Rosemary Scully helped put Pitt Physical Therapy on the map

Rosemary Scully

Rosemary Scully, former chair and associate professor in the Department of Physical Therapy, passed away August 7, 2019, in Sun City West, Ariz., where she resided after her retirement. 

She joined the physical therapy faculty in 1972 and remained until 1992 when she retired. She served several in leadership roles including as chair and worked continuously to enhance physical therapy training at Pitt.

She successfully implemented innovative ways to incorporate clinical experts into entry-level and post-professional educational offerings by convincing the Pittsburgh Veterans Administration, Presbyterian University Hospital and the Center for Sports Medicine to create combined clinical/faculty positions. These models proved mutually beneficial by greatly enhancing the educational programs and strengthening clinical learning within the Department of Physical Therapy while providing teaching opportunities to practicing clinicians.

She also hired two orthopedic experts, Richard Erhard and Rick Bowling, both of whom put the Pitt on the map as one of the best orthopedic post-graduate programs in the country.

Scully grew up in Weirton, W.Va., where she developed her love of sports. At 14, Scully was one of the youngest women to try out for the women’s baseball league made famous in the movie “A League of Their Own.” She was not offered a baseball contract but did go on to earn a degree from West Virginia University in 1957 in physical education. She then completed the one-year physical therapy education program at Columbia University in New York City. 

She worked at Bellevue Hospital in Manhattan and later at Columbia Presbyterian, where she got a taste for education by becoming a supervisor for clinical education. She left New York briefly for a stint at Albany Medical College but was recruited back to NYC to work at Downstate Medical Center in a newly created physical therapy education program.

Scully met Pitt’s School of Health Professions’ founding dean, Anne Pascasio, at an American Physical Therapy Association district meeting, and was eventually convinced to return to her hometown region and join the physical therapy faculty at Pitt.

She was an expert in clinical learning. She studied the physical therapist-patient interaction in her doctoral work and consulted extensively as an educator. She co-authored a book entitled “Physical Therapy” and published several papers about physical therapy education.

She was a Lucy Blair Service Award winner and a Catherine Worthingham Fellow, recognizing outstanding achievement in practice, research or teaching. The award is the second highest given by the American Physical Therapy Association.

She loved all things sports but especially the Pittsburgh Panthers. She and her mother could often be found watching a baseball or football game on TV or playing with their amazing dog, Boomer. 

The Endowed Scully Visiting Scholar Program at Pitt was developed after Scully’s retirement to honor her mother and father. She felt that it was important to promote the excellence of the Department of Physical Therapy by inviting distinguished scholars to give a lecture and to meet with students and faculty for open forums and discussions. 

Donations may be made to Endowed Scully Visiting Scholar Program, University of Pittsburgh Department of Physical Therapy, 6035 Forbes Tower, Pittsburgh, PA 15260.

This is an edited version of a remembrance of Rosemary Scully on the School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences website.