March 2002


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Campaign for the University


More than just a name

Cynthia L. Roth may have been the youngest of four children in her family, but she was the first to graduate from college. She majored in nursing and credits her 1981 Pitt bachelor’s degree with helping her become vice president of a hospital at the age of 32.

Her parents have died so in their memory she has established the Harvey and Edna Roth Research Fund for nursing students. Roth, 42, says she was particularly motivated by the tender relationship she had with her mother, whom family members called Galloping Grandma. “We were just such good friends,” says Roth, who is a past president of the Pitt Alumni Association and a trustee of the University.

Corporate America intrigued Christopher LaBeau. Two years ago, LaBeau came to the University of Pittsburgh with the dream of one day being a player in that world.

Once here, he noted a potential stumbling block. The classrooms weren’t conducive to fostering the team-oriented culture that exists today in both the corporate world and the business school curriculum. “So many of our classes are team-oriented,” says the 33-year-old LaBeau, who is pursuing dual master’s degrees in business and information systems at the Katz Graduate School of Business.

It carries through in the classrooms now, too, thanks to the PNC Bank Foundation, which donated $1.3 million in cash and computer-consulting services to build the PNC Team Technology Center in Mervis Hall. At the heart of the center are 18 fully-wired team rooms that help facilitate group learning, study sessions, and homework. Previously, there was just one such classroom. LaBeau, a Toledo, Ohio, native, says there is no comparison between the old and new facilities in Mervis. “It’s a complete night and day difference.”

The PNC Team Technology Center and the Harvey and Edna Roth Research Fund are two recent examples of establishing permanent philanthropic connections with the University.

Through fundraising efforts, virtually every university offers opportunities to become part of campus lingo. For example, New York-based cable-television giant Comcast Corporation recently reached a deal with the University of Maryland to have the school’s $101 million basketball arena named after the company. Meanwhile, Florida A&M University dedicates new law school classrooms to its gift givers. And seminar rooms at the University of Miami will be named after donors for a minimum contribution of $250,000.

Here at Pitt, one of the more noteworthy gifts came from John M. Petersen and wife Gertrude. In return for their $10 million donation, the couple’s name has been immortalized via the University’s new 12,500-seat Petersen Events Center. The Pitt athletic department’s goal is to raise roughly half the cost of the $60 million Petersen complex through fulfillment of naming opportunities, says Maureen Anderson, director of athletic development. Reaching that goal is crucial because it frees money for other uses, including student scholarships.

In fact, 166 named scholarships and fellowships have been created since the start of the University’s capital campaign. During the same period, 28 named faculty chairs—from medicine to the humanities—were created with gifts ranging between $1.5 million to $2.5 million.

For benefactors, there are a wide variety of naming opportunities here, as at other universities, including scholarships, classrooms, lecture halls, and other facilities.

At Pitt, it’s not just about the money, but what the donations can do. Thomas Crawford, assistant vice chancellor of institutional advancement, says donation offers are evaluated carefully to avoid problems, such as conflict of interest. “We’re careful and cautious that it’s a good fit,” he says. For benefactors like PNC and Cynthia L. Roth, the fit is perfect.

—Kris B. Mamula

First rights

She doesn’t quite look like a private investigator. She doesn’t wear a trench coat, lurk in the shadows, or have high-tech camera equipment. But for almost 10 years, part of Jennifer Thompson’s work at her law firm was tracking down missing heirs. It sounds mysterious, but in reality, she was just looking for the heirs of authors whose works her clients wanted to distribute or use in some capacity.

One day MGM approached Josh Butler & Company Inc., the firm where Thompson worked. The movie company’s executives had a vault full of old films. Before they could make any plans for the films, they needed to locate the appropriate heirs for their permission.

Thomson had a new assignment and her first glimpse into the entertainment industry. She liked what she saw. It prompted her to return to school for a career in entertainment. Instead of enrolling in theater classes, though, she entered Pitt law school (’02)—she wants to defend the ideas that propel the entertainment world.

Since starting law school, she has squeezed in as many copyright and intellectual property rights classes as possible to feed her desire to protect ideas, always wishing there was more time for those classes.

Then she heard about a new fellowship, established by former Pitt law professor Pamela Samuelson and her husband, Robert J. Glushko, a Silicon Valley entrepreneur. The fellowship gives two recipients $2,500 each for a research project focusing on technology and intellectual property rights law.

“Being a law student, you have no time,” Thomson says. “I thought I would pick a topic on something I wanted to learn further about, and then it would force me to take the time to research it and study it to make up for gaps that I felt existed in my coursework.”

With the fellowship money, Thomson produced a law-review-like paper on antitrust issues in the motion picture industry, a problem she feels will grow as movie companies harness the Internet to expand their empires. While she isn’t required to publish the almost 60-page article, she hopes that it will be accepted by a journal.

—Meghan Holohan

Building blocks

Larry Holleran (EDU ’56) and Kathy Holleran gave $100,000 to the University’s Capital Campaign. The gift from the Hollerans reflects their belief in “education for education’s sake” and supports the Kathleen N. Holleran Student Resources Fund in the School of Education. The contribution also will support the Dean’s Discretionary Fund in the Katz Graduate School of Business, the Kathy and Larry Holleran Family Endowed Book Fund in the University Library System, and the Osteoporosis Clinical Research Summer Internship Program in the Osteoporosis Institute.

Robert Flory (EDU ’74), chairman of the Department of Surgery’s endowment campaign, gave $150,000 toward the department and the Charles Gray Watson Surgical Education Center, under construction at UPMC Presbyterian Hospital. The Watson Center will be equipped with sophisticated training tools that will help the University take a lead role in teaching the advanced skills required for minimally invasive surgery, and it will prepare students for computer-assisted and robotic technologies used in “intelligent” operating rooms. The gift will also fund the Charles Watson Gray Endowed Professorship in Surgical Education, which will support the administration of the Watson Center.

To find out more, check out Pitt's Office of Institutional Advancement.

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