Accolades

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Steven Abramowitch

Steven Abramowitch’s Work in Diversity Initiatives Receives Honor

Steven Abramowitch, associate professor of bioengineering, recently received the Biomedical Engineering Society 2019 Diversity Lecture Award, which recognizes outstanding contributions to improving gender and racial diversity in biomedical engineering. 

Abramowitch has made an impact through his career in women’s health and the Swanson School of Engineering’s diversity initiatives.

Since starting PITT STRIVE, the engineering school’s program focusing on engagement with and awareness of under-represented minorities, the Swanson School has surpassed historic levels of minority enrollment in the PhD program. Through the study abroad programs, Abramowitch has helped undergraduate students see the impact of engineering through the lens of another culture, and with CampBioE, he has educated more than 1,000 middle and high school students, with more than 40% participation from under-represented minorities and low-income students since the diversity campaign began in 2014.

Timothy Grebeck

Austism Awareness Advocate Timothy Grebeck Wins Thornburgh Forum Award

Graduate student Timothy Grebeck began educating those around him about what it was like to have an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) when he was in the seventh grade at a regional school. Diagnosed with ASD at age nine but tired of being bullied, he says he chose as a young teen to devote his life to make sure others like him didn’t suffer the same way. Grebeck (EDUC ’19) is currently a graduate student at Pitt studying childhood and special education in the School of Education and the founder of the advocacy group Talking 4 Autism. Recently he was presented with the 2019 Dick Thornburgh Forum Disability Service Award, at a ceremony in the William Pitt Union Lower Lounge. It’s an annual honor from the Dick Thornburgh Forum on Law & Public Policy.

“Changing the world for the better starts with changing the viewpoint of just one person,” said Ginny Thornburgh, as she handed Grebeck a check for $5,000 for his future work.

Through Talking 4 Autism, Grebeck provides intimate personal presentations about the world of autism to college students and faculty as well as corporate employees. “I expect and encourage people to ask things that are uncomfortable to talk about because that is how we all learn,” he said.

The award ceremony's keynote speaker was Ted Kennedy, Jr., chair of the board of the American Association of People with DisabilitiesListen to Kennedy’s keynote speech.

Erika Ninos

PittServes’ Erika Ninos Wins National Student Support Award

Student Affairs staff member Erika Ninos, sustainability program coordinator in the Office of PittServes, has received the Post-Landfill Action Network (PLAN) Supportive Staff Member Award.

This national award recognizes a staff member who has gone above and beyond in supporting students. She was chosen for this student-nominated national award from among five nominees. 

Ninos was nominated by Student Office of Sustainability program associates Ellie Cadden and Zach Delaney, who praised her mentorship, patience and dedication. 

“One message that I have taken from her is to always recognize how powerful students are to implement tangible and positive change on campus,” wrote Cadden in her nomination. 

Wrote Delaney: “I've learned how to be an ambassador for social justice, environmental activism and everything else due to her. She has been supportive of me emotionally through difficult class schedules, working two jobs, taking summer classes, has been professionally supportive of me in my efforts on campus to serve the community here and the ones around me, and has dedicated her time on this campus to its general betterment.”

The award was presented Oct. 12 at the Students for Zero Waste Conference in Philadelphia, hosted by PLAN.

Pitt Police officers

University of Pittsburgh Police Department Named Corporate Citizenship Award Winner

The Pittsburgh Business Times announced on Oct. 9 that the University of Pittsburgh’s Police Department won a 2019 Corporate Citizenship Award for their “Most Wanted” food drive program.

The program, spearheaded by Sgt. Mark Villasenor, collects unwanted food from students’ dormitories when they leave campus at the end of the semester and uses it to stock The Pitt Pantry, a volunteer-run food pantry that serves Pitt community members who meet the federal guidelines for food assistance. They partnered up with pantry coordinator and Sustainability Program Assistant Ciara Stehley to stock shelves, cut out coupons and pass out groceries on a weekly basis. Community Relations Officers Heather Camp, Mallory Jarzynka and Guy Johnson helped with this effort. 

