Clark Strausser taught economics at Pitt–Johnstown for 35 years

Clark Strausser, professor emeritus of Economics at Pitt–Johnstown, died Aug. 20, 2020. 

A familiar face on campus for decades, he was hired on Sept. 1, 1973 as an associate professor of Economics at the Johnstown campus and retired on Aug. 31, 2008.

“Although he retired over a decade ago, Dr. Strausser was a distinguished member of the university family for 47 years, until the very last day of his life when several of us here at the University called to chat with him on Thursday morning,” said Jem Spectar, president of Pitt–Johnstown. “As a professor, students benefitted from his brilliance as he challenged them to bring out their best. Over the years, alums have shared with me that his excellent and rigorous teaching as well as his high expectations, pushed them to work extremely hard and they credit him for their success later in life.”

“Dr. Strausser was a smart and tough professor,” said Raymond B. Wrabley, chair of the Division of Social Sciences and Division of Business and Enterprise. “To many he seemed intimidating, but he was also a hugely generous, gentle and compassionate man. He gave gifts to the children of faculty and staff, tutored struggling students long after he retired, and cared deeply about Pitt–Johnstown and our community. I'll miss our daily conversations.” 

Along with his work in the classroom, Strausser was also an avid supporter of Pitt–Johnstown athletics, both academically and financially. 

“We formed a unique and unlikely friendship for two men from completely different backgrounds,” said Pat Pecora, Pitt–Johnstown’s athletic director and head wrestling coach. “The relationship withstood the test of time, for over 45 years, and touched thousands of lives. I will always value and treasure our friendship. ‘Doc’ Strausser became a part of my family and was a vital member of the UPJ wrestling family. He will be missed but never forgotten.”

The university recognized Strausser for his distinguished service to student-athletes and the collegiate athletic program with the Meritorious Service Award at the Athletics Hall of Fame in 2017. He also created the Clark W. Strausser Scholarship Fund.

— From the Pitt–Johnstown website

Assistant treasurer, Susan Gilbert, stayed positive despite struggles

Pitt’s assistant treasurer, Susan Gilbert, died Aug. 11.

“Sue courageously battled cancer for eight years,” said her colleague, Lori Doran, executive administrator in the office, “but so many didn’t realize it because she was such a positive person and maintained such an unwavering professional outlook.

“She was not only a high-performer admired for her work, but she was the whole, complete package as a leader,” Doran recalled.

“She took it upon herself to ignore her own challenges and instead chose to lift up others through her incredible energy, positive attitude and infectious smile,” Treasurer Paul Lawrence wrote to his staff. “While I’m sure everyone has their own memories of Sue, this is how I will remember her. A true fighter. A selfless person. A bright light in what sometimes seems like a harsh world.”

“There were so many things that were going on, and you would never have known,” he told the University Times. “She was pleasant and happy and had this great energy about her and such a positive attitude.”

Gilbert joined Pitt as assistant treasurer in 2000. 

“Throughout her tenure,” noted Chief Financial Officer Hari Sastry in a remembrance, “she provided strategic oversight and effective management of the University's capital finance structure, banking and cash management policies/systems, and short-term investment management.”

Most recently, she was instrumental in helping the University issue a $400 million century bond — a 100-year loan — at a very low price, Sastry wrote: “Sue’s efforts directly helped to secure a stable future for the University.”

Born Jan. 3, 1965, Gilbert received her bachelor’s degree in finance and economics from Indiana University of Pennsylvania, then earned two degrees from Pitt: an MBA from the Katz Graduate School of Business and a master’s degree in public policy and management from the Graduate School of Public and International Affairs. 

“She loved the University of Pittsburgh,” Doran said, “and it was very evident,” not only from her dedication to the treasurer’s office team but in the way in which she signed almost everything “#H2P.”

“She really made you feel we were on the same team and she was grateful always for how we all contributed to work,” Doran added. “She considered her colleagues at Pitt like her second family, and we absolutely believed it.

“She just kept going on, when so many people would not have continued to work. She would go into chemotherapy treatment and then come into the office. She didn’t want anyone asking her: How are you doing? How are you feeling? She just had that strength.”

She is survived by her husband Steve; mother Patricia; children, Lauren and Shane; and siblings, Debby (Jeff) Recker, Mike (Ellen) Murray, Kathy (Jim) Griener and Eileen (Don) Stanford, and many other family members.

Memorial contributions are suggested to the Whitehall Public Library, 100 Borough Park Drive, Pittsburgh, PA 15236.

— Marty Levine

Radiology’s Fuhrman was consummate educator and clinician

Carl Fuhrman, chief of the Thoracic Imaging Division of the School of Medicine’s Department of Radiology — memorialized as a “consummate medical educator, clinician and all-around academic radiologist” by his colleagues — died June 27, 2020, at 67.

“Carl was really unique,” recalled his department chair, Jules Sumkin. “Teaching was clearly his passion. People do it for different reasons. For Carl, it was down to the core of his being and satisfied something deeply in him.”

Just in the past several days, Sumkin said, he heard from one of Fuhrman’s medical school classmates, who recalls Fuhrman teaching her, even then. He has heard also from Fuhrman’s residents, who were still in touch with him today — a rare occurrence, Sumkin said. 

Fuhrman gave 7 a.m. conferences to any residents who wished to attend. “He just did it because he had a calling,” Sumkin said. “His profession here and the people he taught became his family.”

He also was famed for his clinical abilities: “His fund of knowledge was massive. He had a photographic memory. He could be reading a case, look at the name, and he would remember whether he’d seen a relative’s images. I would show him cases” — even cases in Sumkin’s specialty — “and I’d always learn something from him.”

