Chancellor Addresses Challenges, Successes of Year Marred by Pandemic

Despite a year that has presented numerous challenges tied to the COVID-19 pandemic, Chancellor Patrick Gallagher highlighted a few key successes during the Sept. 25 fall meeting of the Board of Trustees.

“A crisis has a way of revealing your weak spots. But it also forces you to draw on your greatest strengths in such a way that everyone knows what they are—or in this case—who they are. Pitt’s foundational strength lies in its people,” he said during the close of the fiscal year 2020 report.

During the meeting, hosted live on Zoom and streamed on YouTube, Gallagher touched on the economic impacts of the coronavirus, data on student enrollment, social justice movements geared toward racial equity and the role the University has played as a community partner and leader in innovation throughout the pandemic.

He noted research showing that steroids improved outcomes for critically ill COVID-19 patients, which led immediately to changes in World Health Organization treatment guidance. Gallagher also praised research efforts leading to vaccines in development and at the clinical trial stage, plus a trio of Phase 3 clinical trials led by Pitt under the National Institutes of Health to explore the use of blood thinners for adult COVID-19 patients at risk of developing life-threatening blood clots. 

In community news, he featured work from the Office of Community and Governmental Relations, which organized the Pitt Pandemic Service Initiative—an effort that deployed 505 staff members and 200 students to work 2,879 volunteer hours to help serve 30 regional service organizations. Additional efforts noted included a partnership with the Neighborhood Resilience Project to train community health deputies to disrupt virus transmission, a partnership with the Beyond the Laptops campaign to give more than 1,000 computers and a Community Technology Help Desk to provide digital support across the region.

“The COVID-19 pandemic threw us all off balance, to put it mildly. One of the things I’m most proud of is the way the Pitt community righted itself and quickly looked to help others,” Gallagher said.

Board of Trustees’ Resolution of Thanks

At the close of the Sept. 25 meeting, former Chair Eva Tansky Blum and the Board of Trustees expressed their gratitude to the entire University community for their actions during the pandemic.

“Everyone has stepped up, and so I just wanted to end with a note of appreciation, but also a note to the board to recognize that if you're going to attribute our success over the last year, in any of the things we've talked about, you have to give the credit for that success back to our community,” said Tansky Blum, who filled in for Chair Thomas E. Richards at the meeting.

“Under some of the most difficult circumstances and events we have ever seen in our lifetimes, people stayed focused on why we're here: to provide educational opportunity, to advance the frontiers of knowledge, to develop vaccines, to save lives at a time when they themselves are victims and being affected.”

She continued: “I think it would be appropriate for the Board of Trustees to put that into a resolution that thanks and congratulate the staff, the leadership, the student body, the faculty and every employee we have for the outstanding job they've done in this particular pandemic.” 

Of course, the resolution passed.