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April 2, 2015

Why they give: Jonathan Arac

Through the Faculty and Staff Campaign, University employees can help Pitt thrive by contributing to any of more than 2,000 scholarship, fellowship and professorship funds. Payroll deductions are available, and donors of $1,000 or more are recognized through the Chancellor’s Circle program.

Annually, nearly 3,000 Pitt employees take part in the campaign, from every part of the University. Their backgrounds, and reasons for giving, are as diverse as the Pitt community.

The University Times is profiling some Faculty and Staff Campaign donors.


campaign.aracJonathan Arac and his late wife, Carol Kay, joined the Department of English as faculty members in 1989. It was a rare event for a large research university to be able to offer positions to a couple, he said, and all the more welcome for it.

When Kay died in 1998, family, friends and colleagues established the Carol Kay Award for the best Pitt undergraduate essays on British literature between 1500 and 1900, which has prizes totaling $500.

Recently, Arac — now Andrew W. Mellon Professor of English and director of the Humanities Center — felt he wanted to add another way to remember Carol, his partner of 30 years.

As he prepared to marry a third time, just a year ago, to Susan Balée, he recalls, “She said to me, ‘You know, you’ve been intending to make the gift, why don’t we get it done?’”

Arac’s gift to the Faculty and Staff Campaign provides a one-year Carol Kay Fellowship to a Pitt English doctoral student in his or her fourth year.

“So it’s the promise of future support when you’re writing your dissertation,” he says.

At the moment, a fourth-year student holds the first fellowship. It has been promised to an incoming student as well and is being used to recruit for the next class “right this very minute,” he says. Eventually, there will be five students each year with a Kay fellowship, “which I’ve got to say is pretty cool. I was very happy with the way the English department figured out to use it.”

—Marty Levine