March 2001


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University News

The Good Word
Blue and Gold Excellence

Pitt’s Blue and Gold Society, a group of undergraduate students who act as ambassadors of the University, recently received the Outstanding Organization Award from the Council for Advancement and Support of Education.

Quenching Fires
Like a slow fire, acid can burn across the pages of an aged book, turning paper into yellow, gold, and caramel sheaves that crumble like a leaf in the hand. This happens to old books in libraries throughout the world, every day. But not at Pitt. Not anymore.

Rush Miller, director of the University Library System, has taken the initiative to preserve books through an innovative new process that neutralizes acid in paper—a process that stops the slow-burning fires. In doing so, he will save some 50,000 of Pitt’s rare and at-risk books, some dating back to the fifteenth century. "What Rush Miller is doing is honoring the public trust," says Bob Strauss, a preservation planning expert at Preservation Technologies, the only US company to do mass deacidification. "By preserving early imprints, first editions, manuscripts, or rare books, the University becomes a better custodian of its collections, its true artifacts."

After the 1960s flood in Florence, Italy, in which untold pieces of history, art, and literature were lost to raging waters, the Library of Congress realized a nation’s books were just as much artifacts as its museum pieces, and made preserving books a priority. In 1997, the Library of Congress endorsed the process introduced by Preservation Technologies. Taking the endorsement as a cue, Pitt is preserving its collections—the East Asian Collection, the Neitz Old Textbook Collection, first editions and manuscripts, T. S. Eliot’s Selected Essays in vellum, and Harriet Beecher Stowe’s first edition copy of Uncle Tom’s Cabin (1852), to name a few.

Ptt is on the leading edge of preservation work. While most libraries put books on microfilm, digitize them, or reformat the book by copying its pages onto acid-free paper, these solutions do not maintain a book’s integrity—its 16th century binding, its handwritten notes, its authenticity and historical value. Deacidification does. The entire book is treated, its acidic content is neutralized, and its intrinsic value is maintained. What’s more, the book can still be copied, microfilmed, or digitized.—Jennifer Andrews

Teaching Abroad
These Pitt professors spent the 1999-2000 academic year as visiting fellows at the University of Oxford’s All Souls College. Left to right: Alison Stones, professor of medieval art and architecture; Rob Clifton, associate professor of philosophy; and David Beratan, professor of chemistry.

Fond Farewell
She built the School of Nursing into a top-funded research organization. He took Pitt’s sense of community into social work that helped millions. Ellen Rudy and David E. Epperson (Arts and Sciences ’75, ’61, Social Work ’64) will each seek new challenges in retirement after this academic year.

Rudy, dean of the School of Nursing since 1991, built a research powerhouse. Last year, the school was ranked eighth in the nation in research funding from the National Institutes of Health. In April, U.S. News and World Report ranked the school 12th in the nation. Under Rudy’s direction, the School of Nursing, now celebrating its 60th year, developed strong bonds with the clinical nursing community. Rudy established clinical and research practice tracks for faculty, as well as the Pitt-sponsored Horizons conference, an annual update on the state of clinical nursing in the region. Two years ago, Rudy initiated Cameos of Caring, a gala honoring the excellence of bedside nurses from 27 area hospitals.

During Epperson’s 29 years as dean, the School of Social Work’s graduate program became top-ranked—U.S. News and World Report rates the school 13th in the nation. Enrollment has more than tripled since he became dean in 1972. The school has a curriculum that is respected throughout the social work profession. Moreover, Pitt graduates, including Epperson, head nine of the country's 140 social work schools with graduate programs.

Abroad, Epperson brought his influence, and by extension Pitt’s, to numerous social welfare missions. As a member of the YMCA, Epperson supported black South Africans during apartheid and played a major role in helping the Ethiopian relief effort receive $2 million in private philanthropy and $3 million in federal aid. In the mid-1980s, he helped plan the first social welfare conference in Uganda, following that country’s bitter civil war. Says Epperson: "I feel blessed to have been involved in things that have had a major impact on a lot of people." —David R. Eltz

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