Devised in 2014, the food drive now gathers more than 1,500 pounds of nonperishable goods like pasta, cereal and canned goods annually. During the drive’s first year, Pitt’s police department collected enough food to fill 11 dorm move-in carts—this year, they filled 45.

The food is also given to CHS South Oakland to help fight food insecurity on campus and in the Oakland Community. The Community Relations Unit has also contributed its efforts to Special Olympics of Western PA, Adopt-A-Highway, United Way of Allegheny County, Susan G. Komen Foundation, Cops and Kids Camp and Camp Cadet.

Greg Scott, Pitt’s senior vice chancellor for business and operations, said, “We are committed to strengthening communities … and thanks to the Pitt Police’s work, it truly shows.”

The Corporate Citizenship Award honors Western Pennsylvania individuals and companies that demonstrate significant contributions to society. The winners of the award are chosen by an online nomination process. Read more about the Pitt Police’s award-winning program in the Pittsburgh Business Times.

Lawrence R. John

Lawrence R. John Elected President of Pennsylvania Medical Society

Lawrence R. John, a clinical instructor for the department of family medicine at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine was recently sworn in as the 170th president of the Pennsylvania Medical Society.

The society is a physician-led organization representing all physicians and medical students throughout the state of Pennsylvania.

John also was elected by the society’s statewide House of Delegates in 2017 to serve one-year terms as vice president (2017-18) and president-elect (2018-19) before assuming the role of president for the 2019-20 term. He is also a family medicine physician affiliated with UPMC St. Margaret.

Rachel Ann Brickner

Writing Program Alum Recognized by The Missouri Review for Audio Essay

Rachel Ann Brickner (A&S ’09, ’18G) was recognized by The Missouri Review for its 12th annual Miller Audio Prize for her audio essay, “How to Survive a Fire.”

The Miller Audio Prize recognizes work in four genres: poetry, prose, humor and audio documentaries. 

Brickner, who earned her Master of Fine Arts degree in creative writing from the University of Pittsburgh in 2018, is also a part-time instructor in the Department of English in the Kenneth P. Dietrich School of Arts & Sciences.

Murat Akcakaya

Engineering Team Receives NSF Funding to Study Brain in Rehabilitation Research

A team of researchers from the University of Pittsburgh and Northeastern University received a combined $1,181,757 from the National Science Foundation to develop a brain-computer interface (BCI) system that will be implemented in augmented reality, allowing for better detection, assessment and rehabilitation of unilateral spatial neglect. Unilateral spatial neglect is a deficit in attention that can occur in individuals who experienced a stroke.

The Pitt side of the team is led by Murat Akcakaya, assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering in the Swanson School of Engineering.

The researchers plan to focus on visual neglect and address the shortcomings of current rehabilitation by reaching beyond the clinical setting and taking activities of daily living into account. They will develop a noninvasive, portable and cost-effective tool that can be used to help guide rehabilitation programs in real-time.

Lambert in a dark suit, blue shirt and swirly blue tie

Robert F. Lambert (SCI ’95G) Named to Bank Board of Directors

Robert F. Lambert (SCI ’95G) has been named the newest director of York Traditions Bank, effective September. Besides earning his master’s in library and information science from Pitt, he is also a graduate of York College of Pennsylvania and of Penn State University. 

Lambert has served as president of York County Libraries in Pennsylvania since 2016. His history of community leadership includes serving as Controller for the City of York from 2008–16.

“I am excited to join the Board of Directors of York Traditions Bank to help support its mission as a valued community partner,” said Lambert in a press release. “The Bank’s commitment to investing in the communities it serves is exemplary. They are a highly visible, consistent force for good! I look forward to serving its stakeholders and contributing to the organization’s future success.”

Anne-Ruxandra Carvunis and Caroline Runyan headshots

Two Scientists Win High-risk High-reward Grants for Research Programs

Anne-Ruxandra Carvunis, assistant professor of computational and systems biology in the School of Medicine, and Caroline Runyan, assistant professor of neuroscience in the Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences, have won NIH Director’s Awards for pursuing major opportunities and gaps in biomedical research that require trans-NIH collaboration to succeed.

