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Ten years ago, Pitt turned a defining moment of University history into a decade of spectacular achievement. But that decade isn’t a thing of the past—it’s the University’s roadmap for perpetual progress.


Building Our Future


Cindy Gill



Chancellor Mark Nordenberg (Harry Giglio photo)

It’s practically legend now. No matter how early faculty or staff arrive for work at the University of Pittsburgh, the dark blue sedan is usually there. As the sun rises and people trickle into the Cathedral of Learning, Hillman Library, William Pitt Union, or Alumni Hall, the sedan sits—its engine already cold—in the small parking lot near the log cabin at the foot of the Cathedral.

One staffer who parks in the lot says that, on chillier days, frost has reappeared on the car before others have arrived. While a get-it-done vigor is typical at Pitt, it’s still hard for most here to outpace the sedan’s fleeting occupant, Chancellor Mark A. Nordenberg. He typically arrives at his office before first light, and he stays as long as it takes.

“That is the kind of work ethic that is very Pittsburgh, very Midwestern,” says Randy Juhl, a Pitt vice chancellor and native of Iowa who has known Nordenberg for more than two decades. “I think it represents what we’d all like to do—come to work every day, enjoy the work, and make sure that the place is better by the time you go home.”

By any measure, the University of Pittsburgh is a better place since Nordenberg took on the role of chancellor. This academic year marks his 10th anniversary as the institution’s leader—a decade full of remarkable advances by

Pitt and its people. Enrollment and retention of top students are up. Research programs and funding are flourishing. Students, faculty, and alumni are regularly winning some of the nation’s and the world’s highest accolades. All five campuses have been revitalized by new construction and renovation. Community partnerships have multiplied, spurring regional economic development. A capital campaign continues to surpass record-breaking fundraising goals. And that’s the short list. The progress made has been exceptional by any standard. For instance, since 1995:

  • Total institutional assets increased from $1.5 billion to $3.5 billion;
  • The University’s endowment grew by 267 percent, from $463 million to $1.7 billion;
  • Total employment at Pitt is up 25 percent to more than 12,000, primarily reflecting dramatic increases in research support;
  • Undergraduate applications more than doubled to 18,153 for the 2005 freshman class;
  • The percentage of freshmen that graduated in the top 10 percent of their high school classes increased from 19 to 46 percent, and in the top 20 percent from 39 to 75 percent;
  • Pitt undergraduates competitively won a series of top academic scholarships: a Rhodes Scholarship, five Marshall Scholarships, 24 Goldwater Scholarships, three Truman Scholarships, and four Udall Scholarships;
  • The University’s research funding soared from $230 million to more than $600 million;
  • Research expenditures for the past 10 years—mostly all new money imported into the region—reached nearly $4 billion as of 2005; and
  • Pitt faculty and alumni won an impressive range of national and international honors, among them the Nobel Peace Prize, the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, the National Medal of Science, the Charles S. Mott Prize for cancer research, the Templeton Prize, a Pulitzer Prize, the Shaw Prize in Life Science and Medicine, and several Grammy awards.

“Every university brags about its numbers and its position, but I don’t think anyone can objectively put up better numbers than Pitt has over the last decade,” says Juhl, who leads Pitt’s efforts in research conduct and compliance. “It is real clear that Mark’s leadership has been central to all that has happened here.”

Undeniably, the chancellor—who was a distance runner in his younger days—has led a remarkable run for the University of Pittsburgh. But Nordenberg shares the credit. “Pitt’s progress has been a triumph of the hard work, talent, and commitment of lots of people,” he says, “some of whom have been properly credited for their contributions and some of whom will always be in the background as unsung heroes of the institution.”

Triumph? Heroes? What’s going on at Pitt, and how did so many good things happen here in such a short time? The answer begins with Nordenberg.

