Passings

To share a recent passing of a member of the Pitt community, Please submit a request to the Pittwire editorial staff. Publicly available obituaries of current and former faculty and staff, students, and alumni will be considered for inclusion in Pittwire Passings.

James G. Greeno, distinguished experimental and educational psychologist

James G. Greeno, a leading scholar at Pitt's Learning Research and Development Center (LRDC) and Department of Psychology from 1976 to 1984, died on Sept. 8, 2020, following a prolonged illness. He was 85.

After retiring from Stanford University, Greeno returned to Pitt from 2003 to 2012 as a visiting professor and adjuct professor at the School of Education as well as a center affiliate at LRDC and resident fellow of the Center for Philosophy of Science.

Demetreus Gore, the 'spark plug' for Pitt basketball in the 1980s, dies at 54

A key figure in Pitt’s rise to national prominence in the late 1980s, Gore died on Aug. 30, 2020, after suffering a heart attack while working out at a gym in the New York area. Current Pitt Men's Basketball Head Coach Jeff Capel tweeted in tribute to Gore, “RIP to a Panther great. Another brother gone too soon!”

Assistant treasurer, Susan Gilbert, stayed positive despite struggles

Pitt’s assistant treasurer, Susan Gilbert, died Aug. 11, 2020, after an eight-year battle against breast cancer.

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.”

Richard Prosser Mellon / Quiet philanthropist was ‘a giant’ in conservation

Richard P. Mellon, remembered as having done more for land conservation than any private individual in American history, died at age 81 at his summer home on Cousins Island, Maine.

The scale and breadth of giving under his leadership at the Richard King Mellon Foundation touched nearly every aspect of life and culture in southwestern Pennsylvania. But it was  his commitment to the creation of Pitt’s Cancer Institute (now the UPMC Hillman Cancer Institute) in the mid-1980s that helped transform the region’s economic forecast by boosting the region's "eds and meds" sector, said Pitt Chancellor Emeritus Mark A. Nordenberg.

Carlton Haselrig, six-time NCAA wrestling champion and Pro Bowl lineman with Steelers

Carlton Haselrig, the only six-time wrestling champion in NCAA history, who went on to become a Pro Bowl guard with the Steelers and a mixed martial arts champion, died July 22, 2020, at the age of 54.

His record-breaking wrestling career at Pitt's Johnstown campus forced the NCAA to create the so-called “Carlton Haselrig Rule” barring smaller-school champions from competing at the Division I level.

John C. "Jack" Mascaro

Jack Mascaro, a Swanson School of Engineering alumnus and outstanding Pitt volunteer, advocate and benefactor, died on July 19, 2020, after a hard-fought battle with illness. He was 75.

"As one of our Distinguished Alumni, Jack was lauded by the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering and the school for his contributions to Pitt, the region and the profession, and was also honored by the University with the Chancellor’s Medallion," wrote James R. Martin II, the U.S. Steel Dean of Engineering, in an email to the Swanson school community. "Thanks to his beneficence, the Mascaro Center for Sustainable Innovation and our focus on sustainability will continue his legacy for generations."

E. Maxine Bruhns, who dedicated her career to embracing cultural diversity, dies at 96

E. Maxine Bruhns, who brought the diverse cultures and traditions of so many immigrant and refugee communities from around the world to the University of Pittsburgh for students and visitors to experience throughout the past five decades, died on July 17, 2020, in Pittsburgh at age 96.

Marvin Lieber, a brilliant lawyer for more than six decades

A managing partner at four local law firms and a past president of the Pennsylvania Bar Association, Marvin Lieber, 86, of Oakland died July 16, 2020, after a series of recent health setbacks.

As a Pitt trustee and School of Law Distinguished Alumnus, Lieber "was a big presence at Pitt," said Mark A. Nordenberg, chancellor emeritus and former dean of the law school. “He was almost a constant source of advice and encouragement for me.”

Carl Fuhrman, renowned radiologist with a gift for teaching

Carl Fuhrman, chief of thoracic radiology at UPMC and a Pitt medical school professor for the last 27 years, died on June 27, 2020, of a heart attack while he was working at UPMC Presbyterian Hospital. He was 67.

After earning the James D. Heard Senior Prize in Medicine as the top student in his senior class at Pitt Med, Fuhrman completed a residency in diagnostic radiology and began teaching at Pitt as an assistant professor. (He became a full professor in 1994.) He was a nine-time winner of the Golden Apple award, given by students to the top medical school professor. He was recognized 15 times with the Ronald J. Hoy Excellence in Teaching Award in radiology—so many times that the prize, given by residents, was renamed in Fuhrman’s honor in 2016.

Vernell A. Lillie

Vernell A. Lillie, a Pitt professor emeritus of Africana Studies who cofounded Pittsburgh's Kuntu Repertory Theatre and served as its artistic director for decades, died on May 11, 2020, her 89th birthday.

Lillie cofounded the award-winning theater company in 1974 and nurtured several generations of African American students and artists. "She was the queen mother of black theater in this city," said Sala Udin, a former city council member, activist and actor.

Bing Liu, a prolific researcher who was studying coronavirus

The University of Pittsburgh is deeply saddened by the tragic death of Bing Liu, a prolific researcher and admired colleague at Pitt. We extend our deepest sympathies to Liu’s family, friends and colleagues during this difficult time.

Members of our School of Medicine describe their former colleague as an outstanding researcher and mentor, and they have pledged to complete Liu’s research “in an effort to pay homage to his scientific excellence." Please see this statement from his colleagues at the Department of Computational and Systems Biology for more about Dr. Liu’s contributions to the field.

Paul H. O'Neill, former treasury secretary, Alcoa giant and Pitt trustee, dies at 84

O'Neill, whose 13-year career at Pittsburgh-based Alcoa Corp. became the stuff of legends after he made zero workplace injuries a company mantra, died April 18, 2020, at his Shadyside home.

Following his retirement as chair of Alcoa, O'Neill served as Treasury secretary under President George W. Bush for 11 months until December 2002. He was a Pitt trustee from 1988 to 1991 and a UPMC trustee from 2003 to 2004.

Ambridge police chief was also Pitt part-time instructor, retired Pittsburgh officer

Ambridge, Pa. Police Chief Mark J. Romutis, 64, who also served as a part-time instructor of criminal justice in Pitt’s College of General Studies, died April 12, 2020, from complications of COVID-19.

Romutis spent most of his law enforcement career with the Pittsburgh Bureau of Police, where he served in Zone 2 from 1983 until his retirement from the force in 2004. He also worked as Ellwood City’s police chief and as a Beaver County sheriff’s deputy.

Purdue President Emeritus Steven Beering remembered

Pitt alumnus Steven C. Beering, who was president of Purdue University from 1983 to 2000, died on April 6, 2020. He was 87 years old.

Under Beering’s leadership, Purdue expanded its international efforts, grew its liberal arts programs, promoted diversity, greened and beautified the campus, added 20 major buildings and took fundraising to new levels, a Purdue statement said. Beering earned a bachelor's degree summa cum laude from Pitt in 1954 and, under a Mellon Fellowship, went on to finish medical school there in 1958.

Stephen Louis Kondis

Stephen Louis Kondis, a Pitt alumnus and longtime faculty member at the University, died of natural causes on March 24, 2020, at 91.

Kondis graduated from Pitt's School of Dental Medicine in 1953, beginning a dental career that included 34 years of private practice in Munhall, Pa. For more than 40 years, he also served as an assistant professor at the school and on the staff of the Department of Dentistry, South Hills Health System.

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.

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.

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.

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.”

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, his 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."