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Family Business

A humble start for a family business leads to bigger things for today’s pharmacy students

In 1898, Hyman Shear bought a blind horse and a wagon. Trudging over cobblestones, he led the sightless beast along the sooty streets of Pittsburgh, towing various goods for delivery to the rhythm of his horse’s clopping hooves. It was the humble beginning of the H. Shear Trucking Company.

Shear’s son, Sam, wanted nothing more than to work for his father’s business, but the elder Shear had dreams of a better, easier life for his son—one that didn’t involve the physically draining days of deliveries by horse-drawn wagon. At his father’s urging, Sam Shear enrolled in Pitt’s School of Pharmacy.

After graduating in 1930, Sam moved with his wife, Jeanette, to Pittsburgh’s Squirrel Hill neighborhood and bought a pharmacy. He had a genuine passion for his profession, but family obligations proved stronger. After nine years of running Jackson’s Pharmacy, he joined his father’s trucking business. With Sam’s leadership, the company increased its fleet of vehicles and added warehouse and distribution facilities. When Sam’s own son, Herb, joined the company in the early 1970s, it continued to grow.

Hyman’s mule-cart delivery service has since been transformed into GENCO, a multimillion-dollar international reverse logistics and supply chain management company. Herb Shear is its chairman and CEO. The business has advanced so much that, in April 2005, Herb won the Harry E. Salzburg Medallion from the Syracuse University Whitman School of Management for his innovations in the supply chain industry.

Business savvy, though, isn’t the only passion shared by the family. Generations of the Shears also exude a compassion for others and the desire to help their community. Herb says his father always made a point of donating time and money to the people of the city that had welcomed Hyman years before. “It wasn’t something my father boasted about,” says Herb. “He just acted and led his family by example.”

Sam passed away in 1994, but his example still inspires the family. In November 2005, the Association of Fundraising Professionals, Western Pennsylvania Chapter, honored Herb and his wife, Barbara (EDUC ’73G), for their generous contributions to the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank and Mazon, a national nonprofit group that distributes donations from the Jewish community to hunger-relief agencies.

Last year marked the 75th anniversary of Sam Shear’s graduation from Pitt. Encouraged by family friend and Pitt trustee William Lieberman, Herb’s sons, Gerry and John Shear, used the occasion to create an endowed scholarship—the Samuel T. and Herbert S. Shear Family Scholarship Fund—to honor their grandfather and father in a way that reflects the family’s generous spirit. The pair saw the scholarship as a fitting tribute to their grandfather, a man who was not only a community pharmacist but also an innovative businessman and an admirable human being.

“One basic thing my grandfather taught was the importance of giving back to the community,” Gerry says. “He always did it because it was the right thing to do.” He also says his grandfather remains the biggest influence in his life, next to his father, who passed the philanthropic tradition along. John agrees. “All of the male influences in my life were quiet givers,” he says. “I’m lucky to have had that example set for me.”

Ultimately, the fund will annually give one or two School of Pharmacy students a $10,000 scholarship.Recipients will be chosen based on financial need and the potential to make an impact in the pharmacy field. “By helping an individual, we hope that person will, in turn, reach others by helping in the community where he or she lives,” says Gerry.

Like Hyman’s trucking company, the scholarship is a family affair. When Herb and Barbara heard of their sons’ efforts, they also donated to the fund. A number of GENCO’s board members contributed as well. “My father would be really proud of his grandsons for making this donation. This would be very meaningful to him,” Herb says.

And although his family didn’t create the endowment to garner attention, Herb hopes that the gift will lead by example. “If it encourages someone else to do the right thing and donate to a good cause, then it’s great to be a role model,” he says.

With the generous scholarship fund and their many other philanthropic ventures, the Shear family adds to a legacy that continues to endure and thrive—an amazing accomplishment for a venture that started with a blind horse, a wagon, and the fortitude to succeed.
—Meghan Holohan

Al Novak

Notes from Novak

The University of Pittsburgh has a lot to celebrate this summer. Our Discover a World of Possibilities campaign has been rapidly racing toward its lofty $1 billion goal. With your help, we’ve raised more than $962 million to support Pitt—making 2006 the most successful fundraising year in the history of the University of Pittsburgh.

Thanks to this overwhelming support from alumni and friends, we’ve now reached another extraordinary milestone in the University’s monumental fundraising campaign. In June, Pitt’s Board of Trustees passed a resolution at its annual meeting to extend the campaign, doubling its goal to $2 billion.

Discover a World of Possibilities is already the largest and most successful fundraising campaign in the history of southwestern Pennsylvania and, with this extension, it has become the largest publicly announced campaign in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Pitt joins eight other American universities currently pursuing campaigns of $2 billion or more: Columbia University, the University of Virginia, the University of Michigan, New York University, the University of Chicago, the University of North Carolina, Johns Hopkins University, and the University of Washington.

As we reflect on what we have accomplished so far, we can see the real-life impact of campaign gifts from more than 113,000 donors. Our fundraising efforts have created 326 new endowed scholarships and 29 new endowed fellowships. Because of the generosity of the Pitt community, we’ve helped thousands of students receive an outstanding education and these individuals, in turn, are contributing their talents and skills to make the world a better place for all of us.

In addition to providing financial assistance to high-achieving students, campaign support has allowed Pitt to hire some of the world’s best educators and researchers through the creation of endowed faculty positions. To date, 79 new endowed faculty positions have been established during the campaign.

Together, we are building a vibrant, sustainable future for the University of Pittsburgh. The achievement of our new $2 billion campaign goal will enable us to invest in resources and people so that Pitt can continue to offer outstanding education and training to tomorrow’s leaders and workers, to create new knowledge through research, and to strengthen the region’s and the nation’s economy through creative industry and community partnerships.

On behalf of the University, I want to thank you for helping us envision whole new levels of aspiration—and for giving us the confidence to know that we can achieve them. Your support nourishes the continuation of Pitt’s historic role as a progressive beacon of learning and discovery across the centuries.

For more information about the Discover a World of Possibilities campaign, go online:

Campaign Watch

Institutional Advancement is committed to reaching the University’s ambitious new $2 billion goal. Pitt’s alumni and friends have contributed generously, making our current campaign status $962 million!

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