Spring 2021 Home

Cheers to Volunteers

Updates from the Pitt Alumni Association.

portrait of dark-haired woman wearing glasses and dark blazerThe Pitt Alumni Association relies on a global network of volunteers to offer our graduates the best opportunities and experiences possible. Since April is National Volunteer Month, I want to acknowledge our volunteers’ tireless efforts to make the work of the PAA engaging and impactful.

Our volunteers serve on boards and councils, mentor students, create opportunities for alumni through Pitt Commons and foster Pitt spirit in their own regions. Over the past year they have spearheaded countless virtual events to keep us connected—including the two-day Women’s Leadership Conference hosted by the Muslim Alumni Network; virtual trivia nights presented by the Young Alumni Advisory Team; and webinars and cocktail hours organized by the Chesapeake and Potomac Pitt Club. I am truly grateful for all our volunteers do to ensure our community stays engaged.

If you have ever considered getting involved, but aren’t quite sure how, feel free to find us on alumni.pitt.edu. We’re currently recruiting for our Young Alumni Advisory Team, and our regional clubs and affinity councils are always looking for new faces and fresh ideas.

The PAA has our own fresh ideas, including ways that we can bring Pitt to you. As part of that effort, we’ve created Pitt Perspectives, a series of virtual offerings hosted by Chancellor Patrick Gallagher that highlights Pitt’s role in conquering regional, national and global challenges, including the COVID-19 pandemic. Pitt Perspectives will not only keep you up to date on the University’s undertakings and achievements, but also give you a swell of Pitt Pride.


Hail to Pitt!

Nancy Merritt

Vice Chancellor, Alumni Relations


PAA Presents

Last year’s alumni survey made it clear: Many Pitt graduates want more professional development opportunities and new learning experiences. The Pitt Alumni Association is answering the call with PAA Presents, a new program series that brings educators from across the University together with alumni experts to present on timely topics.

“This multidisciplinary approach to exploring a specific subject with both academics and professionals makes for rich and fascinating presentations,” says Jason Kane (UPJ ’00), PAA Presents co-creator and director of constituent relations for the University Center of International Studies.

PAA Presents launched in November with a program focused on succeeding as an entrepreneur, followed by a February presentation on the pressing issue of global data security. Much more is in the works—find the schedule for upcoming PAA Presents events and view recordings of past sessions at alumni.pitt.edu/events.


Meet the Fellows

The Distinguished Alumni Fellow is the most prestigious award the University bestows on its alumni. The two 2020 recipients spoke about the power of engagement and finding purpose during Stay at Homecoming last fall. Watch their presentations at pi.tt/alumni/webinars. 

woman in red dress rests chin on right hand and looks at cameraSundaa Bridgett-Jones, GSPIA ’95 is the managing director for policy and coalitions at The Rockefeller Foundation, one of the nation’s oldest philanthropic institutions. Over the course of her career, she has ushered in social change as a representative of the U.S. government in South Africa, Kazakhstan and Iraq, and she has helped to improve livelihoods in the United States and more than 45 other countries in Africa and South Asia. “Once we are able to really get rid of the distractions in our lives and reflect deeply on what it is we really feel committed to doing, that helps one come to their own purpose.”

white man in gray suit and pink, blue, and navy striped tieDavid Frederick, A&S ’83 is a partner with Kellogg, Hansen, Todd, Figel and Frederick PLLC, a preeminent trial and appellate litigation firm in Washington, D.C. He represents clients across a broad spectrum, principally in appellate courts, and has argued more than 100 appeals in every U.S. Court of Appeals, including 55 in the Supreme Court. “If you focus on trying to solve problems, the cynicism starts to fade away.”


Words of Wisdom

Alumni Awards recognize graduates for their personal and professional achievements and outstanding service to the University. Learn more about them at pi.tt/alumniawards.


Black man in denim Pitt Alumni Association button-down shirt


“In the 70 years I have been on this planet, I have witnessed a lot of history. Much has changed, and the University of Pittsburgh has, fortunately, not been exempt from those currents of change.”

—Doug Browning, A&S ’72

Bill Baierl Distinguished Alumni Service Award



man wearing white coat, tie and chef's hat


“The combination of knowing how to operate a business and the ability to positively influence the Culinary Institute of America’s culinary development became an invaluable asset to my 21 years as president.”

—Ferdinand Metz, BUS ’75G

Outstanding Alumni Achievement Award



Black woman in blue blouse with gold jewelry standing in front of white marble background


“It brings me so much joy to know that the Pitt family is forever. Once a Panther, forever a Panther.”

­—Shannon Finley, A&S ’11, EDUC ’12G

Ivan and Mary Novick Award for Young Alumni Leadership



man with dark hair and cropped beard in suit with arms crossed



“Don’t let your time at Pitt go by without making great friends, because outside of the degree, that’s what you keep when you graduate.”

—John Obeid, A&S ’86, EDUC ’91

Roc Spirit Award



three people at wooden table in Gothic-like interior of building

Nothing Common About It

For the past seven years, Karen Kelly has offered support and comfort to parents who have lost pregnancies through her nonprofit, Through the Heart. Much of the operation’s efforts go toward preparing and shipping self-care packages—a big job that leaves little time for the crucial work of calling donors and cultivating relationships.

“I just don’t have the staff to do all of the work that needs to be done,” says Kelly (A&S ’03), the organization’s co-founder.

So, she turned to Projects on Pitt Commons to help her fill the void. The platform matches recent grads and students with Pitt alumni and friends who can offer short-term, virtual projects that help participants grow their networks and gain experience.

Ultimately, Kelly chose sophomore Joanna Linares to assist her with donor relations. The student’s combination of authenticity and maturity made her an instant fit.

“I’ve been impressed with the way Joanna has stepped up,” Kelly says. “She thinks about her role beyond what I assign to her. I see her as someone who could take on a leadership role someday.”

Linares, a Maryland native who is considering a career in psychology, joined Projects on Pitt Commons and Through the Heart as a way to grow her network beyond campus, even as COVID-19 restrictions largely prevented her from leaving it. She’s also handling a separate social media project for Simply Heard, a podcast that discusses professional and personal perseverance.

“Neither project relates directly to what I think my major will be, but that’s kind of the beauty in it,” Linares says. “It gets me out of my comfort zone and allows me to learn skills I wouldn’t have learned anywhere else.”

Just as rewarding, she gets to offer small pieces of comfort to those who truly need it.

Learn more at commons.pitt.edu.