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PittChat

A conversation with Tim Pecsenye (A&S ’84, LAW ’87), a partner with the law firm Blank Rome LLP in Philadelphia and a life member of the Pitt Alumni Association

When it comes to Pitt, some people don’t realize . . . what an incredibly advanced and prestigious University it is, especially with the strength of the faculty and the vast amount of research and knowledge that is concentrated there.

Thinking about my days at Pitt, I wish I’d kept my . . . hair.

Among the wonders of campus architecture is . . . the Cathedral of Learning. One of the reasons I ended up going to Pitt was that my mother and I took a tour of campus when I was still in high school. When I walked into the Cathedral, with its dramatic shadows and lighting, it was just so interesting and inspiring.

The wildest weekend I’ve ever had on campus was . . . one I wouldn’t be willing to discuss in this magazine. But I had a number of them.

The Pitt item that I still have after all these years . . . is a band cape. When I was in the band, the uniforms were old military-style, with cross belts and spats. They were pretty distinctive. The capes had “Pitt” written in script on the back, and I always thought those were cool. So I kept mine, and I’ve always intended to put it in a case and hang it on the wall, one of these days.

Something that will never change is . . . the vibe and excitement of Pitt.

If I had pursued a fantasy career at Pitt . . . it would have been playing football for the Panthers and then professionally in the NFL. But I’m not an athlete; I’m a spectator. I’m a huge fan, and I go to every football game. The last game I missed, home or away, was in 1985, the first night game at Pitt Stadium. I wasn’t there because I was the best man in my Pitt roommate’s wedding, Aug. 31, 1985.

All Pitt alumni need . . . pride in the University, pride in where they came from, and the road they took to get there.

Roses are red, Pitt’s gold and blue . . . I’ve enjoyed speaking about the University of Pittsburgh with you. Poetry is not my strong suit.

From the Executive Director

As we come to the close of another academic year, I want to extend a special thank-you to the outgoing alumni association president, Brian Generalovich. Brian has led this association for the past two years with an untiring spirit and boundless energy. It is only through the unselfish dedication of volunteers like Brian and other graduates featured in this issue, including Tim Pecsenye and Jason Matthews, that the University will achieve its goals.

This has been a year of significant growth, as evidenced by more than 40,000 searches of the Pitt Career Network and by the increase in the number of association life members by 1,000 in a single year, as well as by the rapid expansion of the new Student Alumni Association.

Many of our programs are made possible by the generous support of our dues-paying members. If you have not joined the Pitt Alumni Association, I would encourage you to do so. It is through membership that we are able to enrich the lives of students and alumni worldwide. Hail to Pitt!

Leland D. Patouillet
EDUC ’00G
Associate Vice Chancellor, Alumni Relations,
and Executive Director, Pitt Alumni Association

 

Irene Young photo

Pitt Career Network

Ang Lee (CBA ’07)

Investment Banking Analyst
Jefferies & Company, Inc.
New York, NY

In his senior year, finance and accounting major Ang Lee (not the film director!) attended a “Katz School on Wall Street” event in Pittsburgh and met Chris Porter (KGSB ’94) of Jefferies & Company, Inc., a large investment banking firm. Through their networking, Lee became aware of opportunities at the firm and now has a job in the M&A group. His Pitt connection was key to his new career. Today, he’s living on Manhattan’s Upper East Side and working on Madison Avenue.

Scrapbook

Why are these people smiling? They may have individual reasons, but they also have something in common: They are all at alumni association events. Our mission may be serious, “To support the University of Pittsburgh and enrich the lives of students and alumni worldwide,” but the ways we go about achieving it are fun. You can get involved wherever you live. Visit www.alumni.pitt.edu and find out how. And then let’s see that smile!

Mimi Koral
Director of Alumni Communications (A&S ’75)

1) Pitt Alumni Association past presidents gathered at a dinner held in the Alumni Center (left to right, seated): Cecile M. Springer (GSPIA ’71), Charles J. Shirley Jr. (A&S ’64, EDUC ’66, ’72G), Nancy Welfer (A&S ’40, LAW ’49); (left to right, standing) Vice Chancellor for Institutional Advancement Al Novak, Martha H. Munsch (A&S ’70), J. Roger Glunt (CBA ’60), current President Brian Generalovich (A&S ’66, DEN ’68), Robert G. Lovett (A&S ’66), Macy I. Levine (A&S ’40, MED ’43), Cynthia L. Roth, (NURS ’81), and Associate Vice Chancellor for Alumni Relations Lee Patouillet (EDUC ’00G).

2) F. James McCarl (CGS ’73) is the association’s new president.

3) Eva Tansky Blum (A&S ’70, LAW ’73), center, hosted a “Dinner with 12 Panthers,” an opportunity for students to spend some quality time with alumni; here she is with students Stephanie Shapiro and Harrison Boyd.

