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February 3, 2005

Hanging up her Hard hat – Facilities Management’s Guzman to Retire

As Ana Guzman, associate vice chancellor of Facilities Management, retires this spring, one thing that could be said about her 25-year tenure is that she is well-traveled. No, we’re not talking about vacations or leaving her native home of Argentina.

Guzman has traversed 13.6 miles of sidewalks and walkways, 12 miles of underground utilities, 66 buildings with 6.8 million gross square feet of building space – and that’s just the Pittsburgh campus.

“Most people don’t realize how big of an organization this is,” said Guzman, who will retire May 1. “Pitt is the biggest or one of the biggest real estate managers in western Pennsylvania.”

She manages our surroundings on a scale that is inconceivable to the average Pitt denizen: Everything from the air we breathe in campus buildings to the supply of electricity to power our computers to the construction of Biomedical Science Tower 3 to the red velvet carpets of impatiens in the Cathedral of Learning’s flower beds. She oversees about 500 employees including carpenters and other trades people, engineers and maintenance workers. And that’s just one of her jobs – she’s really an architect who has devoted her career to the aesthetics of all five Pitt campuses.

Guzman’s professional success transcends the University campuses: She was the first female to join the national Association of University Architects and first woman to be elected to the organization’s presidency.

She has excelled in a profession where women were far and few between, especially in the male-dominated labor hotbed of western Pennsylvania. But she wasn’t expecting that scenario when she came to Pittsburgh in 1967 with her husband, Alberto Guzman, an engineer in material science who had secured a researcher position at Mellon Institute, and two young children.

“I decided to go to work right away,” Guzman said. “I had a degree in architecture and I didn’t want to lose the training.” She also wanted to learn the English language better. Guzman landed a part-time job with John Schurko and Associates, a Downtown architectural firm that specialized in university architecture and state-funded projects.

She was one of four women architects in Pittsburgh. “I was shocked because when I earned my architecture degree in Argentina, about 40 percent of the students who graduated with the same degree were women. It was normal there for a woman to be an architect.”

Shock turned into determination, then acclimation for Guzman. “People were surprised to see a woman in this field, but when they realized what my job was and that I could do it well – I didn’t have a bad experience. I always felt welcome at job sites and have never shied away from job sites. I have never put the issue of being a woman ahead of being a professional or a manager.”

Guzman left the Shurko architectural firm with associate status and began her Pitt career as a construction supervisor and designer for the Bradford and Johnston campuses. She then worked on the Oakland campus as a project manager, director of state-funded projects and director of planning of designs, among other responsibilities.

Pitt colleagues describe Guzman as a combination of tough and charming. Dick Howe, associate dean for administration in the School of Arts and Sciences, who has worked with Guzman for about 30 years (Arts and Sciences have been Guzman’s biggest customer over the years) said, “She has full confidence in her abilities and when she came to work at Pitt, it was in an era when it was a male-dominated profession. If she was going to survive, she had to be tough. It was a cigar-chomping, back-slapping, three-drink lunch crew and there wasn’t any room for soft-hearted, mild-mannered females.”

Guzman knows when to charm and when to stare down with that icy glare, according to Howe. “I love it when I sit at table and she uses that (glare) to focus on a professional who is supposed to be working for the University — not just trying to get money from the University.”

Whatever battles she has fought, Guzman is not focusing on them. In her business, it’s all about getting the job done. “I try to communicate to people what my concerns are. And the only way to achieve that is if you tell people if you are satisfied. And you try to be positive and to give solutions. And try to achieve what is achievable.”

In the last eight years, she has presided over $500 million worth of capital projects, which is the largest capital development effort in the history of the University. Projects have included the Peterson Events Center, Sennott Square and the renovation of Alumni Hall.

“I often refer to her as St. Ana because of all she has done for Pitt,” said Chancellor Mark Nordenberg. “It is impossible to overstate the value of her contributions to the University. In recent years, she has led us through the busiest period of new construction and renovation in our history. Beyond that she has been instrumental in efforts that made all five our campuses more beautiful and more functional,” he added.

Some of the projects still on her punch list include: The Biomedical Science Tower 3 project with phase one completed in spring; renovations at the Cathedral of Learning including air conditioning in the classrooms; a new ventilation system in the Chevron Science Center. The list goes on and on because the projects never stop, according to Guzman.

The University buildings have to keep up with the growing needs of University faculty, staff and students — that’s Guzman’s mission.

“There’s a high demand for upgrades of facilities, for increasing capacity for electricity,” Guzman said. More equipment means more power. The demand for back-up generators at the University has grown tremendously over the last several years, according to Guzman.

A good example of growth managed by Guzman is the construction of $25.5 million life science annex to the Clapp-Langley-Crawford life science complex. The project will create an additional 50,000 gross square feet that will house research laboratories for biological sciences and other programs. But Guzman has got to help figure out who goes where as new space is created and old space is renovated. “We call it ‘the shell game’ – we try to move people just once, but it’s difficult doing that with labs.”

Looking back on her construction projects, Guzman said that it is impossible to pick a favorite one. But the Peterson Events Center may be one of them, she said. “It’s built as bridge from lower to upper campus with the escalators. As we bring in more students, we have to find ways to work with the architecture to make the campus more accessible.

Her choice for best makeover would be the transformation of the Masonic Temple into Alumni Hall. The project brought out the beauty of what was already there: The marble floors were cleaned and buffed, the ample amount of woodwork was refinished, the original light fixtures were refurbished, and old door knobs were turned into door handles (to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act).

The results of the renovations were a “surprise to all of us in how magnificent it turned out,” Guzman said.

When asked to describe her legacy, Guzman doesn’t think of one construction project or even a string of them. It’s about the total look and feel of the Oakland campus – aesthetics. ” The Oakland campus is crisscrossed by city streets crowded with buildings of all architectural periods. One of my major concerns is how do you create an identity for a campus in Oakland?”

For Guzman, it starts with signage, lot of signage on buildings, along streets, everywhere a place needs to be identified. The other important goal is to work with the existing architecture on not just the campus, but the residential areas and Forbes Avenue business corridor.

For example, one of Guzman’s landmark projects was the construction of Sennott Square where she copied some of the architectural features of surrounding buildings, such as large street-level windows and chose granite as the building’s base to convey a sense of endurance.

“The great thing about architecture is that it leaves a visual legacy, buildings last a long time. I feel satisfied that I left a better campus environment.”

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