His name is Workhorse. He’s on a cross-country bike trip, one of only 26 cyclists chosen for the 3,200-mile Bristol-Myers Squibb Tour of Hope. Riding with Workhorse are cancer survivors, caretakers, and researchers.
By Day Five, the cyclists have covered more than 2,000 miles of their journey from Los Angeles to Washington, D.C. They’ve tackled the Mojave Desert in 90-degree heat, forced their bikes to climb mountains near the Grand Canyon, and sped past acres of cattle farms in Texas. Now they’re in Missouri, heading for the Illinois state line.
Along the way, Workhorse, a cancer researcher at the National Institutes of Health, has thought about why he and the others are making the trek. He knows promising cancer treatments are coming, but they must be tested and dose-regulated through clinical trials. Yet, only 5 percent of adults with cancer opt to enroll in clinical trials. To help increase the percentage of participation, Peter Scacheri (MED ’99) has become Workhorse.
As Workhorse peddles his way toward the Mississippi River, after sunset, he suddenly has an impromptu goal: catching the lone rider ahead of him. Workhorse pumps the pedals of his greyhound-thin bike, trying to close the distance. Only a moment before, the leader, a cancer survivor, was riding next to him, telling him a funny story. They were both laughing. Then the jokesterwho says he is alive today because of three drugs developed in clinical trialstakes off, zooming ahead on the paved road. No warning. No mercy.
Workhorse pumps the pedals harder, faster. He wants to stay close. He really wants to stay close.
Soon, a tall, metal bridge will take the riders across the state line. Workhorse knows he has to exert everything now. He tucks his upper body forward, as if to kiss the center of his bike’s handlebars. His back plumbs a straight line, parallel with the pavement hissing beneath his bike’s whirling wheels. Pump. Pump. Pump. Sweat trickles from his pores. The wind whips his face. He locks his sight on the backside of the biker ahead, who is flat and flying on thin metal. He has to stay close. Pump. Pump. Pump.
Workhorse never does catch the jokester. But for a while, he managed to stay close to Lance Armstrong, five-time consecutive winner of the world’s best-known bike race, the Tour de France.
Just the Facts
Stay tuned for the skinny on corn flakes, exploding grapes, ostrich eyes, spider blood, and tattooed snakebite victims.
Before we get to that, welcome to the Web site that was founded on the timeless principle that it’s not possible to have enough facts. But you already knew that, of course.
Smoking facts, tornado facts, neat facts, amazing facts, useless facts, health facts, weird facts, incredible factsArthur W. Della Ratta has compiled virtually all of them. Della Ratta, who graduated from Pitt in 1999 with a bachelor of science degree in psychology, is the brain behind the new Web site: www.hookedonfacts.com.
Here’s another fact: Within its first 45 days last summer, the site had dished out more than four million factoids.
Try some on for size. There are more nutrients in a cornflake cereal package than in the actual cornflakes. Grapes explode when you put them in the microwave. An ostrich’s eye is bigger than its brain. Spiders have transparent blood. Andhow about this for astoundingone in three snakebite victims is drunk, and one in five is tattooed.
A new fact is displayed every time the Web page is opened, thousands of facts in all. Once at the site, a random stream of facts is just a mouse click away. The facts come from readers, and each one is verified before posting, says Della Ratta, whose inspiration for his fact machine came from the technology boom, about the time he graduated. "All these Internet companies were going through the roof," says Della Ratta.
He wanted in on the action.
As a senior, he took a computer course and, well, got hooked. His Web-based fact machine has garnered many accolades, including USA Today’s Hot Site.
Della Ratta’s site also is a source of facts for The Secret Science of Everyday Things, a Discovery Channel television series produced in Montreal, Canada. Never mind the bursting of the tech bubble in 2000. Della Ratta, a self-employed Web designer, says the Internet still offers plenty of potential.
And that’s a fact.
