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July 21, 2011

Obituary: Cynthia M. Cummings

cummingsCynthia M. Cummings, a systems programmer in Computing Services and Systems Development (CSSD), died July 7, 2011, after suffering a stroke. She was 55.

A 1988 graduate of the Community College of Allegheny County, Cummings came to Pitt in 1989 as an electronic specialist on the network installation and hardware maintenance team. In 1991, she was the recipient of the Computing and Information Services Quality Service Award. In 1992, she received a commendation letter from the Student Government Board secretary for her computer repair work.

Cummings became a systems programmer for Student Computing Services as part of the ResNet team in 1998 and began managing student computing lab consultants and residential consultants.

Born with the “service gene,” as Cathy Lynch of Information Systems put it, Cummings enjoyed working with students, participating in annual events such as PittStart sessions, academic marketplaces, Love Your Computer events and Arrival Survival.

She also was passionate about charitable projects, organizing fundraisers for the United Way and participating in Day of Caring at Pitt, as well as supporting Project Bundle Up, colleagues said.

“She was one of those people who gave back,” agreed Cristy Spino, who for a time had been Cummings’s supervisor.

Cummings also was supportive of the city high schoolers who had internships at CSSD through the “Start on Success” transition-to- employment program for students with learning disabilities.

“She liked people and especially being around young people. She loved working for the University of Pittsburgh and providing services to students,” Spino said, adding that Cummings went above and beyond to assist student computer users as well as the students she supervised.

“She knew we had jobs because of the students who come to the University,” and she wanted to ensure they were being taken care of, Spino said. “She was all about making things easier for the students and more fun.”

Cummings supervised about 10 students a year through ResNet, adding another 30-40 per year when her job expanded to include supervising student workers in Pitt’s computer labs, Spino said. Cummings enjoyed working closely with students. “She loved helping them while they were here at school.”

Spino said Cummings offered them encouragement and direction, noting that while some of the student workers “didn’t start out as IT kids,” they later decided it was the career path for them, with some going on to work at CSSD full time.

Cummings “brought life to the office,” said colleague Linda Murphy, recalling her quick-witted sense of humor. “It was fun to be around her — she could find humor in anything.”

Travis Cornell, who had worked with Cummings since 1997, agreed. “Regardless of what was going on, she had a unique way of looking at it,” he said. “She was always smiling, joking around and finding ways to make the day go better and not be so serious.”

He remembered her as a social butterfly who got others involved. At the holidays, Cummings organized the “CSSD Singers” who led the caroling at the department’s annual party.

During CSSD’s annual Take Your Child to Work Day, she typically helped with the children ages 5-9.

At this year’s event, the children posed for photos that were superimposed onto cartoon characters’ bodies, but Cummings didn’t stop there. She collected photos of her office mates as well, presenting them with images of themselves as Shrek or Superman or a Barbie princess. “In a lot of ways, she was a big kid herself,” Cornell said.

The loss of Cummings’s lively enthusiasm has made the office a much quieter place, her co-workers in Bellefield Hall agreed.

“This place is not going to be the same without her,” Murphy said.

Cummings is survived by daughters Carey A. Stumpf, who was employed at CSSD, 2005-06, and Brandi Gurcak; father William J. Cummings; siblings Jim, Bill, Gary, Dennis and David Cummings and Robbie Coxon, and 12 nieces and nephews.

The family suggests memorial contributions be made to the Women’s Center and Shelter of Greater Pittsburgh, P.O. Box 9024, Pittsburgh 15224.

—Kimberly K. Barlow

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