He arrived here in 1977 as one of those “unsung” faculty members himself. He was offered a nine-month contract as a visiting assistant professor of law—which he describes as “just about the lowliest form of academic life”—with no expectation beyond that. He came in a U-Haul truck, containing all of his family’s belongings, in the company of his wife, Nikki Pirillo Nordenberg, their preschool-age daughter, Erin, and their dog. The young couple had friends in the area, some of whom gathered to help the family move into a Squirrel Hill apartment. “There also were other neighbors—strangers to us—who came out to help, who brought lemonade,” recalls Nordenberg, “and it gave us a great feeling about the city from this very first moment.”

This common beginning—a familiar one for newly arriving faculty, students, and staff—is part of what makes Nordenberg, fundamentally, a Pitt person. His experiences and values seem to match the best of those embodied by the institution and the city whose name it bears: hard work, persistence, optimism, resilience, friendliness, and high aspirations.

He’s also, at heart, a professor. As a young faculty member in the law school, he taught classes, worked with student groups, published articles, developed strong connections to the practicing profession, and actively participated in the governance of the school. His teaching skills, especially, were quickly evident. He was the first to receive the law school’s Excellence-in-Teaching Award, an honor now given annually by the school’s Student Bar Association. He was also among the first to receive the Chancellor’s Distinguished Teaching Award.

In describing those early years, he says: “As a young law faculty member, I did what I think most people in my position would do, and that was to take care of business at home. You focus on your teaching. You focus on your writing. You try to develop your abilities and establish the kind of credentials that are going to lead the institution to invite you to stay for the longer haul.”

Nordenberg thrived. In just 10 years, he rose through the faculty ranks from his visiting status to assistant professor, associate professor, and then professor. In that same 10-year period, he also was appointed associate dean, interim dean, and dean. “What I found within my school were caring and accomplished mentors, a cadre of talented and ambitious peers, and students who were eager to learn and willing to work. That is a pretty unbeatable combination.”

Others at Pitt noticed. In 1994, he was asked to take on the role of interim provost—Pitt’s chief academic officer—and he decided to accept. “I thought it was part of being a good institutional citizen,” he says, and it also broadened his experience with a Universitywide perspective. The following year, he was asked to forgo taking a sabbatical leave to chair the committee searching for a new senior vice chancellor for the health sciences, providing further exposure to the broader institution. “My professional life, in some ways, has been a sequence of unanticipated opportunities,” he reflects. As it happens, his career trajectory was a near-perfect proving ground for the big challenge to come.

Unexpectedly, in the summer of 1995, Nordenberg was asked by the University’s Board of Trustees to step in as interim chancellor. Pitt was struggling to regain its footing after a series of uncharacteristic stumbles, with difficulties that included an across-the-board salary freeze, a weak fundraising record, lagging undergraduate enrollments, poor community relations, tensions with elected officials, and low campus morale.

Others might have sized up the situation differently, but when Nordenberg was asked to help, he again accepted the responsibility. “A part of it was a sense of institutional loyalty and gratitude,” he says, “but a part of it also was a belief that we could successfully meet a set of pretty interesting professional challenges. I always have had great respect for the talent, commitment, and resiliency of the people of Pitt, and I really did think that I could contribute something to rebuilding our momentum.”

To help the University regain its footing, J. Wray Connolly (LAW ’58), then chair of Pitt’s Board of Trustees, commissioned a report by a group of outside academic consultants led by James Fisher, a past president of the Council for Advancement and Support of Education. Connolly, who had retired as senior vice president of H.J. Heinz Co., wanted an objective “State of the University” assessment of Pitt as a way to guide the institution in taking its next steps. The Fisher Report, as it came to be known, described a huge gap between the University’s aspirations and its actual condition. The report was blunt and tough in its comments: Leadership had been subpar, the undergraduate program was neglected, fundraising efforts were in disarray, the campus was divided and dispirited, the Board of Trustees was not effective in advancing Pitt’s objectives, the University’s relations with the larger community were poor, and its marketing efforts needed improvement.

