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June 20, 1996

Staff, faculty voice much support for Nordenberg

News of Mark Nordenberg's appointment as Pitt's 17th permanent chancellor was generally greeted very favorably, even with excitement, by members of the University community. Only a few of those persons contacted by the University Times expressed reservations or concerns. University Senate President Keith McDuffie said: "I think it's very good news. He has already demonstrated that he will be an outstanding chancellor. I am very happy with the selection." McDuffie said his experiences with Nordenberg as interim chancellor over the past year have left no doubt that he will be able to work with Nordenberg as permanent chancellor.

"He is very open and receptive to faculty input and student input as well," McDuffie said. "I expect that to continue. I imagine that there will be occasions when we won't agree, but I think the important thing is that we respect each other." Staff Association Council (SAC) President Brian Hart likewise felt he could work with Nordenberg and was happy to learn of his appointment as chancellor.

"Mark Nordenberg was the candidate we [SAC] supported all through the process," Hart said. "We are thrilled that the board has decided to offer him the position. I believe that SAC and all of the other constituencies in the University will be able to work with him effectively. And I think Mark will be fair in his dealings with all of us.

"We've had a very successful working relationship with him, not based on the fact that he gave us everything that we wanted," he continued, "but he made himself accessible to us. He listened to what we had to say and responded to each and every one of the things that we took to him, appropriately and fairly." Jim Holland, a faculty member in the psychology department and past president of the University Senate, has frequently criticized actions by the Board of Trustees, but heartily agreed with their choice of Nordenberg as chancellor.

"I think it's excellent," Holland said. "I am all for it. I think he has a strong identity with the University. He knows how things work. He has respect for faculty. He communicates well with all the various groups that the chancellor needs to communicate with. He's managed things very well as interim chancellor. I think we can just expect to see acceleration of the kinds of progress that he's already started." All Sharon Nelson-Le Gall, a faculty member in the psychology department, could say about Nordenberg's appointment as chancellor was "Hallelujah!" Nelson-Le Gall said she feels as if she can now hold her head high and walk with dignity as a member of the Pitt community.

"I think we've been stumbling for a while and to me this is like, 'Okay, now we can just go on about our business and do what we need to do.' "I hope he's not around for 25 years," she added, "not in the sense that I think good things couldn't happen if he was. I am just not expecting that we will have a chancellor who is around for 25 years. I think that [Posvar] was kind of an aberration. I don't think chancellors in this day and age last that long. But I could see him [Nordenberg] being here for 10 years and I think good things would happen. We would have good productive years." Among the things that Nelson-Le Gall particularly likes about Nordenberg is that he is accepted by people outside of the University, especially politicians in Harrisburg. She also feels he is intelligent and possesses a great deal of personal and professional integrity.

"I know he works hard and I know he listens from the time I served on UPBC [University Planning and Budgeting Committee] and from the many years I chaired the Senate's educational policies committee," she said. "He knows Pittsburgh. He knows the community. He knows the University. We will not have to play catch up. We can hit the ground running. Faculty who know him should have a basis to respect him as someone who has good, solid academic values. I am thrilled. I am simply thrilled." Nelson-Le Gall said she only hopes the Board of Trustees support Nordenberg and allow him to do things that are in the University's interest. "I have much more concern about the Board of Trustees than I do about Mark," she said. "But I see this as a sign that perhaps the Board of Trustees has some reasonable people on it." Chancellor search committee member and dean of the School of Pharmacy Randy Juhl believes that Nordenberg's appointment as chancellor and the entire chancellor's search was a shining success.

"We had several outstanding individuals who applied," Juhl noted. "The three finalists were all very different, but all very well accomplished. I believe the board has made the best decision for the University of Pittsburgh. I have every confidence in Mark Nordenberg, both his professional abilities and his personal qualities. He will lead the University and do it well." Juhl said he worked with Nordenberg both when the chancellor was dean of the law school and interim provost, and that they had an excellent relationship. "Mark is the kind of person who has the ability and takes the time to reach out to people. And he has the ability to relate to people in a very individual way." Juhl pointed to an incident involving a student in the School of Pharmacy. As part of the requirements for graduation, Juhl said, each student must maintain a portfolio in which is kept a record of his or her accomplishments outside of the classroom involving various non-academic tasks and skills essential to being a pharmacist.

