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Proving that people will go to extraordinary lengths to achieve their dreams, Tom Slone gave new meaning to the term “commuter student” while pursuing his bachelor’s degree in the University of Pittsburgh’s College of General Studies (CGS) from 1984 to 1988.

Slone worked as a successful finance executive with Associates First Capital in Pittsburgh from 1980 to 1986 before being promoted to the company’s office in Dallas. Although his promotion provided ample professional opportunity, it left him in an academic quandary.

“I only needed one more year of college to get my degree, but I realized that if I tried to move my credits to a school in Dallas, even if they had a [CGS] school comparable to Pitt’s, I’d lose them,” says Slone, 62, who began his professional career after serving in the U.S. Air Force immediately after high school. “I spoke with the school’s administration and told them I would like to continue to commute here. After discussing my options, they said they’d work with me, and that if I got a proctor in Texas to administer my exams, I could fly up and attend classes on weekends.”

Slone pauses at the thought before chuckling. “I think I had the distinction of having the longest commute of any student in Pitt history.”

Two years and countless frequent flyer miles later, Slone graduated from CGS with a psychology degree. He eventually became the chairman and CEO of Touchstone Communications in Fort Worth, Texas. He is semiretired now, but he has never forgotten the willingness and flexibility of Pitt and CGS to help him reach his academic goal. Throughout the years, he has shown his gratitude through financial contributions to the school, as well as personal involvement. For instance, in 1993 he established a scholarship endowment at the school, and he’s a member of the CGS board of visitors.

Last year, Slone boosted his role as a benefactor in a big way. He created a new endowed scholarship program for CGS students who are involved with Big Brothers Big Sisters of America (BBBSA), the nation’s oldest and largest youth- mentoring organization.

“I’ve been fortunate to be a mentor to two boys, and I’ve served as president of the local Big Brothers Big Sisters’ board of directors, as well. I just feel a real passion for the organization, because you can make such a difference with a kid in a short period of time,” says Slone, who joined BBBSA in 1988 at the urging of his wife, Frances, after the couple raised their four children.

“To me, education and mentoring go hand in hand, and I wanted to help Pitt CGS students who are a part of it.” He credits the school’s dean, Susan Kinsey, for creating an atmosphere where students and alumni want to give back.

The appreciation is mutual. “Tom is a charismatic leader who has a strong sense of social justice,” says Kinsey. “He has found an exemplary way to foster the values of continuing education and community service, all wrapped up in one scholarship program.”

Last fall, five CGS students were awarded a Tom R. Slone Scholarship, with each student receiving tuition assistance based on financial need and merit. The award also considers applicants’ participation as BBBSA mentors—affectionately known as “bigs”—to children between the ages of 5 and 18 who lack parental role models at home.

Pamela Clark is one of the initial scholarship recipients and a mentor in BBBSA for the past 10 years. A senior majoring in social sciences, she says Slone’s contribution to the school has made a difference in her life: “I have plans to start a leadership development business working with nonprofits, and I’m very grateful to Mr. Slone for passing along the chance for someone else to succeed through this scholarship.”

Slone’s generosity is no surprise to Nan Dearan, who collaborates with Slone on volunteer retention strategies as part of the North Texas BBBSA board of directors. “Tom may be an adopted Texan, but he’s got a heart the size of it,” she says of the Missouri native. “There’s an integrity about him. He’s a philanthropist who doesn’t just give money—he gives of himself as well.”

Slone would say simply that he’s grateful. “I’ve made more money than I ever thought I could make, and I feel obligated to give to those less fortunate than my wife and I. There aren’t too many schools or people who would do what Pitt did to help me get my degree.”
—Chris A. Weber (CAS ’93)

Al Novak

Notes from Novak

As the academic year winds down with the arrival of spring, we who work on the University of Pittsburgh campus year-round often do some reflecting on the past year’s achievements—things like academic awards, sports triumphs, and increasingly impressive undergraduate and graduate students. With this in mind, I am pleased to announce a new addition to the Discover a World of Possibilities fundraising venture: Pitt Athletics’ Quest for Excellence campaign.

As you know, our overall campaign effort builds on the University’s strong foundation by providing more student financial aid, faculty funding, and construction money to improve the campus infrastructure and keep pace with students’ needs.

The new Quest for Excellence campaign has the same objectives—to help the University of Pittsburgh build and grow in ways that prepare us for an outstanding future. This fundraising initiative focuses on constructing Olympic sports facilities for athletes, including upgrades for soccer, baseball, softball, track and field, cross country, swimming and diving, gymnastics, tennis, and volleyball, as well as a practice facility for the band. Our loyal donors helped us build a new legacy for the football and basketball programs. Now it is time to provide world-class facilities for all student athletes.

The Quest for Excellence campaign also will create scholarship support for coaches to recruit the brightest student athletes interested in competing both academically and athletically at this high-achieving institution.

I hope you will make a gift to the Quest for Excellence campaign to build the future of Panther Athletics at the University of Pittsburgh (and future generations of talented student athletes).

I would be remiss if I didn’t thank each of you who already has made a difference at the University; we appreciate your continuing support.

For more information about the Quest campaign, go online to or call 412-648-8889.
—Al Novak

Campaign Watch

Institutional Advancement is working hard to reach the goal of $1 billion, and Pitt’s alumni and friends are responding. We are now more than three-fourths of the way there: $759 million!

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