Fall 2019
In Memoriam

Passings: Fall 2019


J. Christine Altenburger A&S ’62G, April 2019, age 91, of Oakmont, Pa. She served in the Women’s Army Corps, working in military intelligence in West Germany and the Pentagon. Later, she was the first female professor in the University of Pittsburgh’s Graduate School of Public and International Affairs. A noted expert in public administration, she contributed to the creation of the Reference Manual on Local Government for the 1968 Pennsylvania Constitutional Convention.

Cecil Jerome Birt A&S ’70, LAW ’79, April 2019, age 71, of Pittsburgh. He participated in the historic takeover of Pitt’s computer center in 1969 in the effort to improve academic and student life for the Black community on campus. He received a National Defense Service Medal for his time in the U.S. Navy. He worked as a staff attorney for the Port Authority of Allegheny County, as assistant general counsel for Westinghouse Electric Corp., and in private practice.

Robert Duca Sr. A&S ’54, January 2019, age 85, of Warrenton, Va. He served as professor of romance languages at University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown. He continued teaching, translating, and publishing after retirement and was honored by the Spanish and Italian governments for his work. He was national vice president of the Italian Sons and Daughters of America and a U.S. Army veteran. The Dr. Robert A. Duca Sr. Endowed Scholarship in Humanities and Romance Languages has been established to honor his legacy.

David R. Gordon EDUC ’64, ’68G, ’76G, May 2019, age 78, of Moon Township, Pa. He was a lifelong educator who taught at Swissvale Junior-Senior High School and served in a variety of administrative positions at Center Area High School and Hopewell High School, including assistant principal, principal, assistant superintendent, and acting superintendent. He taught at Point Park University and Robert Morris University after his retirement from public education.

Trisha Kathryn Graybill BUS ’01, April 2019, age 40, of Bethlehem, Pa. She was a financial analyst at States Street Corporation as well as a professional actor and child model. While signed to Ford Models in New York, she appeared in print ads and on a book cover. She frequently appeared on QVC and in independent films, commercials, and plays. She starred in Coffee with God, a film by Lanciano Productions that premiered July 2019.

Carolyn Cook Handa GSPH ’70, April 2019, age 77, of Port Charlotte, Fla. She received a nursing degree from the University of Maryland School of Nursing before earning a Master of Public Health degree in health services administration at Pitt. She was awarded the Helen Heyrman Award for outstanding leadership from the Illinois HomeCare and Hospice Council. She was an active member of Frostburg United Methodist Church in Frostburg, Md.

Robert “Bob” Hassan A&S ’64, MED ’68, March 2019, age 76, of Seattle. He served in a variety of positions in the U.S. Navy and U.S. Air Force, including as flight surgeon and hospital commander. As a reservist, he was a civil-service doctor at military examination centers in North Dakota and Kentucky. In New York state, he founded and served as executive director of the Allegany County Tax Watch Committee and was elected to the Allegany County Board of Legislators.

Gerald P. Irwin Sr. BUS ’61, April 2019, age 81, of Pittsburgh. He worked as a real estate broker and appraiser for 30 years. An athlete, he coached local youth in swimming, diving, and tennis for six decades. In November 2018, he was inducted into Pittsburgh’s City League High School All-Sports Hall of Fame by Mayor Bill Peduto and the Pittsburgh Board of Education.

Utu Abe Malae ENGR ’76G, GSPIA ’76, October 2018, of Pago Pago, American Samoa. He worked for the government of American Samoa for more than 25 years. He held several positions at the American Samoa Power Authority, where he had been executive director. He served as the chairman of the board of directors for the Territorial Bank of American Samoa, chairman of the American Samoa Governor’s Educational Reform Task Force, and a former senator in the territory’s legislature.

John F. Orend Jr. BUS ’49, June 2019, age 99, of Wellington, Fla. Formerly of McKeesport, he was a U.S. Army captain in World War II, during which he served in Europe. He was awarded the Bronze Star Medal. He was an employee of Gulf Oil Corporation for 45 years.

Eric Van Tine Ottervik A&S ’61G, ’66G, December 2018, age 80, of Bethlehem, Pa. He began his career in education administration at Lehigh University, becoming its youngest vice president. He later was named vice president at Adelphi University on Long Island. An avid collector, he amassed (and later donated) large collections of Czech and Japanese art.

Gregory B. Proffitt A&S ’97, May 2018, age 45, of Marriottsville, Md. He previously worked as an attorney at law firms Massa Law Group PC, and Robb Leonard Mulvihill LLP in Pittsburgh. He was employed as vice president and general counsel of Spartan Medical Inc. A proud former U.S. Marine, he was a history buff as well as an avid fan of the Steelers, Penguins, Pirates, and Panthers.

Emanuel A. “Emil” Skrabek A&S ’62G, March 2019, age 85, of Baltimore, Md. A spacecraft engineer and holder of 10 patents, he co-invented a thermoelectric material that plays a key role in nuclear power systems of unmanned spacecraft in space. He worked for various companies including Martin Marietta Corp., Dynatherm Corp., and Orbital. He enjoyed camping, fishing, and hiking with his daughters.

Esther C. Waldron A&S ’51, SCI ’61G, January 2019, age 89, of Cabot, Pa. A native of Swissvale, Pa., she earned a Master of Library Science degree from Pitt. She worked as a librarian at Carnegie Library and the University of Pittsburgh Medical Library. She enjoyed reading and sewing.

Karen Fung Yee A&S ’70, March 2019, age 81, of Bethel Park, Pa. She held roles at Veterans Affairs, Pittsburgh Public Schools, Carnegie Mellon University, and the University of Pittsburgh throughout her career. She was a leader in Pittsburgh’s Asian American community, having served on the University of Pittsburgh Nationality Rooms council and the Chinese Nationality Room committee; as president of the Organization of Chinese Americans; and as president of the Ikebana International Pittsburgh Chapter.