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Pitt Alumni Association

From the Executive Director

The Pitt Alumni Association is proud to be the voice of more than 260,000 alumni worldwide. Beginning with this issue of Pitt Magazine, you will notice an expanded alumni section, which now includes news from the Pitt Alumni Association.

The results of a recent alumni survey indicate that you want a number of benefits from your association, especially:

  • Increased career networking opportunities;
  • More information on Pitt’s growing excellence in academics; and
  • Easier access to Pitt resources.

The association currently sponsors a range of programs aimed at addressing these areas. The challenge, therefore, is to find new and creative ways to provide our alumni with this information. This is one of the reasons we are so pleased with the additional coverage in Pitt Magazine.

During the months ahead, your association will focus its efforts on these important priorities, communicating major association initiatives to you through print and electronic vehicles. Your feedback is invaluable in the development of the association’s new three-year strategic plan.

In short, you talked and we listened. As a result of this exchange, the Pitt Alumni Association can truly advance its mission of “supporting the University of Pittsburgh and enriching the lives of students and alumni worldwide.”

Thank you for all you have done and will continue to do to advance our alma mater—the University of Pittsburgh. Hail to Pitt!

Leland D. Patouillet
Associate Vice Chancellor, Alumni Relations,
and Executive Director, Pitt Alumni Association

A Road in Cortona

Sandra Kresovich (EDUC ’80G), right, with author Frances Mayes and her husband, Ed, near Bramasole, the Italian country house described in Mayes’ bestseller Under the Tuscan Sun. The snapshot was taken by Ruth Jordon (EDUC ’68G, ’67). (Photo courtesy Sandra Kresovich and Ruth Jordon.)

On a narrow road in the sleepy, sun-drenched Italian village of Cortona, Sandra Kresovich and Ruth Jordon got out of the hired car and walked in the direction the driver had pointed, toward the villa of a well-known writer. Another car was headed their way, traveling up the road toward the villa.

Mindful of the fact that they might come across as paparazzi, the women approached the car as politely as possible, “trying to be sort of graceful and have some skills that we learned going to the University of Pittsburgh,” Kresovich laughs. Inside were the people they were hoping to meet: author Frances Mayes—best known for her memoir Under The Tuscan Sun—and her husband, Ed.

“I said, ‘Do you mind if we take your picture?’” recalls Jordon. “They couldn’t have been more gracious.”

As the four chatted, they discovered they had something in common: Ed had published some poetry through the University of Pittsburgh Press.

The trip to Cortona, which Kresovich (EDUC ’80G) and Jordon (EDUC ’68G, ’67) took a few years ago, was planned through Pitt’s Travel and Learn Program. Each year, the Pitt Alumni Association organizes trips to far-flung locales such as the Swiss Alps, Ukraine, Croatia’s Dalmatian coast, or French Polynesia, combining a traditional sightseeing vacation with educational opportunities and the chance to experience local culture through encounters with people who live there.

While in Italy, Kresovich and Jordon attended a town meeting where residents of Cortona—including a baker, a jeweler, and the owner of a clothing store—answered the Pitt group’s questions and talked about how life in the village had changed over the decades. A year later, Kresovich returned and was pleased when the woman who owned the clothing store remembered her.

“I like the fact that everyone is so knowledgeable,” she says. “You’re treated so wonderfully; they take you to different places, and everything’s all planned for you. Not that I don’t like going on my own, because I’ve done that as well, but the people on this trip are graduates of the University of Pittsburgh, and they’re from everywhere.”

Mementoes from the trip followed them home. When Mayes delivered a guest lecture at Seton Hill University, Kresovich brought the picture Jordon had snapped in Cortona, and the author signed it.

“That was really a bonus of the trip,” says Jordon.

The two Pitt women, who met when they taught together in the East Allegheny School District, mingled with fellow alumni from Boston, California, and Australia. When they attended an evening event at Pitt in July to preview trips for 2008, they reunited with Dennis Ranalli, who teaches at the School of Dental Medicine and went on the Cortona trip with his wife, Linda. Briefly they entertained the idea of another trip to Italy, but the two decided to try someplace new. In the fall, they traveled to Scotland and England.