Fuhrman mentored other junior faculty, including Sumkin, who joined the faculty just a few years after Fuhrman. “He was kind of a role model, someone I looked to, to see how they did it. It was very daunting to me because he was so accomplished and so smart at such a young age. But he was always very low-key about it. He would never make you feel ‘You will not get to the place where I’m at.’ ”

Fuhrman received the Ronald J. Hoy Excellence in Teaching Award from the Department of Radiology 15 times — to the point where the award was renamed for him. He won the University’s Golden Apple Award nine times, presented by the senior medical class in recognition of the best teacher each year. He also earned Pitt’s Distinguished Teaching Award.

Fuhrman served as director of Undergraduate Medical Education and recently completed his tenure as president of the Alliance of Medical Student Educators in Radiology. He directed the medical school’s advanced radiology course and co-directed the anatomy life science course, and served on a variety of committees for his school and UPMC hospitals. He frequently presented lectures both in the United States and abroad and served as a visiting professor at multiple institutions.

Born in Erie on Aug. 11, 1952, Fuhrman earned his medical degree from the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine cum laude in 1979 and became an assistant professor in radiology in 1983 and a full professor in 1994. He was chief of thoracic radiology almost continuously for the past 27 years.

“Carl’s gift of teaching was rivaled only by his academic and clinical prowess,” remembered Jacob W. Sechrist, interim section chief of the Division of Cardiothoracic Imaging. “He had an impressive track record of research involving interstitial lung disease, emphysema and lung cancer.” Fuhrman, he said, had a work ethic that was “astounding. … He has inspired all of us in our daily work and will be deeply missed.”

“Carl Fuhrman was an irreplaceable treasure in the medical community,” added Christopher N. Faber, faculty member in the school’s Division of Pulmonary, Allergy and Critical Care Medicine. He noted that Fuhrman “was a central figure in the education of over 180 pulmonologists” from the school over the past 35 years, including those attending his weekly thoracic radiology conferences. 

“I happened to attend the last such conference he gave,” said Faber, “in which he taught me about a pulmonary disease previously unknown to me (and I have been a pulmonologist for 33 years). The most prominent physicians in the region across numerous specialties would seek out his opinion to help guide the care of their patients with thoracic disease.”

Fuhrman and his colleagues had moved a few years ago to the new south tower of UPMC Presbyterian, where the waiting area has high windows looking over Oakland, past the medical center, the Cathedral of Learning and even beyond Carnegie Mellon University.

“The image that I have most of him,” said Sumkin, “I can remember coming in for a very early meeting and seeing Carl standing by himself, looking out those windows, just appreciating the view, and he was very happy to be here.”

He is survived by three sisters, Barbara Pugel (late Lud Pugel), Mary McIlroy (Bill) and Carol Hagen; nieces Stacey Serafini (Chris) and Elizabeth Pugel Runevitch (Scott); nephews Paul Hagen (Laura), Jeff Pugel (Alina) and John McIlroy (Katie); great-niece Sophia Pugel; and great-nephews Will Pugel and John McIlroy.

A memorial service is planned for noon July 15 outside UPMC Presbyterian. Memorial gifts are suggested to the Carl Fuhrman Radiology Education Fund, Division of Philanthropic and Alumni Engagement, University of Pittsburgh, 128 N. Craig St., Pittsburgh, PA 15260.

— Marty Levine

Anne Pascasio

Founding dean of SHRS was icon in physical therapy

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

Vernell Lillie

Former Africana Studies professor Lillie founded Kuntu Repertory Theatre

Vernell A. Lillie, a former associate professor of Africana Studies and founder of Pitt’s Kuntu Repertory Theatre, died on May 11, her 89th birthday. She retired from Pitt in 2006.

Born in 1931 in Hempstead, Texas, Lillie arrived in Pittsburgh in 1969 to pursue a doctorate at Carnegie Mellon University. In 1973, she began teaching in what was then Pitt’s Department of Black Community, Education, and Research and, along with prolific poet and playwright Rob Penny, founded Kuntu the following year.

The new theater company exposed Pittsburgh audiences to cutting edge ideas, art, culture and the Black community’s social and political concerns. For nearly four decades, it featured works by Penny, Pulitzer Prize-winning Pittsburgh native August Wilson and other Black playwrights.

Kuntu was the first company to mount the August Wilson play “Homecoming” in 1976, which Lillie directed. Actors such as Emmy-winner Esther Rolle, Sala Udin and Pittsburgh Playwrights Theater Company founder Mark Southers performed on the Kuntu stage, located at Pitt’s Stephen Foster Memorial, and later at Alumni Hall. Chadwick Boseman of “Black Panther” fame also had a play staged by Kuntu and acted in it.

Lillie’s career at Pitt garnered her many awards, including the Chancellor’s Distinguished Teaching Award in 1986, a Distinguished Daughter of Pennsylvania in 1998 and the Pennsylvania Creative Community Award in 2006. A scholarship in Lillie’s name was established at Dillard University in New Orleans, her alma mater. She kept Kuntu alive even after her retirement. The company’s final performances were at the Homewood Library in 2013.

For a full reflection on her life, see Pittwire.

Longtime anthropology professor McPherron dies at 91

Alan Locke McPherron, who spent his entire career in the Department of Anthropology in the Dietrich School of Arts & Sciences, died April 16, 2020, at 91.

Born March 3, 1929, in Chicago, McPherron earned his bachelor’s degree in history from the University of Chicago in 1950, then was drafted into the Army in 1955, working as a radio operator in Hanau, Germany through 1957. 

He married his first wife, Stase, that year, and soon received his Ph.D. in anthropology from the University of Michigan.

His Pitt career included many summers overseas working on archaeological sites, mainly in Kragujevac, Serbia, and Sardinia, Italy.

“Alan was one of the first colleagues I met upon joining the department in 1986,” recalls Robert M. Hayden, who today has joint appointments in law and public & international affairs and is also faculty in the University Center for International Studies. “He had surprised me when I interviewed by striking up a conversation in very good Serbo-Croatian” — a language Hayden also knew from his work in what was then Yugoslavia.

“Being an assistant professor in an American department is never easy, but Alan provided me with a sympathetic ear … When Yugoslavia went into war he stopped speaking the language — I think he felt the tragedy too closely.”

