Summer 2020
From the Vault

Good Reads, Good Memories

Get to know Pitt’s alumni magazine with an editor-curated collection of articles.

We could all use a little extra distraction these days, and what better diversion is there for a self-isolating Panther than an interesting Pitt-related read? From the comfort of our respective homes, Pitt Magazine’s editors took a dip into our archives to gather a selection of articles to help transport, amuse and inform you.

And for the class of 2020 (welcome, new alumni!), here’s a chance to get acquainted with the publication that inspires you to hail, no matter where you are.


From Susan Wiedel, Associate Editor:

“An Obsession with Culture”

March 2001, by Rebecca Skloot

“During my undergraduate years at Pitt, I read a book written by an alumna about a woman who died in Baltimore in 1951 but whose cells lived on. 'The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks' by Rebecca Skloot tells the story of family, injustice, discovery and courage. But before it was an acclaimed book, it was years-worth of research, interviews, re-reading and re-writing. 'An Obsession with Culture,' published in Pitt Magazine in 2001, is just one small part of that work. It’s an amazing story, and a reminder to me of what a writing degree can do.” -SW


“A Tale of Two Comets”

October 1961, by Alton M. Schadt

“Set up as a conversation between the writer and a charmingly curmudgeonly Pitt astronomer, this story is a really fun read set at the Allegheny Observatory. With talk of comets, spaceships and mapping the Milky Way, it made me want to do some star-gazing of my own. Too bad Pittsburgh is usually so cloudy.” -SW


“Learning to See in the Dark”

February 1990, by Sally Ann Flecker

“My family tree runs through these hills like seams of coal, dug by the immigrant hands of my great-grandfather. Unlike my mother and grandparents, however, I didn’t grow up here—though I’ve heard a lot from them about how this city has changed. Former Pitt Mag editor Sally Ann Flecker captured some of that change in this story about historians working to preserve the generation-binding history of Pittsburgh’s steel mills. And something there resonated with me: Learning to see what our loved ones saw can be a means of connecting with them, especially once they’re gone.” -SW


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From Ervin Dyer, Senior Editor:

“Becoming a Nurse”

Summer 1971

“Because of the coronavirus pandemic, medical first-responders are again in the spotlight for the care and sacrifice that are such huge parts of their jobs. As this photo essay from 49 years ago reminds us, that's always been the case. As a young boy, I had a respiratory illness, what the doctors called “walking pneumonia.” I was hospitalized for two weeks and when my parents couldn’t get there, nurses cared me back to good health.” -ED


“15 Years of the Rolling Stones”

February 1979, by Mary Laverne Dimmick

“I was never a huge fan of rock music. I favored rhythm and blues. But the Rolling Stones were bluesy. And I can’t count the number of times in college I needed to hear 'You Start Me Up' before I could begin writing my research papers. This story, from a special 'supplement' section of the magazine highlighting books from the University of Pittsburgh Press, is a throw-back look at the band’s impact, as seen through the eyes of a researcher and information librarian at Hillman Library.” -ED


“The Subject is Jazz”

Spring 1971, by Anne Newcombe

“This article highlights Assistant Professor Nathan Davis, one of Pitt’s earliest appreciators of jazz and among the first to teach its 'scholarly consideration' at the University. Yes, jazz resonates beyond smoky bars on a Saturday night. It was in our living room on Friday evenings and on Sunday road trips to visit my grandmother. It was my father’s music. He adored Nat King Cole. He’d put on a record, grab my mother’s hand and they’d sway around the furniture—and their six children—giving us a glimpse of the rhythm of love.” -ED


From Laura Clark Rohrer, Editor in Chief:

“Lives of a Poet”

Summer 2017, by Ervin Dyer, illustrated by Em DeMarco

“Okay, maybe it’s a bit of a cop-out to select stories from the last couple of years but I can’t help myself. As many times as I’ve read them all, there are still recently published articles that I find myself returning to for a bit of pleasure reading. This is absolutely one of them. One of the reasons I love working in magazines is because the form allows for multimedia storytelling, with images and layout working in harmony with text. This comic-article, however, takes this idea and runs with it, to beautiful effect.” -LCR


“Change Agents”

Winter 2018, by Ervin Dyer

“Some stories start big and end up small. Others, like this one, begin with a tiny spark and, over the course of reporting and writing, explode into a roaring fire. Ervin started reporting on this story—about alumni in South Korea whose experiences at Pitt helped them transform their lives and country—with just a few sources to interview. In the end, he had amassed an amazing collection of testimony. The stories of perseverance, ambition, and community-centeredness act as a special kind of tonic in light of recent events.” -LCR


“Detecting Evolution’s Mysteries”

Spring 2019, by Susan Wiedel

“I was on maternity leave when Susan wrote this story, so I had the pleasure of first approaching it as a reader, not an editor. It’s an example of a kind of story I especially enjoy—a close-up look at a specialist whose intricate and fascinating work leads to big picture discoveries. Pitt is chock full of people pursuing scholarship that can be described like that, though not everyone gets to research the genetics of dolphins, manatees and the hilariously cute blind mole-rat.” - LCR