4) Ivan and Mary Novick congratulate the recipient of their young Alumni Leadership award, Timothy Davis (A&S ’97, Pharm ’00).

5) William Trice (A&S ’51, DEN ’53), left, and Bernard Mack (A&S ’88) compare notes at the association’s annual meeting.

6) Pitt alumni turned out for a game at Madison Square Garden honoring Maggie Dixon, the late West Point women’s basketball coach and sister of Pitt men’s basketball coach Jamie Dixon. Among them were (left to right): Maju Varghese, Julie Crowell Varghese (A&S ’96), their son, Evan Matthew Varghese, and Lucas Edwyn Wuertele with parents Andrew Wuertele (A&S ’97, ENGR ’97) and Jessica Lappin Wuertele.

7) The association’s annual foray to Heinz Hall for a performance by the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra included a complimentary preconcert reception for life members. Pitt student singers are seen here at the reception with conductor Marvin Hamlisch (center) and association Executive Director Lee Patouillet (EDUC ‘00G).

8) Pitt Trustee Tom Bigley (KGSB ’56), left, who is the inaugural recipient of the Bill Baierl Distinguished Alumni Service Award, is seen here with Carole Baierl and Vice Chancellor for Institutional Advancement Al Novak.

Saluting Generalovich

In athletics, business, family life, and leadership, this outgoing president gets it done

Written by Niki Kapsambelis
Photograph by Jim Judkis

On a Saturday night, Alyssa Robb lounges on her parents’ living room couch with her mother, both of them reading magazines while a basketball game flickers on the television. Robb looks up to see her father, Brian Generalovich, ready to relax in the attire of a man who thinks Casual Day means loosening his tie: He’s wearing a dress shirt, pants, belt, and polished shoes.

“Dad, go be comfy,” Robb says to her father.

“Your mother is always telling me that,” Generalovich says.

“He’ll sit there in his dress clothes all night,” chimes in his wife, Rosemary, from the couch.

Deflecting the criticism, General-ovich disappears upstairs, then returns a little while later in a new ensemble—pajama bottoms, a sport coat, and tie.

“He came over and stood right in front of us and said, ‘Is this better, girls?’” recalls Robb, who still laughs at the memory.

A sense of humor is just one of the traits that has been useful to Generalovich (A&S ’66, DEN ’68) as president of the Pitt Alumni Association during the past two years. He is used to being in the spotlight. As an undergraduate, Generalovich was a standout Pitt basketball player who was recruited by the New York Knicks in 1964 as the 18th pick in the NBA draft. He was also a highly regarded football prospect, drafted by both the Steelers and the team then known as the Boston Patriots. On the other hand, he had the opportunity to continue his studies at Pitt, where he could fulfill his ambition to become a dentist. “Coming out of high school at that time, students really didn’t have a lot of aspirations to go on to professional sports. The salaries were, in most cases, rather low,” explains Generalovich. “When we looked at it, we looked at it very pragmatically.”

So it was off to Pitt’s dental school for Generalovich, who practices today in Hermitage, Pa., where he and Rosemary raised Alyssa (A&S ’96, SOC WK ’96G) and son Brock (A&S ’93).

For Brock Generalovich, his father’s role with the alumni association has been a natural extension of the man he describes as a quiet caretaker. “He took care of absolutely everything. We never worried,” says Brock about family life. He recalls how some kids in his community would mysteriously get sponsorships to attend sports camps, or all-star basketball jerseys would somehow materialize for Brock’s entire team. As an adult, he learned his father was behind those acts of kindness.

Generalovich first became involved with the Pitt Alumni Association through its strategic planning committee in the early 1990s, when his children were Pitt students.

In fact, attending the University of Pittsburgh is something of a Generalovich family tradition. Brian’s brother, Nick, graduated from the School of Pharmacy in 1967; his uncle, Boris, graduated in the 1940s; Boris’ son, Tom, earned his undergraduate degree from Pitt in 1972. So during his tenure as president, which ends this spring, Generalovich may have felt a special obligation to leave a lasting impact on the alumni community, where he has a lot of relatives to answer to.

He has served, for instance, as chair of the Alumni Center Committee and was instrumental in the creation of the Alumni Center in Alumni Hall.

“For him, it’s all about service, and it’s about doing what’s in the best interest of Pitt,” says Lee Patouillet (EDUC ’00G), the association’s executive director. “He really walks the talk in that regard.”

Among the accomplishments in which Generalovich takes the most pride is the creation of the Student Alumni Association, which was launched in August 2006 during his first term. Initially, the goal was 500 charter members; instead, the association got 776. This year, the goal was 1,000 members; in early spring, the association had more than 1,200.

