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  Jim Duratz with School of Law Dean Mary Crossley. (Photo by Jason Blair)
 

Family Ties

A boy from the small coal-mining town of Grindstone, Pa., stands at the foot of the Cathedral of Learning, nearly bending over backwards to take in the whole building. It’s the tallest building he has ever seen. The towering Cathedral impresses him, but not as much as the person who emerges from the building’s revolving door seconds later.

The youngster blinks up at the man, who appears to be a giant to the 10-year-old. Instead of being afraid, the boy is thrilled. The giant is Pitt’s All-American football star Marshall “Biggie” Goldberg.

Seven decades later, Jim Duratz still fondly recalls asking the football legend for his autograph that day. His chance encounter happened in 1936, not long before Goldberg (CAS ’39) helped the Panthers win the Rose Bowl and the national football chammpionship. Back then, it was Duratz’s industrious spirit—selling the most Pittsburgh Press papers—that won him an overnight stay in Pittsburgh and led him to the Cathedral’s doors. He has applied that same industrious spirit throughout his adult life, inspired by and immersed in a family known for their business savvy and their generosity—the Barcos of Meadville and Titusville, Pa.

After serving in both the South Pacific and Europe during World War II, Duratz returned to western Pennsylvania in 1948 with a goal he had kept in mind since second grade, when mounted state police came to Grindstone to keep peace during a coal workers’ strike. He achieved that goal and became a state trooper, stationed in Meadville. Within a few years, though, he was restless and wanted a new challenge. He earned a degree in economics at Allegheny College on the GI Bill, graduating in two-and-one-half years, and he was soon working at Westinghouse in Pittsburgh. A few years later, though, he couldn’t resist an opportunity offered by his future father-in-law, George Barco. He moved back to Meadville to join the Barco family business in the fledgling cable television industry.

In the early 1950s, Barco almost single-handedly brought cable television to Meadville, an area that, surrounded by mountains, had poor TV-antenna reception. Duratz married Barco’s daughter, Helene, in 1956 and eventually began managing the Meadville business.

Meanwhile, George Barco (LAW ’34) and his daughter, Yolanda (LAW ’49), used their Pitt law degrees to shape government and industry policies and help make cable television the near-omnipresent educational and entertainment medium it is today.

“I had no idea what cable television was when I started,” says Duratz. When the Barco family launched cable in Meadville, it began with three channels. “It just grew,” he adds. “It surprised everybody in the business.” Duratz helped bring about that growth by pioneering the use of aluminum sheath cable, which boosted frequency strength and allowed more channels. By 1963, Meadville was operating the first aluminum sheath cable system in the United States, with 12 channels.

Together, the Barco-Duratz family made Meadville a center of cable television development. But their influence and generosity have extended far beyond this western Pennsylvania town—in fact, their story leads right back to the Cathedral of Learning and the University of Pittsburgh campus.

Today, in the Barco Law Building, future attorneys sift through volumes of books, briefs, and online resources in the Barco Law Library and work with innovative communications technology developed within the James J. Duratz Courtroom Technology Center. At the Duratz Athletic Complex, barbells clang and sweat runs as Pitt football players—some with Barco Athletic Scholarships—hit the weights. Pregame, the Panthers’ rallying cries can be heard whenever the door to the Duratz Locker Room at Heinz Field swings open. Two hours north of the Oakland campus, a mere jaunt along eastbound PA-27 from Meadville, students build snowmen in Pitt-Titusville’s Helene Barco Duratz Plaza, occasionally eyeing the plaza’s ornate, four-sided clock so as not to miss their next classes. In the George J. Barco Center for Continuing Education, a lively management training session for employees of a local company is in full swing, while in another room, quiet, sporadic mouse clicks and key taps underscore an instructor’s lecture on creating PowerPoint presentations. In total, the Barco-Duratz family’s contributions to the University of Pittsburgh approach $20 million.

