After 50 years, School of Social Work manager still finds job ‘very, very rewarding’

Rosemary “Rosie” Rinella


“Five decades, five deans,” muses Rosemary “Rosie” Rinella, marking her 50th year with the School of Social Work, for the last 35 years as assistant to the dean and manager of personnel and administrative services. “I was just trying to give the best I can to make sure the school becomes the finest School of Social Work in the country.”

Look for a full list of employees with milestone work anniversaries in the Dec. 13 edition of the University Times.

Last year, she notes, the school entered the top 10 in U.S. News and World Report’s rankings.

Rinella has spent her entire career on the 21st and 22nd floors of the Cathedral of Learning, starting at age 17, even before graduation from Duquesne High School in 1968.

In fact, she was hired before she made it to the personnel office, then on the top of the Cathedral, for her job interview. Shepherded into the School of Social Work by a friend already employed at Pitt, Rinella was given a typing test and impressed a school staffer, who called upstairs to start her right away as secretary to the dean.

Each successive dean may have had different styles, she says, “but I adapted well and enjoyed working with all of them” — from brief periods with William McCullough and Morton “Moe” Coleman to decades-long stints under David Epperson and Larry Davis. Elizabeth Farmer took the post on May 1.

“I wanted to give the new dean support,” says Rinella, who won’t be retiring anytime soon. “It’s hard coming into a position like that. I wanted to give her the same support I gave the other deans when they came on.”

Her memories include:

  • Seeing how McCullough dealt successfully with student protests for a greater African-American student and faculty presence
  • Getting involved in many community and foundation boards in aid of Epperson
  • Helping Davis organize the large Race in America conference here in 2010.

She remembers long weekends taking notes at meetings as the faculty revised the curriculum, and she appreciates the chance to get to know students who ventured into the world and returned to lend their expertise to the next generation.

“Some people think social work is just case work,” Rinella says. “No, they’re in all kinds of offices — in the mayor’s office, the governor’s office, foundations. And the way the world is today, we’re going to need a lot more social workers. There are so many social problems we’re dealing with. There are so many social issues they address.”

Through the years she has added other ongoing responsibilities, as assistant editor of the school’s Bridges magazine and coordinator of its speaker series. She also provides staff support to the promotion and tenure committee as well as the faculty search committee.

In addition, Rinella served as search coordinator for the senior vice chancellor and provost’s search committee and has twice been nominated for the chancellor’s award for staff for excellence in service to the University.

“Our school this year is celebrating its 100th anniversary,” she says. “I just can’t believe I’ve been here for half as long.”

“It’s the people, the environment,” Rinella explains. “The University is a wonderful environment to work in. All the people I met along the way — it’s just been very, very rewarding.”

Today, her desk is still laden with tall piles of papers. “Hard work never scared me,” she said. “I feel very fortunate to have been here all this time.”

Marty Levine is a writer for the University Times. Reach him at or 412-758-4859.