While some may have quibbled with the number or scale of problems outlined in the assessment, the report became a bottom-line benchmark for planning. When the Fisher Report was released in early 1996, its findings weren’t a complete surprise to the board, largely because Nordenberg had already begun to brief the trustees on the institution’s strengths and weaknesses during a series of intense board retreats called by Connolly. His partners in that undertaking were Thomas Detre, then senior vice chancellor for health sciences, and James Maher, provost and senior vice chancellor for academic affairs.

 

 
Sennott Square
 
Millstein Library, University of Pittsburgh at Greensburg  
The Sennott Square Academic Center on the Pittsburgh campus, top, and the Millstein Library on the Greensburg campus are among the new facilities erected as part of an ambitious University-wide improvement program.  
 

All three had devoted most of their adult lives to careers at Pitt, and they began to work closely with the board. “We understood the institution, we were able to communicate effectively about the institution, and we had our own ambitious hopes for the institution,” recalls Nordenberg. “I think the board came away from those interactions thinking that there really were some things that we could build on here.”

Maher says the discussions in those retreats set the agenda for Pitt’s future: “It didn’t just happen through some serendipity. It was the result of a careful analysis of our challenges and opportunities.” Others say the process, guided by Connolly, also energized a board that had not been fully engaged. With a group of more than 50 trustees—among them Fortune 500 CEOs, lawyers and judges, financial chiefs, elected officials, entrepreneurs, and public school administrators––it’s difficult to imagine productive involvement by all. But Connolly found a way, using the retreats, to re-engage the board more fully than ever. “I never believed the board was too large,” says Connolly, who is a current trustee. “I just believed it was uninvolved. When it became involved, it was an enormous resource for the University and for Mark.”

This new era of genuine collaboration between the trustees and the chancellor’s leadership team is a key element in Pitt’s remarkable progress. “There has been this wonderfully supportive relationship that I think has been satisfying to everyone involved, probably traceable to those early retreats,” says Nordenberg. “We received the benefit of the accumulated wisdom and insights of the members of the Board of Trustees, who are all accomplished, high-achieving people and who all care deeply about Pitt.”

Early on, in 1996, the board adopted a set of guiding principles that served as the institution’s blueprint for change. The University’s decade of progress is directly traceable to this template of principles:

  • Aggressively pursuing excellence in undergraduate education;
  • Maintaining excellence in research;
  • Partnering in community development;
  • Ensuring operational efficiency and effectiveness; and
  • Securing an adequate resource base.

Beyond the “short list” of key accomplishments noted earlier, these guiding principles have helped all five of Pitt’s campuses flourish in all kinds of ways, among them:

  • An ambitious construction and renovation program, exceeding $1 billion, that created significant new campus buildings and refurbished space, including: Sennott Square Academic Center, Bouquet Gardens student residence, Petersen Events Center, Alumni Hall, Biomedical Science Tower 3, Baierl Student Recreation Center, Duratz Athletic Complex, Pennsylvania Hall, McCarl Center for Nontraditional Student Success, Charity Randall Theatre, Blaisdell Hall (Bradford Campus), Frame-Westerburg Commons and Student Center (Bradford Campus), Pasquerilla Performing Arts Center (Johnstown Campus), Millstein Library (Greensburg Campus), and Broadhurst Science Center (Titusville Campus);
  • Student life initiatives that have improved the quality of Pitt’s campuses and educational experiences through upgrades like new and refurbished residence halls, enriched residence life programming, innovative living-learning environments, renovated classrooms, integrated academic and career planning, new recreational areas, and new and expanded cultural activities;
  • An information technology plan that has enabled the University to keep pace with the incredibly rapid changes in digital technology, including technology upgrades in targeted classrooms and laboratories, as well as support for teaching and communications efforts;
  • An expansion on all five campuses of relationships with community partners that enrich regional economic development, improve the health and well-being of regional citizens, and encourage the volunteer spirit in faculty, staff, students, and alumni;
  • Better integration of the University’s business activities with its academic priorities and also a split of the offices of business and finance into two separate entities, enabling more efficient financial management and oversight;
  • Newly adopted University practices and policies to ensure effective stewardship of existing resources, including significant cost-cutting and energy-saving initiatives, the construction of “green” buildings, major recycling efforts, and the use of sophisticated energy-management systems; and
  • A host of newly created research centers and institutes that will help shape 21st-century life, among these the Gertrude E. and John M. Petersen Institute for Nanoscience and Engineering, the Center on Race and Social Problems, the Swanson Institute for Technical Excellence, the Pittsburgh Institute for Neurodegenerative Diseases, the Center for Minority Health, and the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center’s Hillman Cancer Center.