Kris B. Mamula
More than 20 years after earning a civil engineering degree here, Ken Macha is using his Pitt education in a rather unlikely place. He is the manager of Major League Baseball’s Oakland Athletics.
"I rely on logic every day in my job, lining things up about my team and about the opposition," says Macha, as he explains how he puts his engineering expertise to use. He has no regrets about not becoming an engineer. "Baseball is what I love. It’s been a part of my life for more than 30 years, and it was a long, long road to get here."
For Macha, who led the A’s to an American League West title before losing in five games to Boston in the AL Division Series in October, that road was more country highway than six-lane interstate. After graduating from the Pittsburgh area’s Gateway High in 1968, he played as a walk-on for the Panthers baseball team from 1970 to 1972.
One afternoon in 1972, Macha so impressed Pittsburgh Pirates manager Danny Murtaugh during a solo workout that the ballclub made Macha its sixth-round choice the next day. He signed with his hometown team seven credits short of a degree.
"I didn’t go back to school until after the 1975 season, and by then I had two majors: baseball and engineering," remembers Macha, who made his major league debut as a catcher for Murtaugh in 1974. He also played parts of 1977 and 1978 for Pirates manager Chuck Tanner, mostly as a third baseman.
In all, Macha appeared in just 180 games during six Major League seasons for Pittsburgh, Montreal, and Toronto, finishing his career with 98 hits and a .258 batting average.
He earned that elusive college diploma in 1980. "I knew I would finish it, and I did. It just took awhile," says Macha.
The following year he was off to Japan to play for the Chunichi Dragons, where he slugged 82 homers in four seasons. He returned to American baseball in 1986, coaching six years in the Montreal organization. After three seasons with the California Angels, he made his managerial debut in 1995, serving three years with Boston’s Class AA minor league system before Oakland hired him as a coach in 1998.
When A’s manager Art Howe left for the New York Mets before the 2002 season, Macha was "the man."
Naturally, he and his wife, Carolyn, spend their summers in California, but he remains, in his words, "a Pittsburgh guy." Their off-season home is not too far a drive from PNC Park. At that home, on the wall of his den, hangs his Pitt diploma.
Almost all Black students in West Virginia public schools consistently score lower on the standardized tests than their White counterpartssometimes even lower than their poorer White peers do.
The Governor’s Minority Students Strategies Council is set up to tackle that disparity in West Virginia. And when Deputy Secretary of Education Jay Cole says, "I insist Darryl Lee Baynes be on the council," Troy Body, the deputy commissioner of the West Virginia division of culture and history, agrees.
Body has seen young studentsmany of whom might be terrified of science and math by the time they reach high schoolriveted at their desks while Baynes (CAS ’94) illustrates scientific principles through hands-on activities.
"Darryl is a math and science guru," Body says. "He knows not only science and math, he knows how to teach it to children so they get it. He’s got all these things and gadgets and magic, if you will. It’s not what you expect from a typical speaker. Darryl brings, literally, explosives."
Baynes (whose unique teaching methods were featured in last spring’s Pitt Magazine) will share his insights about teaching with the 13-member state board.
"I don’t know that there’s anybody else who brings what he brings," says Body.
Pitt thinks highly of Baynes, too.The University’s African American Alumni Council honored him with its Distinguished Alumnus Award last fall.
A woman with some hard-etched lifelines on her face lies in a bed at WakeMed Rehab in Raleigh, N.C. This isn’t her first visit to the hospital. She has multiple sclerosis, a chronic condition that progressively damages the central nervous system. She has been at the hospital for several days. Her symptoms are under control, and the doctors want to discharge her. But they can’t. Before she can return to her homea trailer on a rural patch of land in eastern North Carolinashe must have a portable toilet to place at her bedside.
This latest bout with MS has ravaged her ability to walk. She’s poor and often alone. Elaine Rohlik (SOC WK ’83G, ’82), her case manager, makes her first-ever call to the local chapter of the MS Society. The next day, a portable toilet arrives at the hospital, courtesy of the chapter, and Rohlik clears the woman for discharge and homecare service.