Jordon recalls that when she was working and dreaming of what she’d do in her retirement, travel was at the top of her agenda. She has taken many vacations since, but the Pitt trip stands out in her mind as among the most satisfying.

“One of the insights I gained from the trip was the loyalty the people had to the University,” she says, adding that a couple in their 70s from South Carolina talked about their college memories, while a middle-aged man from New England told the group how often he returned to campus for Pitt games.

“It was a nice reminder of the loyalty, and the good memories, good feelings, that people had about their university experience,” she says.
Both Jordon and Kresovich retired from teaching in 1999, which was two years after the death of Kresovich’s husband. For nearly 35 years, she had been in a classroom every September, so she marked this new chapter in her life with a trip to Cape May with Jordon. The pair have been to Italy, England, Ireland, Scotland, Puerto Rico, and points of interest within the United States.Kresovich is eager to see Bavaria and Budapest. “I didn’t have my first airplane trip until 1980, but I’m making up for it,” she says, then laughs.

To learn about the 2008 Travel and Learn Program’s destinations, call 1-800-ALU-PITT or visit


A conversation with Fran Gargotta (CGS ’79), Executive Vice
President and Chief Executive Resources Officer, MARC USA, and a life member of the Pitt Alumni Association

When she isn’t working with art directors, designers, and writers at MARC USA, which is Pittsburgh’s largest advertising agency, she dedicates time to volunteer groups and alumni activities in the region. A member of the University’s leadership council, she has been recognized by Governor Edward G. Rendell as one of Pennsylvania’s Best 50 Women in Business.

  • My favorite green space on campus is ... right between the Cathedral and Heinz Chapel. It’s so beautiful. I watch kids play football, sit on blankets, have impromptu picnics.
  • The most entrancing statue in Oakland is ... the Pitt Panther. I’m just glad that that little guy’s there.
  • Something that will never change is ... the sense of wonder when you first drive into Oakland and see the Cathedral of Learning. It’s this magnificent old Gothic building, right there in the city, and it just very proudly says, “Here I am.”
  • Today’s students just don’t ... accept all the answers. They want to question and know why. They’re very close to the kids of the ’60s, with a mind of their own. You have to prove it to them, which I think is a great thing, because it shows that they’re learning and they’re critical thinkers.
  • My favorite stretch of sidewalk is … going up Cardiac Hill. You get exercise, and there’s a whole new world up there.
  • The tchotchke I still have after all these years ... is my Pitt key ring. People tease me because it’s what I use. They ask me if I’ll ever get rid of it, and I say, “No, why would I?”
  • Pictures of me from my college days ... are laughable when you look at the clothes and the hairstyles. It’s like, “Did I really wear them?” Especially the bell bottoms.
    My favorite letter of the alphabet is … A. It stands for achievement and awards. It stands for your having worked hard and for what you got in return.
  • If Abraham Lincoln traveled through time and came to Pitt, I’d take him ... to the Commons Room, and let him see all the different students from all kinds of nationalities, disciplines, and cultures as they pass through. To think he had something to do with that.
  • Pitt athletics is not just men’s football and basketball. It’s also … women’s sports! There’s a lot of things going on with women’s sports. Basketball, gymnastics, volleyball, track, swimming. When you start to dig deeper, there’s so much there. We have it all.
  • If I had pursued a fantasy career at Pitt … it would have been on the fencing team and going to the Olympics.
  • My favorite sound inside the Cathedral of Learning … is the silence. You see people with their books open and studying and people talking quietly in the corners. There was always a liveliness, but there was a serenity at the same time.
  • A Pitt alumnus … needs to stay connected to the University. It’s like coming back home to the family, and it’s an opportunity to give back to the younger students, who are just beginning to find their way in life and in careers.

Pitt Career Network

Joe Pasqualichio (ENGR ’07)
Booz Allen Hamilton
McLean, Va.