This ambitious transformation grew from those initial five guiding principles and the inspired leadership necessary to put them into action. It’s no wonder, then, that—not long after the University’s roadmap of guiding principles was in place—the board removed “interim” from Nordenberg’s title. He was named chancellor and chief executive officer during the annual Board of Trustees meeting in June 1996. “Here was a man who was doing the job, doing it superbly, understood the issues, and had very little ego in terms of his own self-interests,” says Ralph J. Cappy (LAW ’68, CAS ’65), a board member at the time. “His concern was always directed to the well-being of the University.” Cappy is now chair of Pitt’s board and the chief justice of Pennsylvania. “It turns out,” he adds, “Mark is probably one of the finest, if not the finest, leader of a major university in the entire country.”

Signs of progress were evident as early as 1996, but the closest thing to an initial “Aha!” moment came in 2001 with a visit by representatives of the Middle States Commission on Higher Education. This was a required and regularly scheduled assessment by an outside team of academic professionals to ensure that the University’s standards and credentials were in order. After the visit, the accreditation team noted in its report that Pitt’s efforts over the last several years “had resulted in extraordinary accomplishments, particularly in the areas of improving the undergraduate student body quality, enhancing undergraduate campus life and support, integrating academic and budgetary planning, and strengthening city and Commonwealth relationships.” The report also praised a “new culture of openness,” and further noted, “... it is clear that many of the difficult, but essential, choices and decisions that have been made over this period could not have been accomplished in an academic environment without the skill of, and open processes created by, the Chancellor and the Provost.”

Nordenberg says the Middle States Report was external verification of the progress that the leadership team believed they were already seeing. But both he and Maher would agree—their sense was that Pitt was succeeding, not that it had succeeded. And that has been a key ingredient in the institution’s recipe for ongoing success—the University is in a constant state of becoming more successful. The motto seems to be keep going, keep working to be even better.

This open-ended pursuit of ever-higher ambitions was articulated in a statement made by the University’s board in February 2000, about midway in this decade of progress. The board formally and unanimously adopted this resolution during its public meeting:

By aggressively supporting the advancement of Pitt’s academic mission, we will clearly and consistently demonstrate that this is one of the finest and most productive universities in the world.

That’s a guiding compass for the ages, not just a decade. At the time, Nordenberg described the resolution as “a bold and inspiring statement of institutional ambition.” Some might even call it an audacious statement. Yet, the University has delivered on that proclamation and continues to do so.

For bold moves, the announcement made during Pitt’s October 2000 Discovery Weekend has to be near the top of any list. At the closing gala, Nordenberg announced the public launch of the $500 million Discover a World of Possibilities capital campaign—the largest such effort in western Pennsylvania’s history. The campaign commenced with the full support and confidence of Pitt’s board, despite contrary advice from consultants, who said the institution was attempting to do too much too soon.

The boldness of that risk paid off—the campaign hit its initial target a year ahead of schedule, and the stakes then went even higher. To keep the momentum going, Pitt publicly declared that it would double its target at a time when fewer than 20 universities nationwide dared to pursue campaigns of $1 billion or more.

Today, the University is closing in on that second, lofty goal, with $910 million in gifts and pledges and still counting (see Cornerstones, pp. 50-55). The funds generated by this campaign represent a monumental achievement that has already begun to elevate Pitt’s stature among all universities, especially public institutions. For instance, the endowment grew by 267 percent between 1995 and 2005, moving from $463 million to $1.7 billion.