Returning two years ago to archaeological sites where McPherron worked, Hayden says, he found individuals who still “had very good memories” of their collaboration with McPherron, who continued to do academic research after his retirement in 2000.

He is survived by his second wife, Beth Prinz, children Kate, Patrick and Jesse, and grandchild Jasper.

— Marty Levine

Bruce Baker

Bruce Baker’s invention helped many with language disabilities

Bruce Baker, inventor of a pioneering system to help those with severe language disabilities to communicate — who brought his expertise and dedication to the students of the School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences — died May 7, 2020, at 77.

Katya Hill, a faculty member in the school’s Department of Communication Science and Disorders, was working as a speech-language pathologist in northwestern Pennsylvania when Baker spoke there about his device, which she was already using, and convinced her to come to Pitt for her Ph.D.

Hill points to the documentary made about Baker’s work and the individuals whom he has helped. “Only God Can Hear Me” shows “how speakers have been independent, have a higher quality of life and are participating more in the community” thanks to Baker’s invention, called Minspeak, made by his company, Semantic Compaction Systems.

“It’s an especially robust communications app,” Hill says, which allows users to pair icons representing words with buttons representing a part of speech, from noun and adjective to all the conjugations of verbs, to create sentences.

Baker had the idea for Minspeak while pursuing his Ph.D. and caring for someone with cerebral palsy, Hill said. Watching this person spell out every word in order to communicate inspired Baker to seek out a better method for allowing the reproduction of speech.

Coming to the school after his invention was on the market and successful, Hill says, “Bruce was a generous individual. He looked for people that he felt had talent and provided them with support,” including sponsoring hourly student workers in her laboratory. 

“Bruce also knew individuals that used his device, and that’s what motivated him,” she adds. “I don’t think many manufacturers of products have close relationships with people who use their products.”

His influence on his field of augmentative and alternative communication made him “one of the founding fathers,” she says. In the classroom, “he was challenging. He always had a different twist to things.” She could attend a lecture on the same topic over and over, she recalls, “and I would always learn something new — he always had something different to share, something he would find in the literature.”

Patty Kummick, the school’s executive director of internal and external relations, lauds Baker’s creation of several awards, including the Semantic Compaction Systems Educational Travel Fund, a school-wide fund that supported students and junior faculty travel opportunities to conduct research, attend professional conferences, undertake service programs, study abroad or pursue other educational opportunities.

Baker attended the scholarship reception each year: “He loved the opportunity to engage with the students and learn about their travels and study. He was just a kind soul who loved to help students and see them excel in any way possible.”

He was an adjunct associate professor in two school departments, Rehabilitation Science and Technology (since 1993) and secondarily Communications Science and Disorders, and was still active at his death. He also served on the school’s advisory Board of Visitors.

“His whole life was his work and I think his goal in life was to help other people,” Kummick says. “He believed in the power of education and the power of travel to expand knowledge, and that was truly an opportunity he wanted to make sure the students had.”

— Marty Levine

Geology's Cassidy tripled the world’s meteorite collection

Emeritus Professor William A. Cassidy of the Department of Geology and Environmental Science in the Dietrich School of Arts & Sciences — creator of the Antarctic Search for Meteorites (ANSMET) program in 1976 and its primary investigator for nearly 20 years — died March 25, 2020.

Bruce Hapke, a department geophysicist who arrived with Cassidy in 1967 and retired in 2001, just a few years after him, had the office next door and spent many a lunch together. Hapke recalled Cassidy as “a very kind person and thoughtful. He was very considerate, and he had a kind of unique gift: If two people were discussing something and they started to argue, he would be able to come up with just the right sentence and diffuse the situation. It made him a good leader.

“He was a good friend and a good scientist,” Hapke added. “He was a meticulous observer and researcher and he mentored his students well.”

Cassidy’s greatest impact came with ANSMET, Hapke said. Learning that a Japanese team had discovered several meteorites on the Antarctic ice and theorizing that glacier movement and subsequent wind erosion of the ice was exposing meteorite falls from disparate times and locations, Cassidy received National Science Foundation funding over many years to explore the area. His own team recovered more than 22,000 meteorite samples, tripling the world's meteorite collection. Some of his finds were later discovered to be pieces from the moon and Mars.

In recognition of his work, Antarctica’s Cassidy Glacier was named for him, as well as the mineral Cassidyite and an asteroid, 3382 Cassidy. He recounted his work in a 2003 Cambridge University Press memoir, “Meteorites, Ice, and Antarctica: A Personal Account.”

Cassidy also spent years studying the impact craters left by meteorites, particularly in Argentina, where about 20 clustered craters were left from a large iron meteorite that had broken up in mid-air. Employing local people to help with the excavation, Cassidy received another NSF grant to uncover a 13-ton iron meteorite, one of the largest iron meteorites in the world, which the Argentine government subsequently turned into the center of a national park.

One meteorite, however, eluded Cassidy, Hapke said. Searching through the records of the original Spanish conquerors of what would become Argentina, Cassidy noticed their sighting of “a mountain of fire” that had fallen from the sky. It must have arrived during the same meteorite shower that produced the 20 craters, Cassidy surmised. But he could never find this other impact area. “He said, ‘How can you lose a meteorite that big?’” Hapke remembered. “But he never did find the ‘mountain of fire.’ He figured the Spaniards melted it down for weapons or something.”

Another departmental colleague, William Harbert, who joined Pitt in 1989, remembered Cassidy as “a world-class scientist” and instructor. “His teaching was really exceptional. He was a very popular teacher. Any time people saw him or his office door was open, people were welcome to walk in, and he was always focused on what they were talking about.

“He was just a voice of common sense, very good natured as a mentor for me and giving me advice” as a fellow faculty member, Harbert said. “He was someone who was extremely generous with his time, focusing on what needed to be done and what the path forward was – what was best collectively.

“He had a very wry sense of humor,” he added. “It’s the kind of sense of humor you see in field geologists who have spent a lot of time in remote field areas.”

