Board of Trustees meets to select new members

By John Manganaro

One suit, two suits, red suit, blue suit.

Members of Pitt’s Board of Trustees arrived… One suit, two suits, red suit, blue suit.

Members of Pitt’s Board of Trustees arrived from over the country Friday morning to gather in the William Pitt Union Assembly room for their annual meeting.

Members voted on appointments, reappointments and, perhaps most importantly, heard Chancellor Mark Nordenberg’s selection of Patricia Beeson as the next provost and senior vice chancellor.

But while Beeson’s nomination took the day, several other appointments were made during the meeting, including the nomination of Ralph Lauren executive Tracey Travis as a new trustee. The board also named longtime trustee H. Lee Nobel to an emeritus trustee position.

“These appointments will surely strengthen our already capable Board of Trustees,” Nordenberg said, echoing similar statements made during a nominating committee meeting last week.

Nordenberg also recommended outgoing provost and senior vice chancellor James V. Maher, who will be replaced by Beeson on August 15, for a position as an emeritus provost.

“Few members of the University community have made the kinds of continuous contributions that James has over the years,” Nordenberg said shortly before Maher received a standing ovation. “We are all in his debt, and today we honor his outstanding contributions to the forward progress of our wonderful University.”

The nearly two hour meeting also featured a state of the University address, given by Nordenberg, that stressed the importance of post-secondary education in the American Dream—especially during tough economic times.

“Fully two-thirds of the best universities in the world are located in the United States,” Nordenberg said, quoting Henry Rosovsky, an American economist and Harvard University administrator. “I ask you, does any other economic sector stand up to that?”

Pitt is a sterling example of the way universities can drive the American economy, Nordenberg said. Currently, Pitt and UPMC together employ nearly 50,000 people in the Pittsburgh area and around the state.

The only other employers that can boast such impressive figures are the city and state governments, Nordenberg said.

His chancellor’s comments came as Pitt expects nearly $730 million in federal and state research grants for the 2010-11 academic year, up from $654 million last year as a result of President Obama’s stimulus package.

“We are expecting to employ upwards of 26,000 people by next year to help with our world renown research,” Nordenberg said. “That’s just one of the reasons why, today, Pitt is climbing to unprecedented heights in our 223 year history.”

Pitt recent success isn’t just reflected by the number of jobs and student positions it provides, but in the quality of its employees and undergraduates. The average SAT score of incoming Pitt freshmen has climbed to 1274, up over 125 points from 1995, and 51 percent of incoming students graduated in the top 10 percent of their class.

“We are certainly becoming one of the most productive and effective University systems in the county and the world,” Nordenberg said.