E. Maxine Bruhns, former Nationality Rooms director, dies at 96


Image via University of Pittsburgh

E. Maxine Bruhns, the former director of Pitt's Nationality Rooms and Intercultural Exchange Programs, passed away Friday at 96.

By Mary Rose O'Donnell, Acting Editor-in-Chief

E. Maxine Bruhns, the former director of Pitt’s Nationality Rooms and Intercultural Exchange Programs, passed away Friday at 96. Bruhns served as director for over 50 years and retired in January.

Bruhns, originally E. Maxine Moose, was born in Grafton, West Virginia in 1924. She attended West Virginia Wesleyan College for one year, then left after the Pearl Harbor attacks in order to work in an aircraft factory. She finished her college career in 1946, graduating with a philosophy and psychology degree from the Ohio State University. 

The same year she married Fred Bruhns, who died in 2008, and subsequently spent 15 years travelling the world with him. While abroad, she taught English, learned native languages, completed her master’s degree and acted in local theaters. The couple arrived in Pittsburgh in 1965 so Fred Bruhns could complete his Ph.D and teach at Pitt’s Graduate School of Public and International Affairs. This is when Maxine Bruhns became the second-ever director of the Nationality Rooms.

During her 54-year tenure, 12 new rooms were built, including the Israel heritage, Armenian, African heritage, Ukranian, Austrian and Japanese rooms. By the time of Bruhns’ retirement, there were 31 total rooms. She wrote and narrated each of the English language tapes that can be played in each of the rooms which detail its design and history. Bruhns also traveled to almost all of the countries that now have rooms, aside from Wales, Switzerland, Korea and the Philippines.

Chancellor Patrick Gallagher  said he is grateful for Bruhns’ leadership and innovation throughout her several decades at the University.

“Maxine spent more than 50 years overseeing our Nationality Rooms. She was a generous donor, beloved academic leader and respected global ambassador for the University of Pittsburgh,” Gallagher said. “Without question: We are deeply grateful for her many contributions to Pitt and look forward to celebrating her legacy for years to come.” 

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