According to a department memorial statement, Cassidy graduated from the University of New Mexico with a bachelor’s degree in geology and earned his Ph.D. in geochemistry from Penn State University, where he met his wife, Beverly, at Penn State. They had three children, Shauna, Laura and Brian.

— Marty Levine

Euba helped grow the African music program at Pitt

Akin Euba — Andrew W. Mellon professor emeritus in the Department of Music (1993-2011) and an influential teacher of intercultural and creative ethnomusicology courses — died April 14, 2020.

“Akin Euba was a big reason why I decided to come to Pitt as a grad student, for his understanding of composition and African music,” said Philip Thompson, the department’s concerts and communications coordinator, who first joined the department as a graduate student in composition and theory in 1996.

After taking Euba’s creative ethnomusicology course, “it’s not a stretch to call that a life-changing experience,” Thompson recalled. Euba’s teaching “broadened my mind in ways I’m still working at years later … It had a huge impact on how I think about music creatively and intellectually.

“The thing that was most influential was the way he encouraged us to explore freely regardless of our own usual cultural backgrounds,” Thompson added. “He wanted us to explore unusual cultures that we were unfamiliar with and incorporate it into our own work.” As an African scholar and artist, knowledgeable about African and European traditions, Euba “had this understanding that empires come and go, and you don’t let the empires define what you’re expressing. He just had this understanding: Culture is diverse and fluid.”

At Pitt, Euba also taught Music in Africa, Field and Lab Methods and World Music. As a memorial posted on the department’s website notes: “He was a leading composer of African Art Music and composed for a variety of mediums from solo piano to opera.” He was also “well known for his pioneering theory of African Pianism,” which uses the piano to translate African music for a worldwide audience.

The Guardian of Nigeria said that Euba was born in Lagos on April 28, 1935, and attended the Trinity College of Music, London, receiving his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from UCLA and a Ph.D. in ethnomusicology from the University of Ghana. He received a Rockefeller Foundation Fellowship in 1962.

Euba’s career had impact across the globe, from starting a department of music at the University of Ife in Nigeria to serving as a research scholar and artist in residence at IWALEWA House, the African studies center of the University of Bayreuth in Germany (1986-1992).

He was also the founder and director of the Centre for Intercultural Music Arts in London (1989) and director emeritus of the Centre for Intercultural Musicology at Churchill College, University of Cambridge.

After Euba had a stroke about a decade ago, Thompson recalled his continued vitality: “I remember from that time his tenacity,” as Thompson was recruited to aid Euba in organizing and running the International Conference on Musical Intersections in Practice at Cambridge soon after. “He was determined to accomplish everything that needed to be accomplished. That was very inspirational to me.”

Department chair Mathew Rosenblum remembered Euba as “a huge mentor to students,” as Euba and other faculty drew students to Pitt from Africa for study. “He was very warm and very energetic. He always had a smile – he would always bring a lot of positive energy to the room, wherever he was…. His legacy lives on through many students throughout the world.”

— Marty Levine

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

Colclaser was chair and associate dean in electrical engineering

Robert Gerald “Jerry” Colclaser Jr., former chair of electrical engineering and associate dean for research in electrical engineering in the Swanson School of Engineering, died March 4, 2020, at 86.

He will be remembered both for bringing the lessons of industry to Pitt classrooms, says his former doctoral degree advisee, Swanson faculty member Gregory Reed, and for inventing, with a partner, technology that is still used by the electrical utility industry.

In 1992, Reed was in New York City, working for the city’s electrical utility, Consolidated Edison, and contemplating his Ph.D. Jerry Colclaser was tops on his list as potential advisors, Reed recalls, since Colclaser was already famed for his work and had his name on many research publications, as “one of the world’s foremost authorities on electromagnetic transient analysis.”

Reed’s campus visit with Colclaser cemented the decision to come to Pitt, he recalls: “That was a wonderful five years. He was such a pleasant person. He was always upbeat, made you laugh, made you smile. He was just a delightful person to have as a mentor.”

Colclaser had joined Pitt after working for Westinghouse Electric Corp., and still did work for them. He was thus able to bring many practical experiences into his courses, focusing his class assignments on those with applications to real-world projects.

“As a professor, better than anybody, he brought industry into the classroom,” Reed says. “He meant a lot to his students. He had a lot of influence on what I did next,” first working in industry for another dozen years, then joining Pitt as a faculty member.

However, Reed adds, “First and foremost, his biggest contribution to industry was as one of the original developers of the gas-current breaker. To this day, it is the technology of choice for utilities worldwide for how they apply current breakers for the protection of their networks.” In a memorial remembrance sent to colleagues, Reed labeled the invention “one of the most important elements of power system protection, operation, safety and reliability to this day.”

He and many other students stayed in touch with Colchester after his retirement. “It’s a special bond, when someone like Jerry, who has had so much impact on people, passes,” Reed says.

Colclaser was born on Sept. 21, 1933, in Wilkinsburg and received his bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from the University of Cincinnati in 1956 and his doctoral degree in the same subject from Pitt.

He was a life fellow of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers and won 21 patents for his inventions in electrical power generation and distribution.

He is survived by his wife, Helen; children, Jan M. Hanks (Dale), Robert G. Colclaser III (Alison) and Linda S. Parshook (Bruce); his stepchildren, Michael M. Heck (Debbie), Matthew J. Heck (Theresa) and Michele M. Heck; his brother, Roy A. Colclaser (Judi); and grandchildren Jessica Nicklos, Alexis and Nikolas Parshook, Lara De La Vega and Chase Heck.

Memorial gifts are suggested to the Delmont Public Library, 77 Greensburg Street, Delmont, PA 15626. Please write "R. Colclaser" on check memo line.

— Marty Levine

Lombardi was leading scholar on liver cancer research

Benito Lombardi, called “one of the pillars of research on liver cancer” by his former colleague and current chair of pathology in the School of Medicine, George K. Michalopoulos, died Jan. 24, 2020, at 91.

