Before Thomas E. Starzl died last year, he was a dominant presence on the University of Pittsburgh campus.
Now, the renowned transplant surgeon will continue to inspire faculty, staff and students through a bronze statue, dedicated in June outside the Fifth Avenue side of the Cathedral of Learning.
More than 150 people gathered on June 23 to watch the unveiling of a new sculpture of Starzl, “the father of organ transplantation,” who died on March 4, 2017, at the age of 90. The bronze sculpture depicts Starzl wearing a turtleneck, slacks and a sports coat, seated on the left end of an iron bench.
On hand for the dedication were Starzl's widow, Joy, who was the driving force behind the project, and sculptor Susan Wagner, who is also known for the Roberto Clemente and Willie Stargell statues outside of PNC Park. Others attending included forensic pathologist Cyril Wecht (A&S ’52, MED ’56, LAW ’62) and former Pittsburgh Steelers great Franco Harris.
“Tom loved this community,” said Chancellor Patrick Gallagher as he stood near the new statue. “He walked his dogs here and sat on the Cathedral lawn on Sundays. This was his sanctuary, away from the chaos of the operating room.”
Passers-by can sit quietly next to Starzl, or take selfies with the statue.
Starzl joined the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine in 1981 as professor of surgery and led the team of surgeons who performed Pittsburgh’s first liver transplant. Thirty liver transplants were performed that year, launching the first liver transplant program in the country.
Until he retired from clinical and surgical service in 1991, Starzl served as chief of transplantation services at Presbyterian University Hospital (now UPMC Presbyterian), Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh (now Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC) and the Veterans Administration Hospital in Pittsburgh, overseeing the largest and busiest transplant program in the world. He then assumed the title of director of the University of Pittsburgh Transplantation Institute, which was renamed the Thomas E. Starzl Transplantation Institute in 1996.