Dunkelman worked behind the scenes for trustees and Nordenberg

Robert E. Dunkelman, former secretary of the Board of Trustees and special assistant to Chancellor Mark Nordenberg, died May 12, 2022, at 91.

In his eulogy, Nordenberg remembered Bob Dunkelman as “a very special person — a highly accomplished professional who touched countless individuals in positive ways — through his work, through his community service and just by being who he was, a warm and wonderful human being.”

Born in Wilmerding, Dunkelman earned his degree in industrial engineering from Pitt in 1954, worked for Westinghouse and served in the Army. But he spent the bulk of his career, 44 years, at Pitt beginning in 1958, first as budget director, then as vice provost for resource management and interim senior vice chancellor for business and finance, before attaining his final positions in 1992. “That list of positions, standing alone, is impressive,” Nordenberg said. “Far more important, though, was the good he did and the respect he earned in each of them.

“He quickly proved himself to be knowledgeable, helpful, capable and completely trustworthy.  From those early interactions, then, we built a productive working relationship and a strong friendship, with my feelings of admiration and affection for Bob growing with each passing year.”

When Dunkelman retired in 2002, he was named secretary emeritus of the corporation and the Board of Trustees, a unique honor in the history of the University.

His other service to Pitt included working as executive secretary to the University's presidential search committee (1990-1992) and chairing the senior vice chancellor for business and finance search committee. He was an administrative liaison to the University Senate’s benefits and welfare, budget policies and organization and procedures committees.

“I was one of many people whom Bob coached when being introduced to this world” of central administration and the Board of Trustees, recalled Randy Juhl, now distinguished service professor emeritus in the School of Pharmacy. In 2002, he became part of the University's senior leadership team as vice chancellor for research conduct and compliance.

Dunkelman, he said, set the tone and tenor of the Board of Trustees’ business, since much of the work goes on in committees prior to the public board meetings. “Bob Dunkelman played a huge role behind the scenes in that,” fielding trustees’ phone calls about the propriety of participating in certain aspects of Pitt policy when their own business interests overlapped, for instance. “Bob handled this kind of thing with aplomb. He was a very gregarious, outgoing individual and always had his eye out for things we should be aware of” — down to the proper seating for board members at social events.

“He was a consummate professional who touched a lot of people's lives. He was one of the good guys,” Juhl said.

Dunkelman and his wife, Barb, Juhl added, “were just a tremendous team together — just delightful to be around” at University functions.

Thanks to Dunkelman’s deep integrity and character, remembered Arthur Ramicone, who retired as senior vice chancellor and chief financial officer in 2018, “you could always trust Bob to deal with things unemotionally. He was always consistent. He was always a gentleman.

“These are high-powered individuals” on the board, Ramicone said. “You have to gain their trust and they have to respect you, too. Bob was very effective with that. He did a wonderful job of helping me navigate board politics. Bob would reach out to the board members individually.”

Dunkelman would also help trustees learn about the nonprofit world, the worlds of research and fundraising, Ramicone added. “Bob would help both internally and externally bridge that gap. Not everybody is able to do that.”

Chancellor Emeritus Nordenberg also noted that, when he was a new dean in the School of Law in the mid-1980s, Dunkelman helped him find his bearings in that position.

“Everyone agreed that Bob never sought the limelight but was very content to work behind the scenes to advance Pitt’s interests,” he said in his eulogy. “Those of us who knew and liked Bob liked everything about him. … I see an unbroken pattern of Bob always doing the right thing and always doing it in the right way and always building good will along the way. That is an amazing legacy — one of which Bob could rightfully be proud and one that brought honor to his family and to his University.”

He is survived by his wife of almost 56 years, Barbara; daughter Missy Udekwu; granddaughter Lily Udekwu, and nieces and nephews.

Memorial gifts are suggested to the Shadyside Presbyterian Church or the Swanson School of Engineering.

— Marty Levine