Lombardi joined the department in the early 1970s and retired in 1995 but continued to attend pathology seminars at the school for years, Michalopoulos recalled. “He’s been extremely well recognized as an outstanding researcher,” Michalopoulos said.

Lombardi researched characteristics of the early forms of liver cancer, using pre-cancerous indicators in mice and rats to chart the stages of cancer development.

“He had a defining role in the whole direction of liver cancer research at that time,” Michalopoulos said. “He carved a pathway for many other investigators to follow in this area.”

When Michalopoulos began as chair in 1991, he didn’t have administrative experience. But he remembered the help he received from Lombardi: “He was always guiding me, giving advice.” In fact, Lombardi mentored many faculty through the years, the chair added.

Born near Venice, Italy, Lombardi received his medical degree from the University of Padua. His academic career included stints at institutions in Toronto in the mid-1950s, and in Cleveland.

While at Pitt, he was a member of the National Cancer Institute of the National Institutes of Health. In 2008, his department created the Lombardi and Shinozuka Experimental Pathology Research Chair in recognition of contributions that he and his long-time research collaborator, Hisashi Shinozuka, made to the field of experimental pathology.

Lombardi is survived by his daughters, Gabriella (Lella) and Laura, brother Mariano and an extended family of nieces, nephews and their children in Italy. Memorial donations are suggested to the Alzheimer’s Association.

— Marty Levine

Woman with glasses

Classics Department’s Mae Smethurst was noted noh scholar

Mae Elizabeth Johnson Smethurst, who spent her entire career in Pitt’s Classics Department, died Dec. 15, 2019 at 84 at home.

Smethurst was born May 28, 1935, in Hancock, Mich. The granddaughter of Finnish immigrants, she spoke Finnish before English. At age 7, Mae’s father took a job in the defense industry and her family moved to Philadelphia, where she grew up playing the violin in the Lower Merion High School orchestra and excelling academically.

Her scholarly achievements continued at Dickinson College in Carlisle, Pa., where she majored in Classics and French. While a freshman at Dickinson, she met Richard Smethurst, who would become her husband, intellectual partner and best friend. She passed away one week before she and Dick would have celebrated their 63rd anniversary. After getting married in 1956, Dick went to Japan to serve in the U.S. Army. Mae joined him after her graduation in 1957. During this first stay in Japan, she taught Classics at the American School, and, with Dick, developed a connection to Japan that would last for her entire life.

Peter Grilli, a student she taught at the American School, took Mae and Dick to see Benkei’s famous roppō on the hanamichi in “Kanjinchō” at the old Kabukiza; this was their introduction to Japanese theater. They first saw noh at a “Noh for Foreigners” production of “Dōjōji” in Tokyo.

Mae took her Ph.D. in Classics at the University of Michigan in 1968, a year after she began working in the Classics department at the University of Pittsburgh. She was appointed assistant professor at Pitt in 1968. She chaired the department from 1988-94 and retired in 2013. She also held a courtesy appointment in the Department of East Asian Languages and Literatures from 1989 until her retirement.

Mae’s prolific body of work in Classics was recognized by a number of awards. She was named Junior Fellow of the Harvard University Center for Hellenic Studies in Dumbarton Oaks 1979-80. She received the Distinguished Classicist Award by the Classical Association of the Atlantic States in 1993, and was University of Pennsylvania FEW Lecturer/Scholar of Asia and the Classics in 2004-05. 

From early on, Mae actively engaged with scholars of Japanese literature and theater. In a series of conferences at Yale beginning in 1976 examining “Time and Space in Japanese Culture,” she was brought in to offer an “outsider,” comparative view.

Her comparative engagement with noh and Greek tragedy was the focus of numerous articles and books. “The Artistry of Aeschylus and Zeami: A Comparative Study of Greek Tragedy and Noh,” published by Princeton University Press in 1989, received the Hiromi Arisawa Memorial Award from the Association of American University Presses and was hailed as one of the first monographs to offer a cross-cultural examination of a Japanese literary genre.

“The Artistry of Aeschylus and Zeami” was translated into Japanese in 1994 by Professor Kiso Akiko, carving a place for English-language scholars working on premodern Japanese literature and culture. Mae’s publications on noh continued in 2000, with “Dramatic Representations of Filial Piety: Five Noh in Translation” with the East Asia Series at Cornell University, which was awarded a Japan-United States Friendship Commission Translation Prize by the Donald Keene Center of Japanese Culture at Columbia University. In 2013, she used Aristotle’s “Poetics” to approach realistic noh (genzai nō) in “Dramatic Action in Greek Tragedy and Noh: Reading with and beyond Aristotle” (Lexington Books), which was then translated into Japanese and published by the Nogami Memorial Noh Theatre Research Institute at Hosei University.

Mae’s career brought her into contact with prominent artists as well as scholars. She and Dick regularly hosted noh and kyōgen troupes for performances and workshops at Pitt, including Uzawa Hisa, Uzawa Hikaru, and Nomura Mansai. In conjunction with these events, she and Dick created outreach opportunities in the Pittsburgh community and forged a strong link with Pittsburgh’s Creative and Performing Arts High School, which helped co-host events.

Along with Dick and colleagues at Pitt, she helped create an exhibit and digital database of the noh prints of Tsukioka Kōgyo. Throughout her life, she continued to find ways to make the arts she loved accessible to colleagues, students, and the community.

Benjamin Haller, associate professor of Classics at Virginia Wesleyan University, remembers her as an amazing teacher and equally amazing human being. Sachiko Takabatake Howard and Yuko Eguchi Wright, who participated in a seminar in noh Mae co-taught with Dick, recall her passion for noh and for teaching, as well as her respect for her students, a trait both of them try to emulate in their own teaching careers.

A memorial service will be held at 2 p.m. March 27 in Heinz Memorial Chapel.