Many familiar with Pitt are also familiar with the Barco-Duratz name—but some may be surprised at the vast legacy of giving that began with the late George Barco, continued with his late daughters Yolanda and Helene, and is carried on today by Jim Duratz.

Barco’s notion of giving back to the community went beyond simply donating money. Yolanda Barco once said about her father: “He strongly believed that every person must be accountable for the use of his time and resources over the course of his life. Just so, gifting is in the nature of an investment—to be done carefully and judiciously to generate increases in worthwhile returns over time.” This philosophy, embraced by the Barco-Duratz family, now perpetually supports the education of current and future Pitt students and the improvement of student life.

In 2004, Duratz received the Donor of the Year Award, University Division, from the National Association of Athletic Development Directors. He remains as focused as ever on carrying out the family’s philanthropic goals. He is working on one more Pitt project his family had planned—a state-of-the-art band complex. And his personal philanthropic endeavors have included the plaza at Pitt-Titusville named after his wife, Helene, who always loved the campus’ pastoral beauty.

Duratz credits Pitt Chancellor Mark Nordenberg with providing exemplary leadership. “When I was growing up,” he says, “Pitt was something I never thought I would even get to see, let alone be involved in. The thing I notice most when I visit now is that it all seems to be in harmony. Everything is upbeat. It’s all going in the right direction.” —Bo Schwerin

Goldy bobblehead dollGoing for Goldy

The Peace Corps volunteer writes the day’s agenda on the classroom’s white board, the marker squeaking like an enthusiastic mouse. Her classroom is full of mice, but not the vocal kind. Their tails are plugged into the 20 nearly obsolete computers lined up on sawhorse-style benches. The computers’ white-noise drone is drowned out by the blast of the air conditioner, the only one in the entire school because the old 486’s can’t tolerate the humid tropical heat blossoming outside the windows.

Without these computers, and without the Peace Corps’ Valerie Hopkins to teach their uses, the school’s students stand little chance of being among the 50 selected each year from Samoa’s population for scholarships to study at universities abroad.

While on the small South Pacific island, Hopkins taught everything from typing skills to the creation of Web sites. She instructed 13 students her first year; the following year, there were two classes and 40 students. That year, six of her students won overseas study scholarships, double the previous year’s number.

During a rare encounter with the Internet on the island, Hopkins searched for a route to further her knowledge of computers—it was there, in Samoa, when she first discovered Pitt. “I was looking for a program that had international affairs and policy coupled with information technology. Pitt was the only one I found,” says Hopkins, referring to Pitt’s joint degree program between the Graduate School of Public and International Affairs (GSPIA) and the School of Information Sciences (SIS).

She set foot on campus for orientation in April 2002 and began a GSPIA security and intelligence program in the fall. Her first semester, she took Security & Intelligence Studies: Theories in Public Policy taught by GSPIA Professor Donald Goldstein. “Goldy,” as he is popularly known, is something of a legend among his students. An Air Force veteran and internationally renowned World War II expert, Goldstein’s persona goes beyond his trademark gold sweater and cigar.

“Goldy can be pretty forthright. He’s not shy of telling you his opinions on things,” says Hopkins. “But in all the things he does it really comes across how much he cares for students. He’s just one of those professors everyone remembers.”

With the latest event in Goldy lore, it’s unlikely he’ll be forgotten anytime soon.

 
 
  Hopkins (Thomas Arledge photo)

While at Pitt, Hopkins was a member of GSPIA’s Agora, an organization created to advance students’ academic and professional opportunities. To fund the group’s activities, Hopkins helped fellow Agora member Laura Rabuck (GSPIA ’04, CAS ’00) turn an idea into reality—the Goldy bobblehead, which debuted at a roast Agora held in Goldstein’s honor. Decked out in his Air Force flight suit, Goldstein took a good-natured ribbing from his students and fellow professors and was delighted by his miniature likeness.

“Goldy loved it,” says Hopkins. “He said it was him years younger.”

