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Business executives go back to school


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Job Security

 Jack Butler
Imagine you are 22 years old and you find out your father is dying from cancer. Although you still have a year left at Boston University, he tells you he wants you to take over the gas distributing company he founded just outside Pittsburgh nearly 30 years ago.

“Give me two years, and I’ll teach you the business,” he says.

As you pack up to leave for school, you realize you don’t want to let your father down. So, the lessons begin—long distance. You sell first-aid kits door-to-door while completing your final year at Boston University as a sociology major with a minor in business.

Once you graduate in 1975, you return home. Your dad can’t move anymore. The cancer has spread to his spine and has nearly killed his nervous system. You have to become president of your father’s company right now.

In 1976, two years and three months from the moment you made your promise to learn his business, your father dies. His business is your business now.

That’s Jack Butler’s story, today’s president and CEO of Butler Gas Products Company in McKees Rocks, Pennsylvania. Judging by the company’s growth under his leadership, he fulfilled his father’s dying wish. When Butler took over, the business distributed gas and welding materials. Since then, the company has expanded its distribution base into medical supplies and started gas manufacturing and environmental field testing, which has given a real boost to annual sales.

Such success hasn’t blinded Butler into thinking he knows it all. Two years ago, he heard about a Katz Graduate School of Business 10-month certificate program. The program, offered through the Entrepreneurial Fellows Center (EFC), is for top executives without extensive business schooling. Funding for the program comes in large part from PNC Bank, the Heinz Endowments, and Sisterson & Co. LLP.

As unbelievable as it may seem, many heads of multimillion dollar companies, like Butler, have little, if any, educational background in business.

For Butler, EFC provided him with a chance to refine his father’s wisdom. The program involves monthly meetings at the University Club for a round-table class and discussion.

The executives from Butler’s class—whose companies make everything from software to sausages—worked with each other and compared business strategies. In what became peer brainstorming sessions, the classmates listened to each other’s business problems and worked on ideas for solutions. From the course, Butler says he gained new ideas about strategic planning for his company.

In addition to offering the classes and discussions, the program pairs each executive with a mentor. These mentors are experienced and successful business leaders who can provide insight and guidance for their “proteges.”

Butler knows the value of a good mentor. He had the best mentor of all 26 years ago—his father.

—Emily Schuler

South of the Border

Pitt’s Latin American collection gets a home

The title of the first book has long been forgotten. It all began more than 30 years ago with that first purchase. There was a buy here, a buy there, a book or two, or seven at a time. Throughout the years, the sheer number of books bought weren’t as important as the books themselves. Cuba, Brazil, Argentina, Bolivia—the books’ settings reflected the culture, politics, and sometimes turmoil of the Latin American nations where they were purchased. In time, the collection grew. Newspapers, pamphlets, and magazines were added.

Eduardo Lozano is the man behind these annual book-buying trips. The materials of the Latin American collection, which bears his name, now boasts some 410,000 books, plus thousands of periodicals, pamphlets, and newspapers. The collection caught the attention of the US Department of Education, which designated the Center for Latin American Studies (CLAS) at Pitt a National Resource Center. Nationwide, there are only 16 such centers. “I’ve been working book by book since I came here,” says Lozano, who is 75 years old. “One by one, every one was selected.”

Lozano’s collection has not always been so easy to see. The bulk of the University’s Latin American collection was scattered throughout Hillman Library. That changed this fall with the dedication of the Latin American Reading Room, which gives students, scholars, and others a complete view. “It’s a window on the collection,” says Kathleen M. DeWalt, director of the center. “It’s an important accomplishment.” The room is stocked with newspapers, periodicals, and other reference materials that hint at the Latin American treasures elsewhere in the library.

Lozano began buying books for the collection in 1967 when he began working as a Pitt librarian, three years after the University created CLAS. The idea of a Latin American Reading Room had been around for nearly as long as Lozano has been collecting, DeWalt says. The bright, airy room, which is located on Hillman’s first floor, was made possible through the generosity of Torrence M. and Mary Caroline Hunt Jr., Alain and Haydee Belda, the Adrienne and Milton Porter Charitable Foundation, the Mine Safety Appliance Charitable Foundation, and the Mellon Financial Corporation Foundation.

Lozano was directing two libraries in his native Argentina in the late ’60s when he was invited to come to the University. He didn’t return Pitt’s calls at first. But at last he relented, thinking he would stay just long enough in Pittsburgh to organize a Latin American library. He would be home in a year, he thought. Someone else could take it over then. But he says a coup d’etat in 1966, followed by a military dictatorship, made life difficult in Argentina. and, by then, he says he was “hooked” by the challenge Pitt offered. The Lozano collection was born. Today, the collection is internationally recognized for its resources on Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, and Cuba. What’s more, the reaction by scholars and others who use the collection has been enthusiastic, Lozano says, proud in a soft-spoken way.

His eyebrows rise when he talks about the reading room as a place for people with a shared interest in Latin America to meet. Guests can gather in an intimate conference room for meetings or have readings of Hispanic writers and poets, he imagines. Lozano writes poetry. He paints, too, mostly oils. Two of his works adorn a wall of the reading room.

The collection is still growing. This February, Lozano plans to make his next annual book-buying trip to Latin America. When he returns, his finds will have a permanent home.

—Kris B. Mamula

Building Blocks

Harvey L. Cupp Jr. (ENG ’40) was mystified when his daughters, Marna Whittington (CAS ’70, ’74) and Marilyn Goebel (EDU ’71), asked him to board a private plane for a surprise trip. They landed in Pittsburgh, where Cupp learned his family had donated $170,000 to establish a School of Engineering scholarship in his honor. Corporate matching funds added another $16,000 to the new endowment.

Kids often surprise their parents. But Pitt psychology Professor Susan Campbell, who studies interactions between children and their parents, received a surprise from her mother. Her mom, Estelle Goodman, donated $10,000 to the psychology department in honor of her daughter. Campbell is one of the lead investigators in a national study of early childcare.

Speaking of families, the Fathers Collaborative—a joint effort by Pitt and four social service agencies—provides emotional and legal guidance to divorced dads who don’t have custody of their children. The Howard Heinz Endowment has donated $125,000 so the program, the first of its kind in the nation, can expand its services.

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

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