“We think this program will have a profound impact on the University for many years to come,” says Patouillet, who is also Pitt’s associate vice chancellor for alumni relations. “This will be one of Brian’s greatest legacies.”

Generalovich credits the Pitt administration with helping the cause by seeking input on alumni concerns and working cooperatively toward mutual goals. Once he steps down from the presidency, Generalovich will serve on the alumni board for four more years.

“I feel indebted to Pitt for what it gave me, preparing me for what I’ve done in my life’s work,” says Generalovich. “Part of our legacy is that we have done something to leave this University better than when we attended.”

Good Works

Entrepreneur Jason Matthews takes care of business

Written by Niki Kapsambelis
Photograph by Patty Nagle

For weeks, young Jason Matthews collected aluminum cans from his neighbors, hoping to cash in on the recycling craze. Already a budding entrepreneur at age 7, Matthews was hauling garbage cans to the curb for a dollar each when he came up with the idea for the “side” business of recycling. With about 40 jumbo bags of cans in tow, he got a ride from a neighbor to the recycling plant near his home in south central Los Angeles. He dreamed of the things he’d buy with his anticipated earnings: a new football, maybe even a bike.

But when he finished loading all the bags at the weigh station, the attendant immediately deflated young Jason’s great expectations: He offered him a grand total of $3.67. “That was my first lesson in entrepreneurship: If you get involved in a business, do your research,” recalls Matthews (A&S ’91), now a successful real estate investor and entrepreneur. “I was like, ‘I’m divesting myself of this business immediately!’”

Matthews, who today lives and works in Pittsburgh, has come a long way since those early years as the neighborhood’s youngest businessman. He worked his way through Pitt on a basketball scholarship, earning a degree in economics while also distinguishing himself as the Panthers’ all-time three-point scorer (259) and three-point percentage scorer (.457). After graduation, he worked as a financial planner for a Fortune 500 company and, in 1995, launched his own private real estate investment company—a business he continues to build and grow.

In 1998, another former Panther basketball player, Curtis Aiken (CGS ’87), approached him with an idea for a new business: identifying qualified minority-owned suppliers for large customers. Aiken mentored Matthews when he first came to Pitt, and the two were partners in a construction supply firm. So the idea of working together in another business came naturally.

Bill O’Rourke, now president of Alcoa Russia, had talked to Aiken at a networking function about the challenges Alcoa faced with its supplier diversity program. Aiken and Matthews’ new venture aims to solve those problems by providing a Web-based procurement system for industrial manufacturers, service organizations, consumer product companies, and government agencies. Their business, called eSGS, also gives qualified minority-owned suppliers and women-owned firms access to more opportunities while competing against their peers. “It levels the playing field from an opportunities standpoint,” explains Matthews.

That ability to build consensus has helped fuel many of Matthews’ endeavors with the Pitt Alumni Association, where he is a director at large. Among his projects is a program offering training, career counseling, and networking opportunities to Pitt athletes to help prepare them for the transition into the working world. “It’s something that I’m extremely proud of,” he says. He credits Executive Associate Athletic Director Donna Sanft with nurturing the idea and helping it flourish.

The impulse to “do the right thing” was instilled in Matthews early. When he was a 17-year-old basketball star, after he decided to attend Pitt, his mother made him call every other coach who recruited him and tell them he had decided against their schools. Not all appreciated the effort; in fact, one actually criticized Matthews in Sports Illustrated. But the lesson stuck: “When I have a tough decision to make in business, I pick up the phone and make the call. The person on the other end of the phone may not like what I have to say, but it’s open, it’s candid, and it’s honest.”

Likewise, entrepreneurship was a Matthews family trait. His grandmother made dresses and leased large coach buses for trips to Las Vegas. His grandfather was the first African American to get a car dealership in California, and he also sold women’s clothes.
Matthews recalls his grandfather shouting figures to him: “Get out a pen and paper. Write this number down. Add it up. You’re supposed to be smart!”

In an effort to share his smarts with the students who followed him, Matthews contributed to the strategic planning process that led to the development of the Student Alumni Association. When the idea first arose, he told fellow board members, “We can’t let students graduate, go off and build their lives, and then ask them for $10,000 donations. It’s not going to work. We have to let them know about the valuable things we do while they’re in school.”

Today, enrollment in the Student Alumni Association has exceeded initial projections, with more growth expected.

“I’ve stayed in Pittsburgh because of the wonderful Pitt alumni and the wonderful people in the city of Pittsburgh,” says Matthews. “Anything I’ve wanted to pursue, I’ve always been able to go to Pitt alumni and say, ‘This is what I want to do.’ They’re great people. I’m an absolute testament, and you don’t get that everywhere.”

 



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