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February 29, 1996

Niceness rules the day at KGSB

Professors delivering carnations to colleagues…staff leaving smiley face cookies on co-workers' desks…students exchanging (Hershey's) kisses…

Is this any way to run a business school? It is on Random Acts of Kindness Day, which the Katz Graduate School of Business celebrated yesterday, Feb. 28.

Co-sponsoring the event were the school's staff quality circle team and the Graduate Women in Business, an MBA student organization at the Katz school. According to Katz school associate professor Audrey Murrell, who is adviser to the Graduate Women in Business, school personnel invented the holiday to boost morale at a stressful time.

While some Pitt faculty and students were daydreaming this week about the upcoming spring break, Katz students have been taking final exams, under the school's three-term academic schedule.

To de-stress themselves, faculty, staff and students made a point yesterday of performing small acts of kindness for one another.

Murrell herself delivered carnations. Pat Szekeley, assistant to the MBA program director, handed out oranges from a crate in her office. ("That was a great idea," Murrell said, "considering how many people around here have come down with colds.") The Katz development office brought in a sheet cake that was fair game for any student, faculty or staff member who stopped by to nosh.

Other Katz personnel distributed $2 "Random Acts of Kindness Day Gift Certificates" redeemable at the Second Plate cafeteria in Mervis Hall. Many people taped complimentary notes on colleagues' doors, Murrell said. Others exchanged warm-and-fuzzy greetings electronically. For example, Professor Emeritus Robert Perloff sent the following e-mail message to his co-workers: "During the last few months many of you have been extraordinarily helpful and solicitous of me because of my tendonitis and use of a crutch, by holding doors open, helping me with packages, offering to help me across the street on the way to the parking lot, etc." The Katz school's new holiday earned a one-line notice in the Feb. 22 Wall Street Journal, and Murrell said she has received several calls from people in other Pitt schools, seeking information in the hope of holding their own celebrations of random kindness.

Murrell said it hasn't been determined whether the school will repeat Random Acts of Kindness Day. But as one Katz school employee wrote in an e-mail message, "I hope that the school doesn't wait until another designated day to display acts of kindness."

— Bruce Steele

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