Ertel excelled at bionucleonics at School of Pharmacy

Robert J. Ertel, who had a long career as a professor of pharmacology in the School of Pharmacy, died Dec. 10, 2019 at 87.

Ertel was already a Pitt faculty member when Rege Vollmer became his student in 1972; they became faculty colleagues in 1977. Ertel taught some of the school’s core courses in pharmacology and physiology, as well as a very popular course in bionucleonics — the use of radioactive materials in research — as Vollmer recalls. The latter course was one “that everyone loved to take. He was the only one who had the expertise. It was very important.” The course was highly valued for its real-world, practical lessons even by those from other schools, such as students from the School of Medicine and from the biology department in the Dietrich School of Arts & Sciences, Vollmer says.

Ertel collaborated with Vollmer on several cardiovascular research projects, and with many other faculty members conducting studies that dovetailed with his expertise. Even after Ertel retired, he continued to work with student members of the professional pharmacy fraternity, Kappa Psi, since he was their long-time faculty director, Vollmer says. “They really enjoyed him being their faculty guy,” he adds.

Ertel was also active in the University Senate, serving several terms as vice president in the late 1980s.

Vollmer remembers him as “a person that you could really get close to. He’s one of those people who had no airs about him — he was very approachable.” Ertel was also an avid hunter and very active in Saint Winifred Church in Mt. Lebanon.

— Marty Levine

Grace Lazovik

Grace Lazovik led the way on teaching evaluation methods

Grace French Lazovik, a pioneer in the measurement of teaching effectiveness whose work as a faculty member in the Department of Psychology led to regular teaching evaluations at Pitt, died Nov. 17, 2019 at 97.

Nancy Reilly, director of the Office of Measurement and Evaluation of Teaching, said Lazovik’s leadership of the Center for the Improvement of Teaching in the psychology department beginning in 1971 was the foundation for OMET.

Lazovik had already begun studying teacher evaluation methods as a graduate student at the University of Washington. The center’s mission at Pitt was to explore the reliability of student evaluations and what factors influenced them, in order to better develop the evaluation process. By 1972, Lazovik had created a Student Opinion Teaching Survey, using it at first in her department and then more broadly in other departments and schools.

By 1976, the provost had formed a committee to examine possible survey use throughout the whole of Pitt. Lazovik then directed the University-wide Office for the Evaluation of Teaching. In 1987, OMET was established, and Lazovik retired as an emerita professor shortly afterward.

These early surveys proved effective, Reilly said, and Lazovik wrote important papers in the field about her work, publishing several books about teacher evaluation.

“She was the driving force” for getting these surveys across campus, Reilly noted. “She really laid the groundwork to establish all of this. She was always proud that she developed this standardized system.”

Lazovik also saw the need to develop effective peer evaluation instruments for faculty, which remains important today, Reilly said.

“We have changed the surveys” in the ensuing years, added Reilly, but “without her foundation for making sure it was a reliable, valuable instrument, I don’t know what would have been done.”

When Susan Campbell joined the psychology department in 1976, Grace Lazovik’s husband David was chair, but Grace was one of the few female faculty members there and certainly the most senior, Campbell recalled: “She was very helpful to junior faculty in the department, and she was helpful to women — she certainly supported women faculty just by being there for us. When you’re a female faculty member in the ‘70s and early ‘80s, in a very big department, you have to have other women around or you feel very alone.”

After David Lazovik died in 2000, Grace Lazovik created an endowed fund in his memory. Each year it supports graduate students in clinical psychology, awarding three student research grants for dissertation aid and internships for career help and professional development as well as receptions for new students and those graduating each spring.

She is survived by children A. David Lazovik Jr. (Dee), Deborah Shaw Lazovik (Harold Shaw), and Marc Lazovik; nephew Steven Wright (Mary Beth Wright); six grandchildren and 12 great-grandchildren. A memorial is being planned for the spring in Homewood Cemetery, with details to come. Donations are suggested to the Lazovik fund in the Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences’ Department of Psychology.

— Marty Levine

Welsh made life easier in Financial Information Systems

Richard S. Welsh, a staff member with more than 25 years at Pitt – for the last 17 years as development manager in the Financial Information Systems department of the Office of the Chief Financial Officer – died Nov. 19, 2019.

Rich Welsh was born on March 1, 1963. After studying computer science at Pitt, Welsh’s first University job was student programmer in the housing services department in 1993. He was hired as a full-time programmer analyst there the next year, then joined Financial Information Systems in 2002, where he worked as a developer and manager. A statement from his department called Welsh “a well-respected, excellent leader and an innovative developer.”

Welsh’s work involved creating websites, including his department’s own website, and smaller applications, such as forms. His supervisor for most of his time in Financial Information Systems was Carol Zielinski, applications director.

“He always worked extra hard,” Zielinski recalled. “He would work at home to get things done. All his staff had respect for him, and he knew how to motivate people. There wasn’t anything he thought was beneath him.”

Approached to work on new technology, “whatever it was, he would figure it out,” she said of Welsh. “He worked day and night to figure it out. He was there for me, and he made my life easier as a manager.”

He is survived by his son, Richard H. Welsh; long-time companion Tina M. Stone; parents Richard K. and Laverne Welsh; siblings Shawn, Steven (Dana) and Lori McDonald (Larry); stepchildren David J., Brittney E. and Victoria A.; and many aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews and cousins.

Former med school associate dean Levey was an advocate for women faculty

Barbara Levey, a former associate dean and director of admissions and assistant dean for curriculum at the School of Medicine, who is remembered for helping to increase female medical student admissions and serving as a role model for female medical faculty, died Oct. 29, 2019, at 84.

Barbara Ann Cohen, born March 7, 1935 in Newburgh, N.Y., graduated from Cornell University in 1957 and in 1961 she earned an M.D. from the State University of New York at Syracuse — the only woman in her graduating class of 120. She joined Pitt, 1979-91, as a professor of pharmacology and of medicine, serving on Association of American Medical Colleges committees supporting women in medicine.