These are funds that bring lasting benefits to the University because the principal is invested—not spent—and the University uses the returns on that investment to support priority endeavors in a sustained way. So far, the campaign has generated 309 new endowed scholarships, 28 new endowed fellowships, and 64 new endowed faculty positions. These funds have helped fuel the University’s enhanced efforts to extend its benefits to individuals, communities, the region, the nation, and the world.

During the past decade, Pitt also has done a remarkable job of attracting federal funds to support its role as a robust research engine, generating new knowledge and advancing human possibilities. Overall, research funding has increased about 160 percent since 1995, from $230 million to more than $600 million. In the course of just one five-year period, the University jumped from an enviable ranking of 20th nationally to a spot in the top 10 in terms of the federal science and engineering research and development obligations attracted by its faculty. One gleaming asset, among many, has been the University’s strength in medicine and its other health sciences schools.

Arthur S. Levine, who was scientific director of the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), was recruited to Pitt by Nordenberg in 1998. In preparing for retirement from his senior leadership post, Detre had advised the chancellor to hire someone with expertise in, among other things, basic biology—an essential building block in the prevention and treatment of diseases.

“What attracted me to Pittsburgh was the quite extraordinary trajectory that, in particular, the medical school had,” says Levine, a physician and molecular biologist who is dean of the School of Medicine and senior vice chancellor for health sciences. “With respect to research funding from the NIH, the University and its affiliates—Children’s Hospital and the Magee Womens Research Institute—are now ranked seventh nationally, driven by the medical school.” He calls this an “amazing statistic” because of what it takes to rise in the rankings. It’s difficult for schools to move up, he says, because this typically involves a very large and concerted investment of an institution’s own money in building laboratories, hiring top researchers, and expanding related resources. At the time of his hire, Levine was particularly impressed that Pitt’s was one of only two medical schools that had moved into the top 10 during the past decade. “The more I learned about the trajectory of the institution, the more excited I became, because I felt that this was a place that was very much on the move,” he says.

It is, perhaps, that pioneering spirit of wanting to be part of an adventure-in-the-making that has drawn so many risk-taking achievers to Pitt’s health science schools, including polio history-maker Jonas Salk and transplant history-maker Thomas Starzl. It’s that pioneering spirit that helped Thomas Detre envision what would become UPMC—the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center—today so ably led by his longtime professional partner Jeffrey Romoff and considered to be among the top academic hospital systems in the world. While a legally separate entity, UPMC is Pitt’s closest partner, strongly allied with the University’s medical and health sciences schools and deeply committed to distinguished programs of research and education as one key to its marked success. Many Pitt faculty members, for instance, serve as practicing UPMC physicians.

That pioneering spirit continues to foster new visions for the future. Levine, for instance, has recruited a multitude of top new researchers. He also established two seminal departments—computational biology and structural biology—that are fundamental to future medical advances. “These are particularly important departments because they are at the core of where contemporary biomedical research will be in the next decade, as reflected in the NIH road map,” he says. Levine’s era also has produced the Biomedical Science Tower 3—a $200 million facility that is considered to be the most advanced in the world in its support and promotion of research across many disciplines—as well as greatly increased collaboration among Pitt’s six Schools of the Health Sciences and other institutional partners.

“It is basically a culture that was good to begin with and has just gotten more impressive, more productive, and more recognized nationally and internationally,” says Levine. He credits Nordenberg with helping to create that culture. “Mark has been uniquely supportive. He has been wise in his advice and counsel, and he has been a great sounding board and constant advocate.”

Kenneth “Buzz” Shaw, recently retired chancellor of Syracuse University, knows the challenges of leading a major research university. He believes that Nordenberg became Pitt’s chancellor at an opportune moment. “When you have the right person in the right situation, you can make remarkable progress,” he says. Shaw, who is also former president of the University of Wisconsin system, got to know Nordenberg primarily through national initiatives such as the prestigious by-invitation-only Association of American Universities—the 62-member organization of top North American research universities. In his book, The Successful President, Buzzwords on Leadership (American Council on Education/Oryx Press, 1999), Shaw cites various national and international studies on aspects of leadership that say, across cultures, the top characteristics of a good leader are trust, integrity, and persistence. Nordenberg has all of these qualities, says Shaw, along with another significant dimension: “Mark believes in the goodness of people. That comes across.”

