Founding dean of SHRS was icon in physical therapy

Anne Pascasio

Anne Pascasio, founding dean of the School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences and a pioneering female leader at Pitt, died June 22, 2020, at 95.

Working early in her academic career at the Watson School of Physiatrics at the D. T. Watson Home in Sewickley, she then moved the program to Pitt in 1967 to form what was dubbed the School of Health Related Professions in 1969. Starting with three programs — physical therapy, medical technology and child development/child care — under her direction, the school added health records management, clinical dietetics and occupational therapy.

An extremely well-regarded physical therapist who had the rare honor of being named a fellow of the American Physical Therapy Association, Pascasio left the deanship in 1982 to join the faculty of the Department of Physical Therapy and retired from the University in 1986.

“She was an icon in this profession,” said current Dean and Professor Anthony Delitto, “a founding dean at a time when there weren’t a lot of females in leadership positions at the University of Pittsburgh, especially in the health sciences.”

The school instructs students in 13 different professions today, “so if you become the dean you almost have to lose that tribal mentality, and she did that,” he said. “But people forget that she was very highly accomplished in her field.

“Everyone spoke highly of her ability to teach, and she was considered a mentor to many,” including young faculty at Pitt, he said. “Teaching was her passion, and she taught people how to teach.”

Delitto recalls how Pascasio commanded respect: “She spoke very eloquently. There was always a pause before she would say anything, and you knew it was always precise and on target. When she didn’t think you were doing something in the best way, she would let you know — but not in a loud voice.”

Jerry Martin, who succeeded Pascasio as dean, watched her in action since joining the school faculty in 1969 and worked closely with her for a dozen years.

“She was very organized, from a budgeting perspective and very considerate of everybody she worked with,” Martin recalled. “She had a unique presence. She gained respect simply because she was always able to make a good case and do it in a very diplomatic way. I saw her in the tensest of meetings. She was always prepared. She gained respect because her case was always so solid.”

Pascasio remained active in the school for decades after retirement, funding its Learning Resource Center as a memorial to her parents and the Anne Pascasio Endowed Scholarship Fund, created originally by the school to honor her, which continues to aid numerous students.

An alumnus of Pitt, where she earned her bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees, she also worked throughout her career with UPMC Children’s Hospital, the Illinois Medical Center, the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania and its School of Medicine.

 “She was able to see her school, which she created, evolve over the past 50 years, and I think it is just where she wanted it to be,” Martin said.

She is survived by nieces and nephews Judy Pascasio Cain, Regis and Jeannie Miller, Kathleen Miller, Richard and Carole Miller, Bob and Vicki Pascasio, Ed and Jarita Pascasio and Janet Pascasio, as well as many great, great-great and great-great-great nieces and nephews.

Memorial gifts are suggested to the Anne Pascasio Endowment Fund, c/o the University of Pittsburgh School of Health & Rehabilitation Sciences, 4028 Forbes Tower, Pittsburgh, PA 15260, or the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank.

— Marty Levine