Students, alumni awarded at Honors Convocation

Students, alumni awarded at Honors Convocation

Thomas Bigley sold newspapers outside Pitt Stadium when he was a kid, doing anything to be near the stadium because it was one of his favorite locations. The gatekeeper would always let him into the back to watch the football game afterward.

Bigley was just one of many students, faculty and alumni celebrated at Friday’s Honors Convocation, and he set the tone for the event early on with his high praise of the University and its outgoing chancellor, Mark Nordenberg.

“When Mark [Nordenberg] was named chancellor, I said to my wife, ‘We got ourselves a quarterback,’” Bigley, who is still an avid Pitt sports fan, said.

Bigley received a baseball scholarship from Pitt in 1952, earned a degree from the Katz Graduate School of Business and on Friday, received the Distinguished Alumni Fellowship. The fellowship, which recognizes Pitt graduates for outstanding professional achievement and community service, is one of the University’s highest honors. 

The Honors Convocation, held in the Carnegie Museum Music Hall, occurred on Pitt’s 227th anniversary. The ceremony looked back on the University’s history and distinguished alumni and also looked ahead to its future with the students honored at the event.

Jane Allred, the Pitt Alumni Association president, awarded two other Distinguished Alumni fellowships to Robert Hernandez and the honorary Mary Jo Ransford White. Hernandez serves on the UPMC Board of Directors. Ransford White spent 16 years on the Pennsylvania State Senate.

The University Scholars this year represented the top 2 percent of their respective schools in GPA, totaling 345 members.

The winners of the distinguished Omicron Delta Kappa Seniors of the Year were Zachary Patton and Louie Al-Hashimi. Patton is president of Pitt’s Interfraternity Council, and Al-Hashimi is involved with the Muslim Student Association and the OCC Honorary Society and was a resident assistant. 

The award is given to a graduating senior for attaining a high standard of leadership in college activities.

Vice Provost and Dean of Students Kathy Humphrey announced the two winners, adding that although one senior traditionally wins the award, both were deserving.

“I just love when we have two winners,” Humphrey said.   

The Emma W. Locke award, presented to a graduating Pitt senior for recognition of high scholarship and character, was awarded by Humphrey to Lauren Matevish, who works in an orthopedic research lab and is part of Pitt’s swim team.

The first event of the night, however, honored a former professor rather than students. Nordenberg awarded Alvin Roth, a former Pitt economics professor, with an honorary degree.

Roth won the 2012 Nobel Prize in economic sciences for solving the problem of how to best match economic players in a market. He became Pitt’s first Andrew W. Mellon professor of economics from 1982 to 1998, during which time he began and completed most of his Nobel Prize-winning research.

“When I was here, we made Pitt a center of experimental economics,” Roth said. 

He used his research to redesign the National Resident Matching Program, through which more than 25,000 doctors find their first residency at United States hospitals every year.

Roth also gave advice to Pitt students and graduates, suggesting that they should experiment.  

“Don’t settle for what you know to make your life better,” he said.