Among the items included in such portfolios are records of volunteer efforts. While examining the portfolio of one student last fall, the school's associate dean found a letter from then Interim Chancellor Nordenberg thanking the student involved for his effort as a volunteer at a certain event. "He took the time to write a personal letter," said Juhl. "And he does that repeatedly. He has done that as dean. He did it as provost. And he's done it as interim chancellor and I think he will continue to do that. It provides a very personal touch from the chancellor's office, not only with the high and the mighty, but with a student who happened to be a greeter at an event. In my mind, that tells a great deal about the character of the man we've chosen to be our leader." One faculty member who was not enthusiastic about Norden-berg's appointment as chancellor was Richard Tobias, a faculty member in the English department and a past president of the University Senate. Tobias was not a member of the search committee, but did interview the three finalists. During the search, Tobias wrote a letter to the search committee opposing Nordenberg as a candidate. Tobias cited Nordenberg's involvement in a law suit filed against the University involving sex discrimination charges.

The suit filed by a former law school professor alleges that while Nordenberg was dean of the School of Law he misrepresented her credentials and threatened the careers of those in the school who sought to defend her.

Nordenberg is not a defendant in the case and has denied the suit's allegations. Tobias said he read the 54-page complaint and that Nordenberg's name was mentioned in seven of the 22 counts. Tobias also objected to Nordenberg's candidacy because of a 1993 clash between then-Interim Provost Nordenberg and the Senate's tenure and academic freedom committee (TAFC) over two cases. TAFC alleged that the administration had failed to follow University policies and had violated the faculty members' rights. Nordenberg responded that TAFC's version of events was incomplete and misleading.

Tobias said that Nordenberg "accused me [as a member of TAFC] of doing things that I hadn't done. He very prettily apologized and confessed that he erred when he did this and I suppose I have to forgive him.

"But I think the Board of Trustees like him," Tobias said. "They feel comfortable with him. They know his background. With O'Connor, we found out things about him after he got here that we should have known before he got here." Despite his criticism, Tobias said he would prefer Nordenberg as chancellor "any day of the week" over finalist Charles Reed, chancellor of the University of Florida System.

Tobias believes that Sherry Penney, chancellor of the University of Massachusetts Boston campus was the most interesting candidate, but he did not think the Board of Trustees could deal with having a woman chancellor. "Not in this town," he added.

Search committee member Herb Chesler, a faculty member in the economics department, simply said: "I look forward to working with him [Nordenberg]. He's demonstrated an ability to work very well with the faculty. I am hopeful that will continue in the future." Another search committee member, Gordon MacLeod, a faculty member in the Graduate School of Public Health, said: "I think the board has spoken and we all will have to pull together to make the University of Pittsburgh the best it can possibly be. "No matter whom the board had chosen," he continued, "I think the search committee would have felt that way. All three of the candidates were people who generated a great deal of discussion and a great deal of animated analysis and perceptions of their strengths and weakness. I think they were all superb candidates." Faculty, staff and administrators contacted by the University Times at Pitt's regional campuses expressed no reservations whatsoever about Nordenberg's selection as chancellor.

Guy Rossetti, vice president for Administration at Pitt's Greensburg campus, said: "We're elated. We've had a very good experience with him [Nordenberg]. He certainly is knowledgeable about the regional campuses, specifically Greensburg. He's been a person who listens and answers everything we asks, though not necessarily always agreeing. But he has always given us an answer and he is very personable to work with. We've had a very good experience with him." Nordenberg's concern for the regional campuses was evident during his term as interim provost, according to Rossetti.

"It was under him that the whole concept of one University system with five different campuses really began to take hold," Rossetti said.

Michele Angevine, president of the Staff Association Council on Pitt's Bradford campus, said she is simply "thrilled" by Nordenberg's appointment.

"I think everybody on this campus is just going to be overjoyed," Angevine said. "When he was provost, he came to the campus a couple of times and any time I had any interaction with him at all, I found him to be very staff oriented. I think he has a good attitude about the quality of the staff we have at the University as a whole and particularly at the regionals. I think he is going to be a great benefit to the University." On Pitt's Titusville campus, Gerald Lazzaro, a faculty member in the humanities and theatre arts departments, said he feels that Nordenberg has proven himself an effective administrator and a friend to the regional campuses.

"His attitude toward the regional campuses has been positive," Lazzaro said. "I think most people who I've talked to at this campus will be pretty satisfied with him. I have not heard any negative comments worrying about what would happen if Nordenberg was appointed. So, I think the reaction, at least at this campus, is going to be very positive."

–Mike Sajna

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