Mamula


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