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

March 7, 2002

Greensburg campus history stitched by staff, faculty quilters

It began some six years ago as a gift idea for a retiring employee and grew into a full-scale project for institutional pride. In between were planning lunches, an acknowledged need to preserve campus history and an inspirational video on group bonding.

The UPG quilters, as they call themselves, a volunteer group of staff and faculty at Pitt's Greensburg campus, have commemorated some of the important events and snapshots in the campus's early history in a time-capsule-like quilt called "UPG Beginnings," now on permanent display in the campus library.

The scenes depicted on the 10-panel quilt cover the tenure of Greensburg's first president Albert B. Smith, who was named campus head in 1962 and retired in 1980.

Scenes include: the inaugural orientation day at the Vogel Building, the campus's temporary home (August 1963); Pitt's purchase of the Charles Mckenna Lynch estate (June 1964), which would become the permanent campus location; the men's basketball team, circa 1969, when the first varsity team was fielded; a group of the school's first students planning social activities (1963), pom-pom-wielding cheerleaders in dress and hair-dos of the 1960s; the University's seal at the time of the school's founding; selected students and school officials from the 1960s, and President Smith.

"Back in 1996, [Greensburg staff member] Karen Gavula suggested we make a quilt for Nellie Chambers, a library staff member who was retiring," said Patricia Duck, director of the Millstein Library and one of the UPG quilters.

A campus photographer took a picture of the library staff, which was scanned and printed on special transfer paper that could be ironed onto the fabric of a quilt, Duck said. Members of the library staff contributed to the quilt with embroidery, lettering and sewing.

The farewell gift was so successful that Gavula and Nancy Young, Greensburg staff library specialist, over the next several months completed two more gift quilts, also with the help of the quilting group. The quilters worked over lunch hours, and the library conference room became the unofficial quilting area. A social club was born.

Serendipitously, the Millstein Library had begun a project to document the history of the campus, including setting up a permanent UPG archives and videotaping various campus faculty and staff members for future reference.

"The quilts were fresh in our minds, and I bought a video entitled 'A Scrap of Pride: How to Use Quilting as a Tool to Bring People Together,'" Duck said. "Inspired by the video and realizing we had in-house talent to spare, we decided to make a quilt documenting the start of the UPG campus: UPG Beginnings."

In 1962, Pitt-Greensburg was established as a two-year "feeder school" for the Pittsburgh campus. The first classes met Sept. 3, 1963.

According to UPG archivist Frank Zabroski, the original campus was at 122 North Maple Ave. in Greensburg, a former city school administration building. Albert Smith, special assistant to then-Pitt Chancellor Edward Litchfield and associate dean of the Graduate School of Business, became the campus's first president.

The campus moved to its permanent location on 213 acres in suburban Hempfield Township, three miles southeast of the city of Greensburg, following the purchase of the Lynch estate. The first classes at the new site were held in September 1976.

Smith retired in 1980 and was succeeded by George F. Chambers (1980-1996), Norman W. Scanlon, who served as interim president December 1996-August 1997, and Frank A. Cassell, current president.

"The UPG Beginnings quilt was so successful that the campus community wanted to know when the next one would be done!" quilter Duck said. "At the present time, we are working on quilt No. 2: 'Building UPG.' We think we will end up with three quilts to document the history of the campus and our three [permanent] presidents: Smith, Chambers and Cassell."

Karen Gavula, secretary in University Relations and Institutional Advancement, who launched the quilting project, said, "Dr. Cassell says we have to hurry and finish this second one, because he's anxious to have us work on the one for him. He teases us that it will have to be much bigger."

–Peter Hart

Leave a Reply