Carvunis’ research focuses on addressing questions about the uniqueness of different plant, fungi and animal species. These questions include how new genes can emerge without having parent genes, how networks of interacting molecules form and change within cells and how these networks differ across species.

Runyan’s work looks at the brain’s ability to flexibly control perception and behavior in different situations. Specifically, she images and manipulates cells and circuits to learn how the brain is able to shift gears quickly, as well as how it processes different types of sensory information depending on behavioral context.

Carvunis and Runyan both won New Innovator Awards. Part of the High-Risk High-Reward Research Program, these honorees are early stage investigators within 10 years of doctoral or postgraduate training who propose innovative, high-impact projects in the biomedical, behavioral or social sciences.

a statue on Pitt's campus

Pitt Law Boasts Highest First-time Passing Rate for Pennsylvania Bar Exam

The rate of first-time takers who passed the Pennsylvania bar exam from Pitt’s School of Law is 91.36%—the highest in the state. Eighty-one Pitt Law graduates sat for the test for the first time this past July, and 74 of them passed. Pitt Law was followed in the rankings by Dickinson, with a rate of 88.46%, Penn with 88.24% and Duquesne with 87.88%. The overall state average was 80.6%.

The rigorous two-day test, which includes six hours of written essay questions and 200 multiple choice questions, was given at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center and at the Pennsylvania Convention Center in Philadelphia on July 30 and 31. Pitt Law offers bar exam prep courses and provided therapy dogs on site for its local test-takers, as well as boxed lunches with notes of encouragement signed by Pitt Law staff and faculty.

“We congratulate the Class of 2019 on their incredible achievement, which reflects their collective hard work, perseverance and support of one another,” said Pitt Law Dean Amy J. Wildermuth. She also credited Rob Wible, Pitt Law’s director of academic success and bar exam services.

“He is our cheerleader-in-chief,” she said. “His day-in and day-out support of our students made all the difference.”

The Cathedral on a blue sky day with American flags planted in the foreground yard

Pitt Celebrates Veterans Week 2019 With Films, Photos and Food

Beginning Nov. 1, the Office of Veterans Services will host Veterans Week 2019 with a series of events aimed at building bridges, promoting understanding and encouraging dialogue. 

Community members are invited to events such as an annual drive for toys, coats and gloves (running through Dec. 6, email pittvets@gmail.com for information); a screening of the film “The Weight of Honor” and a Pitt Military Community Appreciation Brunch. The week will end with the 100th Annual Veterans Day Parade in downtown Pittsburgh. For more details and to RSVP for the events, please visit this form.

Additionally, the School of Social Work will hold a continuing education workshop titled “Working with Veterans and their Families,” on Nov. 15. The workshop aims to better prepare social workers to be a more effective helping professional in relating to and intervening with veterans and their families, and will cover topics including Veterans Administration scope and resources, suicide prevalence and intervention with veterans, working with post-traumatic stress and understanding and working with military sexual trauma.

two people walking on campus with the bright sun behind them, obscuring their faces and bodies

Pitt Ranked a Top 50 Best Global University

The University of Pittsburgh was again named among the world’s top 50 universities in the 2020 U.S. News & World Report’s Best Global Universities rankings. Pitt landed at No. 47, tied with University of Minnesota.

In the latest ranking, the magazine evaluated a list of the world’s top 1,500 universities — which includes institutions from the U.S. and more than 80 other countries. The universities were rated based on 13 different indicators measuring their academic research performance and their global and regional reputations.

Several Pitt programs ranked in the top 50 by subject, including Surgery at No. 3, Clinical Medicine at No. 18 and Psychiatry/Psychology at No. 19.

Other programs in the top 50 are:

  • No. 23: Neuroscience and Behavior
  • No. 23: Oncology
  • No. 34: Pharmacology and Toxicology (tied with University of Pennsylvania)
  • No. 36: Arts and Humanities
  • No. 39: Immunology
  • No. 42: Cardiac and Cardiovascular Systems
  • No. 49: Microbiology (tied with University of Toronto)

Pitt students come from 108 countries and all 50 states, in addition to the U.S. Territories of Guam, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Internationally, most students come from China, India and Korea. The Pitt Study Abroad program sends more than 1,800 students per year across its five campuses to over 350 programs in more than 75 countries on six continents. The university has also ranked among the top producers of Fulbright U.S. Students.

