LaValley kept Human Genetics department running

Michele LaValley, long-time administrator of the Department of Human Genetics in the Graduate School of Public Health, died March 23, 2020 at 62.

LaValley joined Pitt in August 1976 and retired in May 2014.

“She was the person who kept the department running as chairs came and went,” recalls Eleanor Feingold, the department’s interim chair and a faculty member who arrived in 1997. “She was the steady state that kept the department going.”

LaValley helped to bring new faculty onboard and to keep faculty research running smoothly, Feingold says. She also tackled issues that were new and difficult, such as a new formula for giving a portion of tuition money back to schools, based on enrollment.

“No one knew what to do with it at first,” Feingold says. “She made sure we knew how this new thing worked and that we knew what to do. (LaValley) really dug into all the financial stuff and really figured it out.

“She was a lot of fun to sit around and talk with,” Feingold adds. “Working with her was just a pleasure. She was supportive of everyone. … She was really the heartbeat of the department, both functionally and socially. She taught me everything I needed to know about crazy administrative stuff, and that has been valuable throughout my career.”

Matt Weaver, administrator of the Department of Environmental and Occupational Health in the school, began his Pitt career 25 years ago working for LaValley on grants and contracts. “She was a stickler for detail, and she preached that all the time,” Weaver says. “For her it wasn’t how long it took you to get it done, it was that when it was done it was a good product.

“She was always available,” he adds. “She was a very good mentor,” teaching him how to deal with people and how to be customer-service oriented administrator. “She was one of the nicest people and most trusting people you’d ever meet. She was a wonderful person.”

She is survived by siblings Robert DeMauro and Debra Williams, as well as nieces Autumn and Sarah Williams.

— Marty Levine