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Material Witness

Pitt’s law library stacked with resources

First-year law student Nicole King sits at a long library table in the University’s Barco Law Library, staring intently at the screen of her laptop.

Taking a brief break from her Friday evening research, King says she’s undecided whether to specialize in corporate or intellectual property law. That’s not foremost on her mind, though. Right now, she’s totally absorbed with the legal brief she’s writing for class.

Using wireless Internet access available in the library, she scans databases of legal journals and case law. Access to the journals is fast, convenient, and key to doing well on her assignment. More important, her understanding of the law is greatly enhanced by the electronic records.

“It’s really helpful,” says King (CAS ’02), who is from Merced, Calif.

What she may not know is that the library’s electronic resources have mushroomed from virtually none in 1990 to the equivalent of millions of books today, making the library among the most wired in the nation. Meanwhile, the library’s holdings of bound volumes have increased by an estimated 50 percent since 1990, according to George H. Pike, director of the law library and assistant professor of law.

The late Yolanda G. Barco (LAW ’49) made possible the library’s stunning growth. Barco, a law school alumna and former resident of Meadville, Pa., donated more than $10.7 million to the library, starting in the late 1980s.

“Her gifts have permitted us to grow very substantially over the last decade,” Pike says. “There’s just an incredible wealth of information.”

Pike points out that the new library materials enhance faculty research and improve the quality of Pitt’s law education, while making some new materials available to the public. Many of the new electronic records are provided by subscription services, which are updated continually. Pike says this was a condition of Barco’s gifts to the library—to acquire resources that would otherwise be out of financial reach.

In so doing, it seems everything is within reach for students like King.
Kris B. Mamula

Reached for the Stars

A journey where integrity overcomes despair

The student seemed troubled. He wanted to talk. W. Richard Howe, who was the assistant chair of the chemistry department, welcomed him into his office. Graduation for the Class of ’79 was fast approaching, and the student worried about his future.

As a child, he’d dreamed of becoming an astronaut. He became an honors student in chemistry at Pitt and had received the highest honor paid to an undergraduate, the Omicron Delta Kappa Senior of the Year Award. But poor eyesight came between him and a career in space.

Here was the problem facing him now: He’d been accepted for graduate studies at two universities. He could work two years before starting graduate work at Harvard University or he could enter another university right away.

Howe listened patiently. He saw no real choice. “How do you turn down a Harvard MBA?” he asked David A. Rossi Jr. “The world will be yours.”

Howe couldn’t have known that Rossi, after graduating from Harvard in 1983, would claim some of the heavens, too.

Before his death in February, Rossi served as president and chief operating officer of SpaceHab, a Texas-based company that leases space on NASA flights to educators and private companies.

Howe, who today is associate dean for administration, Faculty and College of Arts and Sciences, says he will never forget the young man who came into his office seeking advice. “He was one of the special students we were able to help along the way,” says Howe.

Howe lost track of Rossi for many years after he graduated from Pitt. But, in 1995, Rossi wrote to thank him for the guidance he’d provided so many years before. As the years went by, his wife Sandra says her husband began to more keenly appreciate his Pitt education and the faculty and friends he met here.

In 1998, that appreciation led to Rossi establishing a scholarship for undergraduate chemistry students. The $1,000 scholarship by the New Castle native was named in honor of his parents, David Sr., a post office supervisor, and his mother, Rita, a bookkeeper, both retired. That same year, Rossi, the first person in his family to attend college, surprised the University by donating space aboard a NASA flight that Pitt researchers could use to conduct experiments.

The donation, valued at approximately $50,000, was a first for Pitt, and it was believed to be the first of its kind for the space agency, according to a NASA official at the Johnson Space Center in Houston. In acknowledging Rossi’s generosity, Chancellor Mark A. Nordenberg said, “It’s perhaps the most unusual gift from a graduate that I have ever heard of.”

Pitt researchers planned to use zero gravity on the flight to crystallize proteins. The crystals would then be returned to Pitt for analysis. It was hoped the experiment would improve understanding of how molecules work in living cells. Information gained from the experiment could aid development of new drugs.

Although Rossi pledged space for Pitt on a space flight in 1998, there were delays. Then, in 2001, he was diagnosed with bile duct cancer. He continued to work, though, and he didn’t forget about Pitt’s space shuttle research. Finally, earlier this year, the day came when the equipment for the experiments was on board a NASA shuttle sent into space.

Minutes before that flight’s scheduled landing, disaster struck. The Space Shuttle Columbia disintegrated over Texas, the very state where SpaceHab is located. On that Saturday morning in February, seven astronauts perished as did the Pitt experiments. Rossi, 46, died from his illness just 18 days later.

His legacy, though, will endure. Sandra Rossi says that her late husband created a scholarship here to acknowledge the value and quality of his Pitt undergraduate years: “He wanted to make a statement.”

To the people who knew him, people like Howe, he made a statement every day—in the way he lived his life and pursued his dreams.

Building Blocks

Generous contributions from Pitt alumni and friends help lay a solid foundation for future students.

If there were a seismograph for detecting generous donations, the gift by the estate of George M. Bevier would have measured off the charts. Bevier (ENGR ’13) invented the seismograph used to locate the presence of oil and gas fields. The School of Engineering received $10.5 million from his estate. Bevier, who died in 1972, and his wife Eva, who died last year, made several donations to Pitt during the past several decades. This latest gift from their estate will be used to support the Bevier Library, establish a chair and fellowships, and support engineering programs.

The address for Parker/Hunter Inc., an investment firm, isn’t Wall Street, it’s Pittsburgh’s Grant Street. The neighbor of Pitt has pledged $125,000 to the Joseph M. Katz Graduate School of Business. Most of the gift will fund research toward a better understanding of today’s changing investment environment—including investor behaviors, wealth management, and Internet investing. A portion of the money, about $25,000, will support Katz’s Graduate Women in Business group, a new organization that advances the role of women in the financial industry.

Campaign Watch:
Institutional Advancement is working hard, and the University's alumni and friends are responding. Campaign total so far:

$606 milion!
(as of June 30)

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