Panther statue

Six Rising African American Leaders Recognized at 2019 Sankofa Homecoming Farewell Brunch

As part of the annual Sankofa farewell fellowship brunch at Homecoming, Pitt’s African American Alumni Council is honoring six recent graduates with Rising African American Leader (RAAL) awards. Six outstanding leaders of Black Greek organizations will also be recognized. Since 2013, the RAAL awards have honored young professionals who excel in their careers and community contributions. The 2019 awardees are:

  • Brian Burley (BUS ’13G): Director of economic inclusion at Allegheny Conference and author of YNGBLKPGH, Burley is an entrepreneur, speaker and one of Pittsburgh Magazine’s 40 and Under 40 in 2017. He was also recognized for his efforts with diversity and inclusion by Whirl magazine.
  • Rodney Kizito (ENGR ’15): A doctoral student in industrial engineering at the University of Tennessee and research and development engineer at the U.S. Department of Energy, Kizito is actively involved with under-represented middle and high school students and Pitt Excel students and mentoring programs.
  • Emiola Oriola (A&S ’13): Founding program manager of the Pitt Office of Interfaith Dialogue and Engagement and founder of My Father’s Business International, Oriola is an itinerant minister, spoken word artist/poet and PhD student. He is also a 2016 One Young World U.S. Ambassador and a recipient of Pittsburgh Magazine’s 40 Under 40 award.
  • Jade Richardson (A&S ’14): Founder and CEO of Totally Screwed Up, Inc., a company that supports people affected by scoliosis and spinal fusions, Richardson was Miss Black Pennsylvania USA 2018 and a devoted member of the Pitt Alumni Association Young Alumni advisory team.
  • Lauren Wallace (BUS ’12, EDUC ’14G): Director of recruitment in the Office of Admissions and Financial Aid, Wallace was named an honoree to Pittsburgh Magazine’s 40 under 40 list by the Pittsburgh Urban Magnet Project. Wallace holds multiple leadership positions with Urban League of Young Professionals. Wallace also established and implemented the Pittsburgh Admissions Collaboration, a partnership with Pittsburgh Public Schools, Community College of Allegheny County and Pitt. She is currently enrolled in the Doctor of Education Program in the School of Education.
  • Christina Whittaker (BUS ’10): Founder, transition strategist and career planning coach with pivotandprofit.org, Whittaker for 10 years worked as a marketing executive with Fortune 100 companies. She is a community advocate dedicated to transforming K-12 urban education.

photos of each of the winners

H2P spelled in sparklers in the dark

African American Alumni Council to Honor Five During Homecoming 2019

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.

the Cathedral on a blue-sky day

Three Distinguished Alumni Fellows Named

Howard W. Hanna, Jr. and siblings Simone Myers Karp and Lloyd N. Myers have been named Distinguished Alumni Fellows in recognition of their outstanding service to the University and their professions. The award is the highest alumni honor conferred by the University of Pittsburgh and its Alumni Association.

Hanna (BUS ’42, ’49G) established Howard Hanna Real Estate Services in 1957 and built the company into the nation’s third-largest real estate firm. He was instrumental in creating the industry-changing West Penn and East End Multi Lists and in 1991 was appointed Chair of Pennsylvania’s State Real Estate Commission.

In 2014, the Howard Hanna Family Foundation established Howard W. Hanna, Jr. Scholarship Funds in the College of Business Administration and the Joseph M. Katz Graduate School of Business.

Karp (PHARM ’86) helped revolutionize the pharmaceutical industry through her work in educating physicians on the use of emerging oncology medicines. The complex drugs required doctors to not only understand how to use the medications, but also the complexities of supporting patients through the intense prescription regimens.

As a retail pharmacist, Myers (PHARM ’84) created a new standard for dispensing specialty pharmaceuticals such as those used to treat organ transplant and cancer patients. Pharmacies throughout the nation quickly adopted the system, which includes patient support and proactive interactions with insurance providers to help patients better manage their prescription costs and adherence.