Those around Nordenberg see this every day. He greets people throughout the institution by name. He is flagged down by former students in airports. He stops to chat when students point him out to visiting parents as he passes through the Cathedral. He’s among the crowd at Heinz Field and the Petersen Events Center. He travels around the country and beyond to mingle with alumni and friends. He graciously hosts world leaders such as U.S. President George W. Bush, United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan, and European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso. Nordenberg even takes time to send personal notes to faculty, students, staff, and graduates when good news catches his attention.

Board of Trustees Chair Cappy says every one of the chancellor’s interactions reflects his abiding respect for all people. “You don’t have to be a CEO of a major corporation to have Mark’s respect and his consideration. You can be in any walk of life, any gender, any race, hold any creed, and he offers the same respectful humility that he offers to the most powerful people in society.” Nordenberg admits that he’s energized by and interested in people. Respect, he adds, is a positive virtue in any setting—and certainly in an institution such as Pitt, which is devoted to the development of human potential. Pitt’s Randy Juhl says the chancellor also has an uncanny ability to engage people in ways that advance the University of Pittsburgh’s cause: “Whether it’s with their soul, their money, their time, or whatever, people are willing to follow a good leader. That really is the secret.”

Undoubtedly Nordenberg’s people skills have helped him assemble an effective senior leadership team. He has known Juhl since they served as young deans together—Juhl in pharmacy, Nordenberg in law. He met Jerry Cochran (LAW ’89), now executive vice chancellor for business and finance and interim general counsel, even earlier—both were interim deans; then Cochran entered Pitt’s law school and was a student of Nordenberg’s. However, says the chancellor, “over the course of a 20-year relationship, Jerry has taught me as much as I ever taught him.” Nordenberg also became acquainted with Provost Jim Maher years ago when they were the only two who had the interest and stamina to last until the end of a tour of renovated classrooms late on a Friday afternoon. He first met Art Ramicone, now vice chancellor for budget and controller, when the law school was audited (and subsequently received the Ramicone seal of financial approval). Other longtime associates include Vijai Singh, associate chancellor, who had been vice chancellor for faculty affairs and director of the University Center for Social and Urban Research; and Lee Patouillet (EDUC ’00), associate vice chancellor for alumni relations and executive director of the Pitt Alumni Association.

Additional senior leaders have enriched the University with perspectives acquired in other fine institutions. They include G. Reynolds Clark, vice chancellor of community and governmental relations, who spent most of his career at Westinghouse Corporation and the Westinghouse Foundation; Clyde B. Jones, vice chancellor, health sciences development, and president of the Medical and Health Sciences Foundation, who was recruited away from New York’s Presbyterian Hospital; Jeff Long, athletic director, who spent most of his career at the University of Michigan; Al Novak, vice chancellor for institutional advancement, who came here from Carnegie Mellon University; Jean Ferketish (EDUC ’92G, KGSB ’81), secretary to the Board of Trustees, who was a corporate consultant with Development Dimensions International; Kathy Humphrey, vice provost and dean of students, who arrived here from St. Louis University; Amy Marsh, treasurer, who was recruited away from the Mellon Financial Corporation; and Robert Hill, vice chancellor for public affairs, who led similar efforts at Syracuse University for many years.

Nordenberg says that all of his senior leaders set the example for others: “They are not asking anyone else to do anything they are not willing to do themselves.” Board of Trustees Chair Cappy agrees: “Mark has this ability to find people who are not only loyal to him, but also have an extraordinary loyalty to the University and to the well-being of the institution and its vision. He puts them all together, and you have an exceptional leadership team.”

 

 
 
 
  Top: Chancellor Nordenberg with 2004 Rooney Fellow Gary Rice and Carol Mothupi, winner of Pitt’s first Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund Scholarship. Bottom: Marcedes Walter, a Pitt sophomore, is the leading scorer on a women’s basketball team that’s enjoying its best season in a decade.
 

