By SUSAN JONES
The Feb. 24 Board of Trustees meeting presented little new information, but allowed Chancellor Patrick Gallagher a chance to tout some of Pitt’s accomplishments since the last meeting in September.
Before Gallagher’s presentation, Trustees Chair Doug Browning reported that the chancellor search committee has “made significant progress and we are meeting the targets that we set for this effort in June of last year.” The search timeline on the Board of Trustees’ website says a new chancellor is expected to be named in spring 2023.
Browning also recognized four new trustees who have joined the board in the past several months: Rob Ritson Jr., chief of staff to Pa. Senate President Pro Tempore Kim Ward; John Surna, retired CEO of U.S. Steel Corp.; Jack Tighe III, retired founder of TMG Health Inc.; and Bill Ward, president of Ward Transport and Logistics Corp. in Blair County.
The chancellor’s presentation started and continued on a very upbeat note.
“The University is doing remarkably well and we’re very well positioned,” he said. “That’s true whether you compare us to our peers or when you compare us to our past.”
He cited several areas:
Admission: “The demand for a Pitt education is at an all-time high,” Gallagher said. Last year set a record of 53,000 applicants, and this year has already beaten that, with 55,000 applications as of Feb. 17 — 10 percent more than the same date last year. The admissions office is projecting the total will be around 58,000.
Gallagher said Pitt officials believe this is a structural change and not just cyclical or a post-COVID reaction. “This is due to a lot of things. A lot of it is a lot of blood, sweat and tears that goes into the process in admissions and expanding that process around the country. But it also is a reflection of Pitt’s brand, the recognition as a desirable place to go, and that brand is not only strengthening but it’s getting broader is extending across the country.”
Student achievements: In the current academic year, Pitt students have received 22 U.S. State Department Benjamin Gilman International Scholarships — a Pell Grant recipient-eligible program for students to study abroad. There also have been nine Fulbright Scholars and Pitt’s first-ever Mitchell Scholar. Four Pitt students were named Voyager Scholars, the Obama-Chesky Scholarship for Public Service that provides up to $50,000 to reduce or eliminate student debt.
Faculty accolades: Gallagher singled out four faculty members accomplishments. Gwendolyn Sowa, School of Medicine, was named to the National Academy of Medicine; Joseph Glorioso and Ronald Montelaro, both of the School of Medicine, were named to the National Academy of Inventors; and Rory Cooper, School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences, was named to the National Inventors Hall of Fame.
Research funding: Pitt’s funding from NIH in 2021-22 was up 13 percent from the previous year, hitting $675.4 million and ranking third among U.S. institutions. Notably, there was a 91 percent growth in larger ($5 million to $10 million), team-oriented awards, “which is remarkable,” Gallagher said. “We’re encouraged by this and we continue we believe this is, again, systematic change.”
University Library System: “When I arrived here in 2014 libraries across the country were facing somewhat of an existential crisis,” he said. “The growth of digital resources and dissemination of research literature was replacing the physical collections of books that we were used to, and there were deep questions about the future of our library facilities, the role of libraries in our campus. Today at the University of Pittsburgh, our library system is thriving. If you don’t believe me, go visit the library after this meeting. It is one of the most vibrant and dynamic places on campus.” He singled out Special Collections and Archives and the many new acquisitions, including the August Wilson archive and the horror collection.
Athletics: Gallagher noted that he rarely talks about Pitt Athletics at the Trustees meetings, “but something special is happening here and it’s noteworthy to see what our athletes and our coaches and our athletics department have accomplished.” He called attention to several teams:
Women’s soccer made its first NCAA tournament appearance and made it to the Sweet 16.
Men’s soccer advanced to the final four for the second time in three seasons.
Women’s volleyball made it to the final four for the second year in a row.
Wrestling won its second ever ACC regular season championship and is ranked 16th in the country.
Men’s basketball is in serious contention for an ACC title, with more than 20 wins.
Football capped a 9-4 season with a win in the Sun Bowl and ranked in the top 25.
“We are in a new golden era for Pitt Athletics. I don’t believe that’s hyperbole,” Gallagher said.
One measure of this is the Learfield Directors’ Cup, developed by the National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics and USA Today, which measures each sport at a school on a point-based system by how they finished in NCAA tournaments and adds those up for its ranking.
“Pitt closed the fall season ranked sixth out of 154 schools,” the chancellor said. “We have never been that high in the rankings before. Now they’re not final until the spring season is complete but our fall sports programs have already set a school record.”
Gallagher ended his statements by pulling together all these accomplishments under the heading of “positive momentum.”
“I believe that … this very positive momentum comes from a steady focus on doing our mission with a commitment to excellence,” he said. “I’m really proud of what Pitt is doing right now and more excited about what it’s poised to do. And I just want to know that this would not be happening without the dedication and support of everyone that is a part of this University. … Let me close my report today by thanking each and every one of you. We face a future from a position of strength and abundant opportunity because of you. And I do believe that because of our efforts, we are making the world a better place.”
Susan Jones is editor of the University Times. Reach her at email@example.com or 724-244-4042.
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