Siblings Karp and Myers teamed to form CECity in 1997. The company introduced a new model for medical continuing education that took advantage of the still-young internet, using online training to teach doctors and pharmacists to prescribe and distribute new pharmaceuticals.

Karp funded the Hank Karp Brain Cancer Drug Project and the Hank S. Karp Neuro-Oncology Fellowship at Pitt in honor of her late husband.

Myers, through the Myers Family Foundation, provides lead financial support for the educational component of the Center for PharmacoAnalytics at the School of Pharmacy.

three images of the awardees, each wearing professional outfits

Willa Doswell headshot

Willa Doswell Named 2019 Woman of Excellence by New Pittsburgh Courier

Willa Doswell, associate professor in the School of Nursing, has been named a 2019 Woman of Excellence by the New Pittsburgh Courier.

The awards are given annually to 50 African American women who have made significant contributions to the community.

Doswell will be recognized at a luncheon in downtown Pittsburgh on December 12, 2019. She is also a member of the Internal Advisory Council for Pitt’s Community Engagement Centers.

Carolyn Carlins Keller headshot

Education Affiliate Carolyn Carlins Keller Receives 30 Under 30 Award

Carolyn Carlins Keller, operations manager for the Carnegie Project on the Education Doctorate housed within the University of Pittsburgh School of Education, received Pittsburgh’s 30 Under 30 Award given by the Pittsburgh Business Times in partnership with Leadership Pittsburgh, Inc.

The award recognizes leaders in Pittsburgh’s nonprofit and business landscape who “exemplify the creativity, passion and perseverance that have come to characterize western Pennsylvania’s new economy.”

The award recognizes Keller’s work outside of Pitt as the founder of Curio412, a consulting firm for mission-driven organizations including nonprofits, foundations and social businesses. In the School of Education, she coordinates, manages and monitors the various operations of the Carnegie Project, an international nonprofit consortium of over 115 schools of education.

Michel Gobat headshot

History Professor Michel Gobat Honored for Best Book

Michel Gobat, professor in the Department of History in the Kenneth P. Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences, has been recognized by the American Historical Association with an award for the best book in Latin American and Caribbean history.

Gobat will receive the Friedrich Katz Prize for his book Empire by Invitation: William Walker and Manifest Destiny in Central America.

The association annually recognizes “exceptional books, distinguished teaching and mentoring in the classroom, public history and other historical projects.”

Erv in Dyer headshot

Ervin Dyer Receives Pulitzer Center International Reporting Grant

Pitt Magazine’s senior editor, Ervin Dyer, is the recipient of a 2019 Pulitzer Center international reporting grant. The Center partners with individual journalists and news organizations to support in-depth, high-impact reporting on topics of global importance, including telling stories on problems that are often overlooked by mainstream U.S. media.

Dyer will use the grant to report from Port-au-Prince, Haiti, on an emerging and innovative urban church and its pastor. He will chronicle how the church is helping to strengthen the congregation members and build programming to battle the forces of inequality and corruption.

Dyer earned a doctorate in sociology from Pitt studying African immigrant settlement into urban America and is an award-winning former reporter with the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

He is also the founder of a storytelling collective that takes journalists, photographers and others to Haiti to share the voices of the ordinary men and women who fight back against oppression. 

“We know that poverty is a huge challenge for many Haitian citizens. This Pulitzer Center grant is important because it allows me to tell one story of how oppressed Haitians are challenging and resisting poverty to make their lives better," Dyer said. "There is a humanity in their resistance that we don’t hear much about.”

Headshot of Lauren O. Wallace

Lauren O. Wallace Recognized on 40 Under 40 List

Lauren O. Wallace (BUS ’12, EDUC ’12G), director of recruitment in the Office of Admissions and Financial Aid, has been named an honoree to the 40 Under 40 List by Pittsburgh Magazine and Pittsburgh Urban Magnet Project.

The award annually recognizes 40 “outstanding” individuals who meet the age requirement whose “creativity, vision and passion” enrich the Pittsburgh region. Since 1998, artists, entrepreneurs, doctors, educators, nonprofit executives and public figures have been among the recipients of this honor.

Wallace is also currently enrolled in the Doctor of Education Program in the School of Education.