When Agora began receiving funds from the student government, they decided to redirect the bobblehead proceeds to the creation of an endowment in Goldstein’s name providing financial assistance to future GSPIA students. Just before she graduated with a master’s degree, Hopkins (GSPIA ’05, SIS ’05G) became one of the first donors to the Donald Goldstein Endowed Fund. Her $100 contribution in spring 2005 made Hopkins the 100,000th donor to Pitt’s capital campaign—a moment worth celebrating Universitywide.

“It’s definitely nice to know that my donation helped get the Goldstein Endowment Fund going,” Hopkins says. “I’m happy that being the 100,000th donor will bring recognition to the programs that I contributed to. That’s what makes it special for me.”

For Pitt, Hopkins’ donation is a highlight of a fundraising campaign that is soaring toward its $1 billion goal through the generous support of an impressive host of donors whose contributions have added up to an increasingly bright future for the University.

“I was really quite surprised,” says Hopkins, who now works for the Government Accountability Office in Washington, D.C., “that, of all the people that donated to Pitt, I would be the 100,000th.”

A strange combination of things can sometimes add up in just the right way. Somewhere, hundreds of bobbleheads are nodding in agreement.
—BS

Game Plan

The two met in kindergarten and were friends during their school years at St. Edmund’s Academy in Pittsburgh’s Squirrel Hill neighborhood. As boys, they shared a keen interest in military history. David Scaife (CAS ’89) and Nick Beldecos spent hours together, over many years, facing off against each other in World War II historical-simulation board games like PanzerBlitz and D-Day. More than 25 years have passed since their days at St. Edmund’s, but these two have an abiding friendship. Today, they are applying their strategy-minded skills to some tough, real-world challenges.

 
 
Scaife (right) and Beldecos (Harry Giglio photo)
 

After middle school, the duo went separate ways but kept in touch. Scaife, who majored in history, now owns a Pittsburgh business—Auto Palace LLC—and also collects vintage and high-performance cars. He built a race-car museum not far from the Oakland campus, and he occasionally races sports cars, joining fellow enthusiasts on tracks around the country. Beldecos, meanwhile, left Pittsburgh to attend college at Princeton University. He did graduate work in security studies at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and began working as a military operations research analyst. He did his own share of racing around tracks—as a competitive speed skater.

But Beldecos returned to Pittsburgh, enticed by a professional challenge posed by his boyhood friend. Scaife is chairman of the six-year-old DSF Charitable Foundation. Beldecos is the foundation’s executive director. Now the two guide a philanthropic venture that’s improving the quality of life in the Pittsburgh region while also tackling social and medical issues of national significance.

The DSF Charitable Foundation was created in 2000 from the divided assets of a larger Scaife family foundation. Since its inception, the foundation has chosen to support projects that improve health, human services, and education in the region. David Scaife remains inspired by the generous philanthropic initiatives of his grandmother, Sarah Mellon Scaife, who died in 1965. “She was primarily interested in helping western Pennsylvania causes,” he says, “and I wanted to do things that I thought she would like to do.” In addition to Scaife and Beldecos, the foundation’s leadership includes Scaife’s wife Sara, his mother Frances G. Scaife, and four other trustees.

So far, the foundation has awarded more than 170 grants and committed a total of more than $24 million to various initiatives. This funding includes support for after-school programming and child care for low-income families, daycare for children with complex medical needs, a recreational/therapeutic camp for disabled children, literacy programs for children and families, several senior-care projects that help the elderly maintain their independence and dignity, and a hospice facility.

