Trustees approve Pitt plan, ADA elevators

By Zoë Hannah / For the Pitt News

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Pitt’s Board of Trustees put an end to phase one of Pitt’s strategic plan and said it’s time to begin implementation by making changes through campaigns and committees.

At a Board of Trustees meeting Friday at 9:30 a.m. at Pitt Greensburg’s Smith Hall, board members approved the next step of Pitt’s Strategic Plan, the first step of elevator renovations in Sutherland Hall, the construction of the John P. Murtha Center for Public Service at Pitt Johnstown and the election of John A. Swanson and Catherine D. DeAngelis as emeritus trustees.

Pitt will update the elevators to meet Americans with Disabilities Act standards. The renovation, which the Property and Facilities Committee approved at a public meeting on Sept. 28, will cost $2,635,000 and requires 15 construction jobs and six support jobs.

University spokesperson Ken Service could not be reached in time for publication to say when the construction would begin.

The board also affirmed its support of Pitt’s Strategic Plan — an outline of initiatives and improvements the University will focus on from 2016 to 2020, encouraging the Chancellor and the community to move forward with the plan through a series of initiatives, including building on interdisciplinary connections, strengthening alumni connections and reinforcing the values of diversity and inclusion.

“Now, some of these actions are University-wide initiatives,” Gallagher said. “Others are plans within particular schools and departments, and others are plans for shared institutional activities like facilities, information technology and computing and institutional plans for their development.”

This month, students questioned whether the University has allowed enough room for student input on the Strategic Plan during what Vice Provost David DeJong called its “engagement phase.”

The University responded with two open forums sessions where students could voice concerns and provide feedback on the plan. DeJong said at that point, the plan was “light on specifics.”

Gallagher stated on Friday that the plan has made “excellent progress” since its inception in 2014.

“As an update, I did want to say that we are now in the stage where we have to take that direction and put it to use,” Gallagher said. “And this is where the plan starts to get real.”

Gallagher was at the board meeting on Friday to welcome Swanson and DeAngelis to emeritus status — meaning that the retired board members will retain the title of board member status but lose voting privileges.

DeAngelis, who was at the meeting, served on Pitt’s Board of Trustees from February 2002 until June 2015. Swanson, who could not make it to Friday’s meeting, served on the board from June 2006 until June 2015.

In 2000, DeAngelis became the first female editor-in-chief of The Journal of the American Medical Association—a position she held for over ten years before stepping down in 2011.

She has received seven honorary doctorates throughout her career, including her medical doctorate degree from Pitt in 1969.

Several members of the board remembered on Friday how enthusiastically DeAngelis supported Eva Tansky Blum when she became the first woman chairperson of the board in June.

“Cathy has served with such distinction for years and she’s such a trailblazer,” Blum said, “When they handed me the gavel, Cathy said, ‘Excuse me Madame Chairman, I want to say something. I’ve been waiting all these years for a woman to be chairman of the board — you go girl.’”

DeAngelis received emeritus status alongside Swanson, whose namesake on campus today is the Swanson School of Engineering. Swanson donated $42 million to the engineering school in 2007. Pitt renamed the school the John A. Swanson School of Engineering that December.

Swanson served as a trustee for nine years, during which he was awarded an Honorary Doctor of Science degree. Throughout his career he received the John Fritz Medal and several awards from the American Society of Mechanical Engineers. Swanson earned his Ph.D. in engineering from Pitt in 1966.

“If he was here he’d be out with the students right now, talking about projects,” Gallagher said.

Friday’s meeting was the first the board has held at a branch campus in nearly 30 years.

Presidents Sharon P. Smith of Pitt Greensburg, Livingston Alexander of Pitt Bradford and Jem Spectar of Pitt Johnstown, gave overviews of their respective campuses.

Smith highlighted Greensburg’s new digital humanities degree, which offers students an education in the intersection of humanities and digital environments.

“It cannot be overemphasized that strong communication skills are essential,” Smith said of her campus’ commitment to digital humanities. “Mastering digital communication cannot replace traditional strengths in oral and written communication.”

A video of Spectar, who couldn’t make it to the meeting, emphasized Pitt Johnstown’s nursing, business, engineering and education programs. He said the campus’ new engineering technology is modeled after the “world-class Swanson School at the University of Pittsburgh.”

The attention to branch campuses at the meetings did not stop at the presidents’ overviews.

“I really was excited to have everybody come out and see one of the regional [campuses],” Jack Smith, a trustee and member of the Pitt Greensburg advisory board, said of the board’s visit to the branch campus. “There are challenges everywhere, with the state budget and everything, but I think we’re on the right track.”

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