While a student at the Pittsburgh campus, Joe Pasqualichio used the Pitt Career Network to help him explore career opportunities. Alumni, he says, gave him real-world information about occupations that he couldn’t get by reading job descriptions and company Web sites. Ultimately, it was a Pitt alumnus who provided the referral that led the student to an interview, a job offer, and a career path.

“The Pitt Career Network demystifies networking and makes it a concrete approach rather than an abstract thought,” says Pasqualichio. “The most useful feature for me was the ability to search for alumni who were working in the same industry that I was trying to penetrate. I was able to have meaningful conversations with alumni who cared about my success. Imagine walking into a company of 20,000 people and asking ‘Who would be willing to act as a mentor or help me with my career?’ Pitt Career Network can turn that company into a handful of dedicated alumni who are willing to help you out.”

The World We Want

Niki Kapsambelis

Akshar Abbott (center) with his parents Madhu (left) and Ashok Abbott at the Pitt Alumni Association’s annual board meeting.

Sitting on the balcony of his uncle’s apartment in New Delhi, Akshar Abbott felt his grandmother’s delicate hands as they traced his features, hoping her fingertips would translate for her mind what her eyes no longer could.

Turning to Abbott’s mother, she said, “Does he look more like you or his father?”

Abbott’s mother described the boy’s face, and they walked back into the apartment, leaving the 13-year-old Akshar to brood over his grandmother’s loss. An infection had claimed one eye, a cataract clouded the other. Had she been living in a country of privilege instead of poverty, things might have been different. He himself had immigrated to the United States as a very young child with his parents, growing up in Morgantown, W. Va. For Abbott, the culture shock was palpable and, in its own way, life-changing.

“What struck me was how structural an issue this was,” says Abbott (A&S ’06), now a student in Pitt’s School of Medicine, with a projected graduation date of 2010. “If my grandmother had grown up on a different street in a different country, she’d be able to see my face.”
That sense of inequity and the urgency to set things right are part of what motivated Abbott to pursue a medical career focusing on global health. He’s getting some help along that path as a 2007 recipient of a Pitt Alumni Association Graduate Scholarship. The one-time $5,000 award is one of more than 60 association scholarships given each year—multiplying the good work of students like Abbott.

As a Pitt undergraduate, he was a rare quadruple major in biology, religious studies, economics, and political science through the University Honors College, and he traveled to both India and Mongolia during his undergraduate years.

In India, during a month-long trip he took over a winter break, Abbott went to the Srikiran Institute of Opthalmology, a charity eye hospital in Kakinada, where he delivered eyeglasses, books, and medical supplies from Pittsburgh, as well as more than $40,000 he collected through fundraisers and grants.

“Immediately, I was drawn in as I watched the doctors work, diagnosing, counseling, treating,” he wrote as he recalled the experience in his scholarship application. “It was what I had sought.”
He observed a man who emerged from cataract surgery, able to see for the first time in 20 years, and he wandered in a flower garden near the hospital “drinking deeply of the sight of every petal, leaf, and stem.”

Now, sitting in an auditorium at Scaife Hall, Abbott thinks of the people he met — and the ways in which their lives were transformed by medical procedures that Americans take for granted. He sees how theory and practice can fuse. “Those lessons really stick with you when you learn them in person,” Abbott says. “People are not statistical abstractions.”

Alec Stewart, dean of the University Honors College, supported Abbott’s application for an alumni association scholarship. During the application process, Stewart wrote: “His interest in good works is demonstrably authentic. He retains that special capacity of intellect and character that suggests he will be a potential contributor to both public policy and clinical aspects of the medical profession.”

For his part, Abbott intends to continue to travel abroad as part of his training. “It’s something new to learn how to roll with the punches of the infrastructure there,” he says. “How do you do a procedure when the power goes out? Or when you don’t have the resources of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, when you’re in a more frontier setting?”

Management of infectious disease intrigues him, too, because by managing infections, whole populations can be helped.

“Really,” he says, “the difference between the world we have and the world we want is what we’re willing to do about it.”

If you are interested in contributing to an alumni association scholarship, visit or call 1-800-ALU-PITT.

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