||Felix “Bebe” Miller and Bill Cully
Gary Brownlee watches from the stands as fans stream out at halftime. It’s Saturday, Oct. 17, 1970, and Pitt and West Virginia are having their annual “Backyard Brawl.” Pitt is down 35 to 8. Brownlee knows the people clearing out are thinking, “It’s going to be a total massacre.” And he doesn’t necessarily disagree.
But Brownlee, a freshman at Pitt, loves sports. The Panthers’ head football coach this year, Carl DePasqua, is from his small hometown of Williamsport, Pa. Brownlee attends as many games as he can. He figures he might as well stay and watch the Panthers get trounced by the West Virginia Mountaineers.
That’s why he’s there in the second half, when Pitt comes back to score a touchdown. And score a second one, and then one more. With 29 seconds left on the clock, Pitt scores a final touchdown to bring the score to a 3635 win.
Watching that is powerful, says Brownlee. “It’s not quite as though you were a participant, but it’s the next best thing,” he says. “It’s a feeling of exhilaration and pride. And sometimes surprise.”
Brownlee (KGSB ’78, CAS ’74) earned Pitt degrees in economics and business administration. He has been a season ticket holder to Panthers games almost every year since he finished school. He lives in Chicago now, but he still attends most home games, even though he has lived out of state for a long time. Each year, he also renews his alumni association membership. Recently, he became a Life Member, making his long-term commitment to Pitt official.
Bill Cully and one of his best friends, Felix “Bebe” Miller, didn’t know each other while attending Pitt. Both are directors emeriti of the alumni association, but as undergraduates in the Arts and Sciences, they never crossed paths. Cully earned his degree a year before Miller.
It took an alumni association event at a Pitt-Boston College football game to connect the two men. Leland Patouillet (EDUC ’00G), the association’s executive director, brought them together. Since then, the two have made several jaunts to far-away events and purchased Pitt season football tickets near each other. Plus, they talk to one another three or four times a week.
“We have such different backgrounds,” says Cully (CAS ’49), who is chief executive officer of United Plate Glass, as he talks about Miller (MED ’55, CAS ’50), a retired physician. “The University has been the common bond in our friendship,” says Cully.
He and Miller have found other pals, too, at alumni events. And Cully’s wife, Nancy, and Miller’s wife, Gwen, have become best friends along the way. These connections drew Cully closer to Pitt, so it made perfect sense when he became a Golden Life Member of the Pitt Alumni Association. The Millers are Golden Life Members, too.
Cully treasures those trips to Maine, Boston, and Notre Dame that he has taken with the Millers and other Pitt fans. It’s remarkable to find companions that one can travel with easily as one gets older, he says. “By the time you’re in your 70s,” he explains, “it becomes more difficult.”
More than 2,600 Pitt alumni have signed up as Life Members of the alumni association, many during the last five yearsenough stories to fill hundreds of magazines. Patouillet says his research on alumni association memberships shows that all of these stories come down to a basic truth: People who join the alumni association are those who say they care about the University and what happens to it.
Life Membership fees go into an endowment for the alumni associationabout $800,000 so far. The funds will be used for student scholarships, recruitment, and benefits for alumni. “As the prestige and stature of the University grow, so does the value of one’s degree,” says Patouillet, who is also Pitt’s associate vice chancellor for Alumni Relations.
The Talk of the University
The weather was more brisk than expected when Pitt alumni and friends descended on Arizona in anticipation of the Panthers-versus-Utah game at the Fiesta Bowl. The chill in the air contrasted nicely with the warmth of assembled Pitt fans.
Pitt Alumni Association Panther Headquartersat the Fairmont Scottsdale Princess, the team’s hotelwas abuzz constantly as more than 2,000 Panthers fans stopped by for coffee, to chat, or to join the association. We met fans from “A,” David Amore (KGSB ’84) and his wife, Tina (CAS ’81), who traveled from almost unpronounceable Thonotosassa, Fla., to “Z,” Robin (SIS ’96, CAS ’91) and Brian (SIS ’96, CAS ’91) Zeppuhar from Freeport, Pa. Phil Sakmar (UPJ ’75) and his wife, Elizabeth, claimed to be carrying the magic beads that would ensure a Pittsburgh victory. (We don’t know what happened to them on game day.) Familiar faces like those of Jim McCarl (CGS ’73) and Tom Meisner (EDUC ’78G, ’70G, CAS ’68) were seen, as well as alumni we seldom get to see, such as Lisa Waslo Golden (CAS ’93) from Charlotte, N.C.; Raymond Guy (CBA ’01) from Englewood, Colo.; and Steve Epstein (CAS ’71) from Woodland Hills, Calif. Will Hoel (CBA ’60) brought along his college pal Ed Conti (CAS ’59), who lives in Scottsdale, Ariz.
Football wasn’t the only sport that weekend. Sam Zacharias (CAS ’64) and Jane Hecht were among those who took advantage of the Pitt Alumni Association’s discount on golfing at the fabled Tournament Players Club of Scottsdale’s Stadium Course.
Association President Keith Schaefer (CAS ’71) was everywhere, distributing Panther towels, chatting with soon-to-be-members, and taking photographs of the festivities. Along the way, I had a flash from the past: A college roommate I hadn’t seen in more than 20 years, Sandy Schmerin (EDUC ’82G, ’75), appeared at the registration table. She and her husband, Steve (KGSB ’74), traveled from Pittsburgh with their two children for the game. Catching up was great fun.
Online Class Notes
Alumni have been prolific in many ways: Nasario Garcia (FAS ’72) has had his 16th book published, Tiempos Lejanos: Poetic Images from the Past (University of New Mexico Press, 2004). Lisa (Scherfel) Catanzarite (CAS ’90) and her husband, Jeff, had a baby, Nora Elizabeth. Donald Robert Shaw (CAS ’70) now teaches English in Quito, Ecuador.
Have you written a book, had a baby, or moved to foreign parts? Post a class note using Alumni Online Services at www.alumni.pitt.edu.
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