Skip to Navigation
University of Pittsburgh
Print This Page Print this pages

February 22, 2001

Alum is relentless in her pursuit of support for Pitt

Following last week's Alumni Legislative Network Breakfast, dozens of Pitt grads scattered throughout the Capitol Building to lobby their legislators on the University's behalf.

It was hard to match Fran Gargotta's pace as she made the rounds of Allegheny County representatives. First stop: the office of Rep. Don Walko.

After presenting his secretary with a potted plant as a gift, Gargotta promised Walko: "I'm not going to take a lot of your time." She kept her word. In just under 10 minutes, Gargotta outlined Pitt's funding request, quoted a national study recommending 6 percent minimum increases for public universities, slipped in references to Jonas Salk and Thomas Starzl, and answered Walko's questions about the financial relationship between Pitt and UPMC Health System.

"I'm sure you hear from your other constituents about keeping our brightest talent within Pennsylvania, and supporting higher education is the way to do that. As an employer, it's very important to me to be able to find talent in Pittsburgh and keep them there," said Gargotta (College of General Studies '79), who is senior vice president and corporate human resources director for Marc-USA in Pittsburgh.

Walko sounded receptive. "Really, the biggest regional assets we have in Pittsburgh are the universities," he told Gargotta.

"Pitt, Carnegie Mellon and the others are just so valuable to our economy, to our quality of life. I think we should make more of a commitment [to those schools], to tell you the truth."

Gargotta thanked Walko for his time, gave him a brochure summarizing the University's budget request and a pad of Pitt Post-it notes, and hurried off to visit Rep. Joseph Preston Jr.

Her heels clicking at a rapid-fire pace, echoing down the halls of the Capitol Building, Gargotta explained: "My company is very civic-minded, and I'm very pro-University of Pittsburgh. That's why I'm taking these two days off" to visit Harrisburg as a volunteer lobbyist.

She didn't need to do much lobbying with Preston, a fellow CGS graduate.

"It's appropriations time," Gargotta began, "so we thought we'd talk to you a little bit about the University…."

"Don't worry about it," said Preston, a bearish, good-humored man who towered over Gargotta. "You've got my vote. Go see somebody else. I'm easy."

After posing for a couple of grip-and-grin photos with Preston, Gargotta continued on her way.

"Now, you see how easy that was?" Preston called after her, smiling. "You take care, now."

The last representative on Gargotta's list, Jane C. Orie, was attending a House session, so Gargotta left a Pitt budget request brochure, her business card and a personal note with Orie's assistant.

"Whew!" said Gargotta, her lobbying mission completed. "It's a shame we didn't have a longer list" of legislators to visit.

A Pitt Alumni Relations staffer assured Gargotta that she'd done plenty for one morning.

— Bruce Steele

Leave a Reply