By SUSAN JONES
Friends from near and far gathered to honor Sharon Smith on May 7, as she prepares to retire as president of Pitt–Greensburg at the end of June.
More than 100 people attended the invitation-only reception that featured live testimonials of Smith’s impact, along with recorded messages from several who couldn’t attend. Smith has been president of Pitt–Greensburg since 2007.
It was the second event honoring Smith in the past month. On April 16, faculty, staff and students had a surprise lunch for the outgoing president and dedicated the campus’ bronze statue of Bruiser the bobcat mascot in honor of Smith and unveiled a plaque that will be mounted on the rocks that serve as the base of the statue.
At last week’s event, Steve Ryan Jr., a member of the Pitt–Greensburg Advisory Board and CEO of Ryan Enterprises in Fairfield, Conn., emceed the event. He quoted George Bernard Shaw: “Some people see things as they are and ask, ‘Why?’ Others dream things that never were and ask, ‘Why not?’ ”
“That is the Dr. Sharon Smith that I know,” said Ryan, who has worked with her since her time at Fordham University.
Several former colleagues from Fordham, where Smith was dean of the College of Business Administration, sent recorded messages, including Mark Conrad, associate professor of law and ethics. “I watched you … have the ability to come up with great ideas and you were able to mold both Fordham and later on Greensburg into premiere institutions.”
Everette Dennis, dean of Northwestern University in Qatar, said, via video, that he’s been privileged to work with Smith on the book, “Finding the Best Business School for You,” and on an upcoming book. “She’s far more than everything on her resume … she gets things done and she makes an impact wherever she goes,” Dennis said.
Thomas Headley, founding executive director of Westmoreland Heritage, an economic development and history education group based at Pitt–Greensburg, credited Smith with helping keep the organization going, particularly the St. Clair Lecture series with notable historians.
Smith was instrumental in starting the first baccalaureate program in nursing in Westmoreland County, which will enroll its third class this fall at Pitt–Greensburg.
Helen Burns, chief nursing officer at Excela Health who collaborated on establishing the program, said, “Sometimes circumstances just align and I think that’s what happened with you, Sharon, being here at Pitt. … You’ve shown us that leadership is not about title or status or wielding power. A leader is someone who takes responsibility for recognizing the potential in people and in new ideas. … You’ve shown us what it is to be tenacious and gracious as well as doing it from the heart and full of grit.”
Provost Ann Cudd said she saw right away after joining the University last year that Smith was a “remarkable person.”
“I see Sharon’s expert hand in the way she’s shaped Pitt–Greensburg’s priorities and vision,” Cudd said, citing new majors that have been established during Smith’s tenure, along with the Center for Applied Research and the Center for the Digital Text, and the building of Frank A. Cassell Hall.
“She has undoubtedly positioned the campus to be responsive to the changing needs and interests of Pitt–Greensburg’s students and the broader community,” Cudd said. “Because of Sharon’s efforts, when her successor comes on board July 1, he’ll find many paths to pursue and build upon as Pitt–Greensburg moves forward.”
Chancellor Patrick Gallagher, who was traveling in India for Pitt, concluded the remarks with a recorded message saying Smith had led the campus through a remarkable period and “you’ve made a tremendous difference.”
Ryan also announced the Sharon P. Smith Endowed Student Resource Fund, which will be presented annually to provide students money to continue their education at Pitt–Greensburg. Donations can be made here.
One special tribute came from David DeJong, executive vice provost, in the form of a haiku:
“The power of one.
One force of nature that is.
My what shoes to fill.”
Smith, whose degrees are in economics, thanked those who have helped her make a difference. “When we work together, there is no limit to what we cannot do,” she said.
She said her 12 years at Pitt–Greensburg have been filled with challenges, but she’s had plenty of help to overcome those challenges. She quoted a Chinese proverb that she also used at a campus celebration in April.
“When the winds of change come, some people build walls and other people build windmills. This campus built windmills that Bruiser (the Bobcat, mascot) could fly on,” she said.
Susan Jones is editor of the University Times. Reach her at email@example.com or 412-648-4294.