Elizabeth Baranger, credited with helping to institute high-quality graduate programs throughout Pitt as vice provost for graduate studies, died May 30, 2019.
Former Provost James Maher was her colleague in the Department of Physics and Astronomy beginning in 1970, before Baranger joined him in the provost’s office. “She was a very well-known and well-respected nuclear physicist before she became an administrator,” he notes.
As vice provost, Baranger worked closely with the deans of all Pitt schools, Maher recalls, “to make their graduate programs as good as we could make them. The high quality of graduate programs throughout the University is certainly a wonderful legacy.”
He also describes her as “a very generous colleague, never really looking for credit for herself, even though she deserved lots of it.”
Baranger earned her B.A. in mathematics from Swarthmore College in 1949 and her Ph.D. in physics from Cornell University in 1955, joining Pitt that year as an instructor after two years as a research associate at California Institute of Technology. Apart from a brief stint at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (1969-1973), she spent all her career here. She became dean of graduate studies for the arts and sciences upon her return, then moved to the vice provost position in 1989. She retired in July 2004.
During her long Pitt career, Baranger was a liaison to the Provost’s Advisory Committee on Women’s Concerns, “one of several of her activities aimed at improving the status of women at Pitt,” a University Times article noted upon her retirement. She was only the second woman physics faculty member when she joined the University and the first female member of the provost’s senior staff.
She also pushed graduate programs into the Internet era, encouraging online applications, theses and dissertations and the modernization of Pitt’s graduate studies website.
As she retired, Baranger was honored with the Arts and Sciences Graduate Student Organization Elizabeth Baranger Teaching Awards for graduate student teachers, given annually to a pair of recipients in each of the social sciences, natural sciences and humanities.