These initiatives alone have a dramatic impact on lives in southwestern Pennsylvania, but the DSF Charitable Foundation also supports causes that have potential to serve as national models of excellence. These ventures include:

  • Major support for the creation of the Pittsburgh Institute for Neurodegenerative Diseases (PIND) to advance the study and treatment of conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease. PIND, which occupies a floor of Pitt’s new Biomedical Science Tower 3, fosters collaboration between researchers and clinicians across the full range of neurodegenerative conditions. The foundation has committed almost $5.8 million to this effort.
  • Funding to help launch the Healthy Black Family Project (HBFP), a public health initiative of Pitt’s Center for Minority Health. The HBFP is a health promotion and disease prevention effort focusing on diabetes and hypertension. Its current scope is African American neighborhoods in Pittsburgh’s East End, which bear a disproportionate burden of preventable disease and premature death in Allegheny County. These local disparities mirror a larger national problem. The project employs innovative, community-based approaches, which involve increasing physical activity, improving diet, and reducing stress.
  • Support to advance education in disciplines critically important to the future of biomedicine. This includes a grant to Carnegie Mellon University to help launch a joint PhD program with Pitt in computational biology—a field that integrates biological sciences, mathematics, and computer science to solve biological problems.
  • A commitment of $500,000 to the Pittsburgh Regional Healthcare Initiative (PRHI), a consortium of regional stakeholders in health that aims to set the world benchmark for patient outcomes. Among PRHI’s goals is the elimination of medication errors and healthcare-acquired infections.

The process of identifying such initiatives, says Beldecos, involves looking at a slew of organizations and projects and then assessing need, potential impact, and opportunity in relation to the foundation’s mission and resources. “We endeavor to be systematic about it,” he says, “and we like to identify projects that have the potential to benefit not only Pittsburgh and southwestern Pennsylvania, but also the nation.”

Scaife adds that not every project will offer national remedies with long-term outcomes. “Some things we feel are Band-Aids to address urgent present needs, but some things—for instance the Healthy Black Family Project—are potentially a cure. If that project can be replicated on a national basis, then I think we really have something.” For the DSF Charitable Foundation, it’s a matter of finding a balance between meeting a pressing need and having a lasting impact.

The two longtime friends continue to enjoy tackling challenges together, and this time they’re on the same side of the game plan. “Our real satisfaction comes from directing money to the right places and seeing that it does some good,” says Scaife. In fact, they approach their shared philanthropic mission much like venture capitalists. “You are going to have some failures,” Scaife adds, “but there are certain risks that you need to be prepared to take. If you don’t take such risks, you’re not likely to prevail.” —Cindy Gill

Al Novak

Notes from Novak

Over the course of the University of Pittsburgh’s 219-year history, there have been many reasons to celebrate accomplishments and achievements. In 2006, we certainly have reason to celebrate the University’s flourishing success during the past decade with Mark A. Nordenberg as our chancellor.

Since 1995, we have been on a journey to take Pitt’s record of accomplishments to new levels. Together, we have worked to make the University an even better place to learn, conduct research, foster innovation, and partner in economic development. One milestone of this journey has been the launch of a landmark $1 billion fundraising campaign—the most ambitious of its kind in western Pennsylvania. Thanks to the support of our alumni and friends during the past 10 years, we have secured funds for today’s students as well as for future generations of Pitt students. With an 87 percent increase in the number of endowed funds that support scholarships, research, and state-of-the-art facilities, we are helping our students and faculty achieve their individual pursuits of excellence—making Pitt a truly great place to be.

Not only have our generous alumni and friends been essential to our fundraising success, but also the University of Pittsburgh’s leaders. And, as we have reached out for support across the nation and the globe, our chancellor has been with us, actively pursuing the transformation of our campus and positioning Pitt for new levels of achievement in a 21st-century, global marketplace.

Chancellor Nordenberg’s integral involvement and leadership inspired us to reach our original $500 million fundraising goal a year ahead of schedule and gave us the confidence to extend our target to $1 billion. I look forward to much progress in 2006 as we continue to build Pitt’s future together.

For more information about the Discover a World of Possibilities campaign, go online: www.giveto.pitt.edu

Campaign Watch

Institutional Advancement is working hard to reach $1 billion, and Pitt’s alumni and friends are responding. We are now closing in on that goal: $910 million!


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