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  Bryant Salter (Edward C. Gruden photo)
 

Community Builder

On stadium grounds, workers drag a boulder off a truck bed. It thuds to the earth, causing dust to poof into the sultry haze of Addis Ababa, the capital city of Ethiopia. Then the workers inch the boulder into its berth among a gaggle of rocks fitted like teeth. In the distance, a man watches and wonders: What are they building?

Still pondering, he ducks into the stadium, an edifice resembling the mountains that encircle the city. The man, Bryant J. Salter, is visiting Africa to coach at an Olympic track camp. He’s sharp, muscled, a 20-something American who’s on the cusp of discovering a new direction.

As the sun rises over the Horn of Africa, athletes speed around the stadium track, fling themselves into sand pits, or hurl implements. For part of the morning, Salter (CAS ’71) coaches the shotputters. Repeatedly, he rephrases his words and demonstrates proper form with his knees and elbows in an attempt to get his message across to the athletes hailing from 10 different countries and speaking in multiple tongues. One after another, the men heave stone-like shotputs under his critical gaze. Outside the track arena, the workers continue moving boulders with their bare hands.

When Salter instructs the athletes to pump push-ups, he joins in. He needs to stay in shape for the upcoming football season. He’s a cornerback for the Washington Redskins in the National Football League. In fact, that’s how he serendipitously landed in Addis Ababa. As a member of the D.C. football team, he was invited to a dignitary-welcoming event at the White House, where he met the track camp director. Word got out that Salter had been captain of Pitt’s track and field team, an All-American athlete, and a letterman on Pitt’s football team. The director asked Salter to coach at the Olympic camp during the off-season.

At the time, Salter wasn’t sure what he’d do after football. He knew it was a short-term career—most players retire by age 30. Sure, he’d earned a bachelor’s degree in sociology from Pitt, but he didn’t know how he might apply his knowledge. Then in Addis Ababa, where men move boulders by hand, Salter’s outlook began to shape, shift, and mold.

After several months of passing the construction site outside the stadium, Salter finally asked a foreman what they were doing. It turned out they were laying a parking lot—one stone at a time. When all the boulders were in position, the workers filled the cracks with small rocks, then pebbles. Now they were pounding sand between the crevices.

“Look, we could get that thing out in probably six, seven hours with a good crew,” Salter told the foreman, noting it would be a lot easier to just pave the lot.

“Yeah, but it wouldn’t last but maybe six or seven months,” the foreman countered. Then he pointed to an adobe tower in the distance. “That building has been there for 2,000 years,” he said. “This parking lot will be here for 500 years. And we have people working for a whole five months. What’s better?”

Salter was awed by the Ethiopian “build well, last longer” approach. He was also learning new ways of thinking from his athletes. After practice, they drilled him with questions about U.S. policies toward South Africa’s apartheid and other 1970s world politics. Salter regularly denied that he had anything to do with those policies. The athletes retorted by regularly asking to see his passport.

“I came to the realization that U.S. policies were, in fact, my policies,” he says. “They represented me. And that was what pushed me over the edge and suggested that while football was exciting, fun, and I loved it, there was something else I was supposed to do.”

Soon afterward, in 1977, Salter joined the U.S. State Department’s foreign service and spent more than 20 years as a diplomat. Along the way, he received a Master in Public Administration degree from Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government.

During his years as a diplomat in countries like Antigua, Mexico, and Argentina, he reached out to people, “trying to impart not just what my diplomatic persona was, but who I am as a person.” He enrolled his children in local schools rather than private schools for ex-pat families. He and his wife frequently made friends with people outside the embassy walls.

These days, Salter is back in the States. In 1999, he founded Business Diplomacy Consulting, primarily to assist companies in expanding their market share internationally. In 2000, Salter created Enterprise Florida’s African Trade Expansion Program and has managed it ever since, promoting Florida as a gateway for commerce between Africa and the Western Hemisphere.

When Salter returned to the United States, he visited Pitt and began rekindling the close friendships he’d had with college teammates and classmates. He was surprised and impressed by how the University had grown during his absence. Now, he’s a director at large of the Pitt Alumni Association and a recently elected trustee of the University.

Drawing on his experience as a diplomat for the nation, Salter has become an ambassador for Pitt. He especially likes to tout the international studies curricula being taught in departments across the University. And he’s keen on assisting students at the networking events hosted by the Alumni Association.

“I also think that most alums can participate in some small way,” he says. “They don’t have to come back and build a new Cathedral.” As he learned in Addis Ababa, every pebble helps to support long-lasting success. Earnestly, Salter continues moving forward in life, rolling one boulder at a time. —Cara J. Hayden

Koral’s Korner

The Talk of the University

At spring graduation, the Pitt Alumni Association partnered once again with the Office of the Chancellor and Division of Student Affairs to throw a party for grads and their families the night before Commencement. Panther Sendoff was a time to kick back and savor achievement. More than 800 revelers filled the Connolly Ballroom of Alumni Hall. Grads toasted the fulfillment of their dreams, while parents celebrated the end of tuition payments for at least one child (whew!). Karen Ochsenreiter (A&S ’07) attended with pleased parents, Nancy and Glenn. Rebekah Bambling (A&S ’07) and Rachael Heisler (A&S ’07) were seen chatting with Chancellor Mark A. Nordenberg and association volunteers. Will Hoel (CBA ’60) and Dean Julian II (CAS ’03) were seen chatting with just about everybody. Pam Kirkland (A&S ’07) joined brother, Jeffrey, and parents, Lori and Bill, for the event. Maryann Heglund (PHARM ’07) and Justin Scholl (PHARM ’07) posed for a photo with the Panther. Brent Miller (ENGR ’07) was seen with his proud parents, William (KGSB ’75) and Amy (NURS ’73) Miller, and his grandmother Marian Goodrich.

The association’s annual awards luncheon was, as always, a happy event and a way for the association to thank some of its most ardent volunteers. President Brian Generalovich (DEN ’68, CAS ’66) presided as Ruth Forsyth (CAS ’76) presented Volunteer Excellence Awards to Ernest J. Mantini (DEN ’83, UPJ ’79) and Patty Mathay (KGSB ’92). Pitt Alumni Recruitment Team Volunteer of the Year honors were awarded to Nello Stover (CAS ’80), and the Pitt Career Network Volunteer of the Year winner was Michael Neuman (CAS ’90). The inaugural Ivan (CAS ’49) and Mary Novick Award for Young Alumni Leadership went to Michelle Tallarico (CAS ’01).


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