Alan Robinson, a former endocrinology Pitt faculty member and vice chair of medicine, recalled Levey as “a real proponent of equality of admissions for women. That was the stand-out achievement of her time there at Pittsburgh.”

For School of Pharmacy Dean Patricia Kroboth — a clinical pharmacist — Levey’s work as a clinical pharmacologist was most impressive. Kroboth recalls her division and Levey’s department cooperating in new ways: “We established a wonderful relationship where pharmacy students and medical students could see patients with interesting pharmacological challenges.” The pairing also created the first grand rounds for pharmacy and medical students to examine medically complicated cases related to medications.

“I remember Barbara’s enthusiasm for the interaction and for educating students.” She also recalled Barbara and her husband, Gerald Levey, who was chair of the department of medicine at the Pitt School of Medicine from 1979-1991, as “gracious hosts who often had groups of people to dinner at their home. It was a wonderful time.”

Mary Korytkowski, a medicine faculty member who joined Pitt in 1989, recalls the Leveys as both very welcoming: “As a junior faculty member, I felt very supported by her husband, but I held her in particularly high regard. She was certainly a role model for women who were junior faculty at the time. I remember talking about having a family, because my children were very young when I came here. … She was very supportive of having a family and a career together.”

Patricia Bononi, an endocrinologist with Partners in Nephrology and Endocrinology who graduated from the School of Medicine in 1985, said: “She was a tremendous role model for me, especially during medical school. I remember someone telling us the first day of medical school that our class was 30 percent female — the highest percentage of enrolled women at the time. I am certain that was entirely due to her efforts.”

Barbara Levey left Pitt with her husband in 1991 and in 1994 joined the UCLA faculty as assistant vice chancellor for biomedical affairs and adjunct professor of medicine and of molecular and medical pharmacology. There, she received National Institutes of Health grants to support training and research in clinical pharmacology — in particular, patient-oriented research training that focused on medical issues affecting minority populations. She was president of the American Society of Clinical Pharmacology and Therapeutics and on numerous academic committees to support clinical pharmacology.

Barbara Levey is survived by her husband of 58 years, son John Levey and daughter in-law Michele Kersman; daughter, Robin (Levey) Burkhardt; three grandchildren, Lia, Jaden and Simon Burkhardt; sister-in-law Beverly Cohen; brother and sister-in-law Robert and Paula Westerman; four nephews, a niece, and 10 grandnieces and nephews.

Memorial gifts are suggested to the Barbara A. Levey, M.D., and Gerald S. Levey, M.D., Scholarship at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA. Checks to the UCLA Foundation, with Levey Scholarship in the memo, may be sent c/o Emily McLaughlin, UCLA Health Sciences Development, 10889 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 1200, Los Angeles, CA 90024,, 310-794-4763.

— Marty Levine

Bernard Fisher in library

Bernard Fisher advanced breast cancer research while serving in School of Medicine

Bernard Fisher, pioneering breast cancer researcher and a distinguished service professor in the School of Medicine, died on Oct. 16, 2019, at 101.

Fisher advanced the understanding of the clinical biology of breast cancer and pioneered the design and implementation of large-scale multi-institutional randomized clinical trials.

He earned his bachelor’s and medical degrees at Pitt in 1940 and 1943, respectively, joining Pitt shortly after as the medical school’s first full-time Department of Surgery faculty member. In 1953, he established the University’s first Laboratory of Surgical Research and contributed to the development of transplantation and vascular surgery. He performed the first kidney transplant in Pittsburgh in 1964 and directed surgical research here in liver regeneration, transplant rejection and hypothermia.

In 1958, Fisher began to focus on cancer research, becoming a founding member (1958) and later chairman (1967-1994) of the National Surgical Adjuvant Breast and Bowel Project (NSABP). His subsequent research led him to challenge breast cancer treatment dogma that had prevailed since the 19th century — that patients were best treated with radical mastectomy. His studies in the 1970s proved that less extensive procedures — lumpectomies — had similar survival rates.

Fisher’s research also showed the value of adding systemic, adjuvant chemotherapy or hormonal therapy and of employing tamoxifen for breast cancer prevention. “No clinical therapy should be determined by emotion or conviction — the determinant must be the scientific method,” Fisher said in a 2009 video interview shown at that year’s annual Pitt lecture named in his honor.

“Bernard Fisher was one of the great medical pioneers of our time,” said Chancellor Patrick Gallagher in remarks released by Pitt. “His research at the University of Pittsburgh fundamentally changed how clinicians treat breast cancer — and saved an untold number of lives along the way.”

Arthur S. Levine, senior vice chancellor for the health sciences and dean of the School of Medicine, called Fisher “a titan. His research improved and extended the lives of untold numbers of women who suffered the scourge of breast cancer. His work overturned the dominant paradigm of cancer progression and, to the benefit of all, demonstrated the systemic nature of metastasis. This work offered us great insight into the biology of all cancer.”

Fisher received numerous honors throughout his career, including the Albert Lasker Award for Clinical Medical Research, the American Association for Cancer Research Award for Lifetime Achievement in Cancer Research and an honorary doctorate from Pitt. A member of the National Academy of Medicine, he was appointed to the President’s Cancer Panel and the National Cancer Advisory Board and was the first surgeon to serve as president of the American Society of Clinical Oncology.

He is survived by his three children — Beth Fisher (Dr. Harvey Himel), Joseph Fisher (Debra) and Louisa Rudolph (James) — five grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.

Jan Smith in hospital scrubs

Jan Smith was the ‘conscience and soul’ of anesthesiology department

Jan Smith — likely the longest-serving faculty member in the School of Medicine’s Department of Anesthesiology and Perioperative Medicine, who worked in the greatest number of Pitt and UPMC medical facilities locally and worldwide — died Sept. 6, 2019.

His departmental colleague Mark Hudson says Smith “was always considered the conscience and soul of the department.”