That’s close to an unbeatable combination, as Nordenberg once said about his experience at the law school. Based on the performance of the past decade, this “unbeatable combination” easily extends to the entire institution. Others, beyond Pitt, have noticed, too, and benefited from the positive outcomes.

. . .

In 2004, Nordenberg was incoming chair of presidents in the Big East Conference, one of the major intercollegiate athletic conferences in the country. That year, three of its member-schools unexpectedly announced their decision to bolt the league, creating a crisis that threatened its existence. “Our conference has a great reputation,” says Big East Commissioner Mike Tranghese, “but when you lose schools, people think that you’ll be out of business. There are a lot of negative implications.” He credits Nordenberg with turning those perceptions around, along with help from a few close partners such as David Hardesty, president of West Virginia University. “If you’re going to be in a battle,” says Hardesty, “you want to be in Mark Nordenberg’s foxhole. He’s thoughtful. He’s straightforward. He’s honest. And he does what he says he will do. His leadership got us all through it.”

Tranghese says Nordenberg brought calm to a chaotic situation and that, throughout the process, he was well informed and enormously patient. “Mark’s ability to lead was very important. He took the time to build a strong constituency so that, as our plan went forward, we got tremendous support from all of our presidents right across the board.” He also says that Nordenberg worked hard to find a solution that wouldn’t harm any school. “No matter what president you talk to, they all have an incredible debt of gratitude toward Mark for what he did,” says Tranghese. Today, the Big East is blossoming, with five new members, a 2006 Nokia Sugar Bowl championship to its credit, and a basketball program that, says the commissioner, “has gone beyond our wildest dreams.”

Strong, cooperative leadership also is a key element in Pitt’s partnership with its Oakland neighbor, Carnegie Mellon University. The two institutions have forged a bond that’s unique in the nation, with a range of collaborative ventures in research and economic development (see “Extra Credit”). In the process, the leaders of these two institutions have become good friends, as well. Pitt’s Nordenberg and Carnegie Mellon President Jared Cohon were named 2001 Pittsburghers of the Year by the city’s Pittsburgh Magazine for the benefits their productive partnership has brought to regional development. In 2003, the two again shared honors when they received the Person of Vision award, presented to outstanding community leaders by Pittsburgh Vision Services.

These impressive leadership skills also have brought numerous accolades and awards to Nordenberg personally. Most recently, to give just one example, he received the Chief Executive Leadership Award from the Council for Advancement and Support of Education, Mid-Atlantic District.

The University’s Board of Trustees, too, wanted to honor Nordenberg as the leader who helped guide Pitt’s dramatic turnaround. “I don’t think, by comparison, there is any other university in the country, public or private, that has made as dramatic progress in 10 years,” says Cappy, who came up with the idea of bestowing one of the highest honors an academic can receive.

At the June 2005 annual board meeting, the trustees surprised Nordenberg with the gift to Pitt of a $2.5 million endowed chair—the Chancellor Mark A. Nordenberg University Chair, funded by personal contributions from board members, Pitt Alumni Association leaders, and a small number of close University friends—to honor his 10 years of extraordinary leadership. The unique endowed chair (see Front Page, p. 6) can be used to support world-class faculty members in any discipline and will permanently pay tribute to Nordenberg’s own outstanding work.

For his own part, Nordenberg—who is a Distinguished Service Professor of Law—says he doesn’t have time to look back and is more interested in seeing what else can be accomplished at Pitt. “Unfortunately, I operate within a framework bounded by my own personal limitations. However, I intend to continue being the best chancellor that I can be. I remain energized by the day-to-day challenges and also by the opportunities that are within reach.”

He keeps his long days at the office in perspective, knowing that the University is more than two centuries old. “In some ways, then, this may be a short chapter in Pitt’s life,” he says about the most recent decade of progress. “But a lot of people are committed to making this chapter count, and I feel privileged to be working with them to advance such a noble cause.”


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