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March 2, 2000

Great Americans Day more than a holiday at Pitt's Johnstown campus

While the University has moved observance of Great Americans Day to March, the traditional holiday also is marked at the Johnstown campus.

UPJ hosted its third annual Great Americans Day Citizenship Forum Feb. 18 with a lecture on Eleanor Roosevelt, one of the most influential American women of the 20th century.

The forum is a way of reminding the University community and the neighboring citizenry that democracy is not static, according to Jon Darling, director of the Johnstown campus's Office of Community Outreach. "This series is a wonderful way for students and faculty, area high school students and faculty, business leaders and others in the community to join together to discuss citizenship and civic virtue," said Darling, who also is a UPJ professor of sociology.

This year's lecture, titled "The Political Apprenticeship of Eleanor Roosevelt," was delivered by Elisabeth Perry, professor of history at St. Louis University. Perry, who has written five books, explored the emergence of Roosevelt into a prominent place among women's political networks in the United States prior to her husband Franklin's election as governor of New York.

"Eleanor established not only enduring friendships and contacts in this network but found in it opportunities for leadership independent of anything her husband had yet done in politics," Perry said. "This is the period of Eleanor Roosevelt's political apprenticeship, which prepared her wonderfully for her roles as First Lady and later as United Nations' delegate and advocate."

Along with the community outreach office, sponsors of the forum include the UPJ history department and History Club; the Phi Alpha Theta International History Honor Society; the Cambria Business-Education Partnership, and the Howard M. and Adelle C. Picking Fund for Great Americans Day.

"The series is another way for the University to contribute added value to the pool of social capital in the region," Darling said. "People who usually meet in classrooms can meet with people who usually meet outside classrooms, share common interests and develop new interests at the same time."

About 85 people attended the lecture despite very poor weather, according to Darling. "We've had as many as 300 attend in other years," he said.

Johnstown's Office of Community Outreach also sponsors the annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. weekend of citizen service, an annual career and community volunteer fair and the Civic Action Network, which supports economic and community development as well as individual needs for information.

–Peter Hart

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