At the Sankofa 50th Commemoration Gala on Saturday, Oct. 26, part of Homecoming 2019, five distinguished alumni will be honored by Pitt’s African American Alumni Council (AAAC). The gala recognizes alumni who have excelled in their careers and carved a national footprint with outstanding contributions to society and the University community.
Visit AAAC’s website for more information about the group’s 2019 Homecoming activities.
Daniel Armanios, Rhodes Scholar and Marshall Scholar
A 2007 summa cum laude graduate of the Swanson School of Engineering, as well as the Kenneth P. Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences, Armanios received the Goldwater Scholarship in 2004 and the Truman Scholarship in 2005. In 2007 he was awarded the Rhodes Scholarship, with which he earned two master’s degrees at Oxford University in the United Kingdom.
After earning a PhD in 2015 at Stanford University, Armanios returned to Pittsburgh. He is an assistant professor of engineering at Carnegie Mellon University where his research focuses on the public policy impact upon China and Africa concerning the interrelationship between entrepreneurship, high-tech innovation, infrastructure and public organizations.
Yvonne Cook, president of the Pittsburgh Highmark Foundation
A 1991 graduate of the College of General Studies, Cook went on to earn a master’s degree in public management at Carnegie Mellon University.
Cook is president of the Highmark Foundation. In 2018, the foundation granted nearly $3 million to health and wellness related nonprofits in Western Pennsylvania and West Virginia. Previously, she was an official on the staff of Allegheny County Executive Jim Rodney.
In 2017 Cook created the exhibition “Instill and Inspire: The John and Vivian Hewitt Collection of African American Art.” The landmark show was presented at the August Wilson African American Cultural Center in downtown Pittsburgh. An accompanying book of the same name was published by University of Pittsburgh Press.
Marvin Perry Jones, varsity athlete and retired Pan American airline pilot
A 1959 graduate of the Swanson School of Engineering, Jones earned a bachelor’s degree from the mechanical and aeronautical departments.
A letter winner in each of the years he competed for the Panthers in varsity track and field from 1955-1959, Jones was a member of the 1955 relay team that won the IC4A championship in New York City.
Upon graduation, Jones, through ROTC, was commissioned a 2nd Lieutenant in the U.S. Air Force, achieving the rank of captain by the time of his honorable discharge six years later. He was the first Black pilot to fly for Pan American Airways in 1965. In 1986, he became the airline’s first African American captain. He was a founder and president of the Organization of Black Aerospace Professionals. His generosity to Pitt has earned him membership in the Chancellor’s Circle for many years.
Charles Smith, former NBA player and Olympian
A record-setting Panther basketball player, Smith earned a bachelor’s degree from the Dietrich School in 1988 and that same year won a Bronze Medal in the Summer Olympics. He played 10 seasons in the NBA before becoming an NBA Players Association executive.
Smith is the leading scorer in Panther varsity basketball history with 2024 points. He blocked 236 opponents’ shots, also a Pitt record.
The first Pitt student to be drafted in the first round of the NBA draft, Smith was the third overall pick in 1988. Smith played on four NBA teams, four years each, including the Los Angeles Clippers and the New York Knicks.
Smith is currently head of sports and entertainment at MediaCom and is the executive in residence at St. Francis College. In 2018 he was inducted into the Pitt Athletic Department Hall of Fame.
Carol Wise, chief operating officer of Dallas Area Rapid Transit
A 1979 graduate of the Kenneth P. Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences, Wise earned a master’s of public administration from the Graduate School of Public and International Affairs in 1981. Wise is executive vice president and COO of Dallas Area Rapid Transit.
Wise was among the first staffers appointed to the Pitt Black Studies program (now the Department of Africana Studies) in 1969. While assisting students in their quest of higher learning, she completed her own Pitt degree in urban studies as an adult learner.
Having worked in Washington D.C., four states and the Asian Pacific rim, Wise is now a leading transportation executive, winning the 2019 Women Who Move the Nation award from the National Association of Minority Transportation officials.