"That’s the way it’s supposed to work," says Rohlik, who is now WakeMed’s director of outpatient rehabilitation. "Social workers connect with an agency and good things happen." She was impressed by Kaye Gooch, her contact at the chapter, and by the agency’s responsiveness. Within days, Rohlik agreed to join the chapter’s programming committee. Two months later, she was chair of the committee and a member of the chapter’s board of directors. "I must have been very engaging and energetic at that first meeting," jokes Rohlik.
During her 12 years with the chapter, she has initiated programs that enable people with MS in the state’s rural areas to benefit from the latest expertise. Also, she launched local MS Wellness Days and MS Family Days, lobbied the state legislature on MS issues, and completed the annual 150-mile MS bike-a-thon three times.
"She really threw herself into this," says Gooch, the chapter’s vice president of programs. "Her leadership qualities stand out, but she also has that heart and understanding of what people with MS go through daily, living with the disease."
Rohlik’s example, Gooch adds, has energized a pipeline of WakeMed Rehab volunteers.
Part of Rohlik’s understanding of MS comes from personal experienceher friend’s mother, some of her patients in rehab, even a few colleagues at WakeMed have it. "It’s a really miserable disease," she says.
Last fall, Rohlik received national recognition for her work with MS: She is one of only 25 people in 2003 inducted into the National MS Society’s Volunteer Hall of Fame.
Such a collection! Just absolutely fantastic!" It would be hard to argue with Maureen Liakos’ reaction after viewing prints from John James Audubon’s Birds of America.
Audubon, a 19th-century self-taught painter, set out to paint every type of American bird. He didn’t stop until he amassed a body of work that included 435 prints, illustrating more than 1,000 birds.
Pitt’s University Library System has the complete Audubon print collection, one of about 120 complete sets of the original double folio still in existence. Although appraisals can vary, the auction house Christie’s recently valued a complete set of the Audubon prints at $5 million.
Pitt had been storing its Audubon collection in bound volumes at Hillman. Special arrangements were needed to see them. Not so anymore. "Our whole purpose is to expose them to the public," says Josienne N. Piller, art historian, visiting lecturer, and director of the University Art Gallery.
Liakos (EDUC ’96G, CAS ’94), a student in the Joseph M. Katz Graduate School of Business, was among scores of people who turned out last fall at the University Art Gallery for the opening reception of "Taking Flight: Selected Prints from Audubon’s Birds of America." The Audubon collection isn’t confined to the art gallery, though. Every two weeks, a new print is on display on the ground floor of Hillman Library.
The University’s bond rating was recently upgraded by Standard & Poor’s, from AA- to AA. Reasons cited included a manageable debt load and a strong operating performance. A bond rating reflects the financial strength of an institution and helps determine its cost of borrowing. Standard & Poor’s rates college bonds from AAA, the highest, to D, the lowest.
The second-best midsize city for undergraduates and graduates, according to the College Destination Index, is none other than Pittsburgh, trailing only Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill, N.C. The index’s creators evaluated large, midsize, and small cities on economic variables, student population, and "lifestyle attributes." Boston-Cambridge is number one for large cities and Boulder, Colo., came in first for small cities, beating out some town named State College, which came in fourth.
When Radisav Vidic first studied water distribution as an undergraduate at the University of Belgrade in 1987, it would be no exaggeration to suggest that water pollution in the former Yugoslavia, now Serbia, was deplorable. That hasn’t changed. "Industrial waste streams continue to flow untreated into local rivers that provide the source of drinking water for nearly 10 million people," Vidic explains.
Now Vidican assistant professor in civil and environmental engineering at the University of Pittsburghhas returned to the university of his initial research, thanks to a Fulbright Scholarship. Vidic is spending a semester there, helping to modernize the environmental engineering and science curriculum with the hope that Serbian students will one day protect their nation’s water supply.
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