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April 30, 2015

SHRS dean installed as distinguished service prof

brubakerClifford E. Brubaker, dean of the School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences (SHRS), was installed as distinguished service professor of health and rehabilitation sciences and delivered a provost’s inaugural lecture April 23 in Posvar Hall.

Provost Patricia E. Beeson credited him with transforming what had been the youngest and smallest of Pitt’s schools into a “world-recognized powerhouse of research and education in the health related professions.”

Brubaker’s “forward thinking and passion for advancing technology as related to disability has also led to an explosion of research in the School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences,” Beeson said, noting that under Brubaker, annual research funding for the school has increased from less than $200,000 to more than $23 million a year.

Brubaker will retire as dean on June 30, exactly 24 years after his start at Pitt on July 1,1991. In his talk he outlined his career — from graduate school and a faculty position at Oregon, to the University of Virginia and then to Pitt — and traced SHRS’s growth from the tiny School of Health Related Professions to SHRS, which today is Pitt’s fourth-largest school.

The school had about 300 students in five departments when Brubaker arrived here. Today, enrollment is nearly 1,500. Research support is $23.4 million to date this fiscal year, Brubaker said, with 34 percent coming from the Department of Defense, something the dean said he “never would have anticipated.”

SHRS developed the first undergraduate degree program and the first PhD program in rehabilitation science, Brubaker said, adding that USA Today ranks Pitt and SHRS No. 1 in its 10 best U.S. colleges in which to study health professions.

Brubaker said 24 years as dean was a long time, and went quickly.

He closed with an “insightful” assessment of quality attributed to the late Alec Stewart, founding dean of the University Honors College: “Quality is based on attainment. Absolute quality results from absolute attainment. A quest for quality is inconsistent with a policy of equal treatment. Treatment and distribution of resources must be consistent with opportunity and need.”

“That’s a reality,” Brubaker said. While people often believe in homogeneity, “That’s not how it works. That’s not how you advance.”

—Kimberly K. Barlow