Jan Daniel Smith was born on Feb. 6, 1939 in Pretoria, South Africa. He earned his medical degree from the University of Pretoria School of Medicine in 1961. He interned at McCord Hospital, Durban (an American mission hospital) and took additional training in pediatrics, internal medicine and anesthesia in Durban’s Addington and King Edward VIII Hospitals

In 1964, Smith joined the anesthesiology residency program at the Peter Bent Brigham Hospital, Boston, then completed both a critical care and a pulmonary fellowship at Pitt.

In 1969, he began internal medicine training at Groote Schuur Hospital, Cape Town, South Africa, then returned to Pitt in 1971 to finish this training and join the University faculty.

Smith moved to the University of Iowa College of Medicine’s pulmonary division in 1974; to the University of Texas Health Sciences Center in San Antonio in 1976 as a pulmonologist and then in both anesthesiology and internal medicine; to the chairmanship in anesthesiology at the University of Nebraska College of Medicine in 1983; and to the Northeastern Ohio University College of Medicine in 1985.

In 1987, he returned to Pitt and was appointed chief of anesthesiology at UPMC Presbyterian, 1988-1996. During his sabbatical year of 1994, he earned a diploma in tropical medicine and hygiene from the Royal College of Physicians.

In the years that followed, Smith’s roles shifted with the expansion of UPMC. He became chief of anesthesiology and medical director at UPMC Beaver Valley until 2000, when he moved to help develop ISMETT, the UPMC transplant and major surgical center in Sicily. He returned to the Pitt campus in 2002 as vice chair for clinical operations until his retirement in 2006 as professor of anesthesiology, internal medicine and critical care medicine.

As an emeritus, Smith continued his association with the department as a volunteer teacher and, in 2009, assisted with the development of UPMC Beacon Hospital in Dublin, Ireland, as its associate medical director. Volunteering as a teacher in sub-Saharan Africa, he also was appointed an Extraordinary Professor of Medicine at the University Pretoria School of Medicine.

In 2011, the Allegheny County Medical Society recognized his 50 years of service with its Award for Volunteer Work, and in 2013, his department’s Education Office named a classroom in his honor.

“Jan has been a presence in the department and participated even after his retirement with mentoring,” recalled Hudson, who first joined UPMC under Smith’s leadership and eventually took over for Smith as vice chair for clinical operations in 2006.

At ISMETT, Hudson said, “Jan was instrumental in the creation of the academic environment for the institution,” while Hudson aided with the clinical staff. Smith used his love of travel for good, Hudson said, “helping to improve the medical care in many places. He was a remarkable gentleman anesthesiologist” who excelled at “establishing relationships in a very thoughtful way.” He called Hudson’s group of Pitt anesthesiologists “the generation that really established the anesthesiology department.”

Smith’s expertise was centered on pulmonary medicine, lung injury, patient safety issues and critical care medicine applications. The departmental classroom was named in his honor, Hudson explained, because Smith “really influenced the educational program for our residents.”

“He and his wife were some of the most generous, genuine people I have known,” Hudson added. “He was just a genuinely friendly, thoughtful person. Everyone loved him.”

Jennifer Branik, executive assistant to the chair and vice chair of the anesthesiology department and Smith’s right-hand person for the past 17 years, recalled him as “the historian for the department … doing essentially anything that was asked of him.

“He was absolutely one of a kind,” she continued. “He was a class act and in my personal opinion he was thoughtful, caring, and probably the most generous man you’d meet in your life. He made an appreciable difference in people’s lives, both personally and professionally. He was the consummate man and the consummate professional.”

Smith is survived by his wife of 56 years, Jeanette Niemeyer Smith, and three children, Robert (Kathy Van Stone), Andrew (Sandra Espinosa) and Anita (Dr. Andrew Murray) and nine grandchildren. 

Memorial gifts are suggested to Baptist Homes Foundation, 500 Providence Point Blvd., Pittsburgh, PA 15243 or the Salvation Army.

— Marty Levine

Doerfler brought real-world expertise to teaching dental residents

Richard Doerfler, a practicing orthodontist whose teaching took students from anatomy to the business of practicing dentistry, died Sept. 18, 2019.

Doerfler earned his undergraduate degree from St. Vincent College in 1982 and graduated from Pitt’s School of Dental Medicine in 1986, where he was a teaching assistant. In addition, he received master’s degrees in anthropology and anatomy from Pitt, as well as a Master of Dental Science in Orthodontics degree from the dental school here.

He had orthodontic practices in Clearfield and State College, from which he travelled to the School of Dental Medicine beginning in 2001 to lend his expertise as a clinical assistant professor in the Department of Orthodontics and Dentofacial Orthopedics.

“The residents enjoyed working with him and appreciated what he had to offer them,” said department chair Joseph Petrone, “particularly because it was seasoned with a private practice (perspective). He was teaching them what made him successful.”

When Doerfler sold his practice several years ago, he increased his commitment to teaching at Pitt, adding anatomy classes to his repertoire. But he was particularly valued by the residents, Petrone said: “He definitely mentored residents in their transition to their careers in the private sector,” advising them on everything from contracts to partnering in a practice, which is a complicated business decision.

“His mentoring role for the residents in that transition to the real world was really important,” Petrone added.

Doerfler started an endowed fund, the Orthodontics Residency Fund, to provide support for Pitt dental school residents’ travel and research. He received the Distinguished Alumnus of the Year Award in 2019 for advanced education. 

He is survived by his wife of 34 years, Jane Gravatt Doerfler; his son, William Reed Doerfler; his daughter-in-law, Lindsey Saldin; and his daughter, Bethany Doerfler, as well as his mother, Barbara Doerfler, and siblings Linda (Joseph) Bartolacci, Judy (Angelo) Napoleone, James (Theresa) Doerfler, Mary (Thomas) Callaghan, and Bethany (Samuel Karow) Doerfler.

Memorial contributions are suggested to the Pitt Dental Medicine Orthodontics Residency Fund or to the St. Vincent DePaul Society.

— Marty Levine