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.

Abraham Twerski, Pitt professor emeritus and Gateway Rehabilitation Center founder, dies at 90

Rabbi Abraham J. Twerski, a Pitt associate professor emeritus of psychiatry and an international authority on addiction who founded Pittsburgh's Gateway Rehabilitation Center, died from COVID-19 on Jan. 31, 2021, in Israel.

Allan R. Sampson, founding chair of Pitt's Statistics Department

Sampson, the founding chair of Pitt's Department of Statistics from 1997 to 2000 and an active researcher, teacher and mentor as an emeritus professor, died on Jan. 30, 2021.

Rory A. Cooper, director of Pitt's Human Engineering Research Laboratories, said Sampson also was "a pioneer in the field of accessibility and inclusion for scientists and engineers with disabilities, having led by example as a leading scientist with a disability."

Dick Thornburgh, former Pennsylvania governor and U.S. attorney general and a Pitt alumnus and trustee

More pragmatic engineer than passionate ideologue when it came to politics, Thornburgh—a Pitt Law alumnus—maintained a largely untainted reputation that won the trust both of voters who elected him Pennsylvania’s chief executive from 1979 to 1987 and of multiple presidents who tapped him for key roles before and after his governorship.

Pitt Chancellor Patrick Gallagher said, "Dick Thornburgh stood in rare company as a leader, colleague and friend, and we're indisputably better off—as a university and a society—due to his incomparable integrity, ingenuity and dedication to serving others."

Robert Lee Gale: Pitt professor was prolific biographer of famous authors

Gale's body of work, an astonishing 68 tomes written over the decades, includes critical biographies of literary giants such as Mark Twain, Henry James and Nathaniel Hawthorne.

A World War II veteran, Gale was penning yet another book when he fell Nov. 11—Veterans Day—severely injuring his hip. He died on Nov. 26, 2020, of complications related to his injuries. He was 100.

Anicet Mundundu, African drum master and ethnomusicologist

A respected multi-instrumentalist, scholar and producer, the Congo native died on Nov. 26, 2020, from complications of pneumonia. He was 62.

Mundundu earned his master’s and doctoral degrees in Pitt's ethnomusicology department, where he also taught music fundamentals, piano, world music and music technology, and directed the University's African Drumming Ensemble.

Martin Staniland

Staniland, a professor emeritus in Pitt's Graduate School of Public and International Affairs (GSPIA) who played a central role in building the school and shaping its international affairs and development programs, died on Nov. 26, 2020.

Staniland joined GSPIA in 1984 as an associate professor. He was subsequently promoted to full professor and went on to serve as the school’s interim dean from 1995 to1996, interim associate dean in spring 2012 and the director of the International Affairs Program. He twice received the Joseph Pois Award for Distinguished Service from GSPIA. He retired in April 2018.

David Young Miller

David Young Miller, a faculty member at the Graduate School of Public and International Affairs (GSPIA) since 1998 who served in various administrative roles at the school, died Nov. 17, 2020.

He was the founding director of the school's Center for Metropolitan Studies, as well as founding advisor of the Congress of Neighboring Communities (CONNECT), where he spearheaded and championed an award-winning national model of networked approaches to leveraging shared policy and program opportunities and resources between the City of Pittsburgh and more than 35 surrounding municipalities.

Miller served as GSPIA’s interim dean (2006-07) and associate dean (1998-2006) and was co-director of the Center for Public Policy and Management in Skopje, Macedonia (2000-06).

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.

John Najarian, Pioneering Transplant Surgeon, Dies at 92

John S. Najarian, a groundbreaking transplant surgeon who made headlines for taking on difficult cases, died on Aug. 31, 2020, in Stillwater, Minn. He was 92.

Najarian served as an immunology fellow at Pitt from 1960 to 1963.

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!”

William Hayes Thies

Pitt alumnus William Hayes Thies died on Aug. 16, 2020, in Lake Forest, Ill.

After earning his PhD in pharmacology from Pitt's School of Medicine, Thies was a faculty member in the medical schools of Pitt and the University of Illinois before joining the American Heart Association, where he formed a new stroke division that later became the American Stroke Association. He took on senior leadership roles at The Alzheimer's Association National Office starting in 1998. He retired In 2013 from full-time work as the Chief Medical and Scientific Officer. Under his leadership, the Alzheimer’s Association awarded millions of dollars to Pitt that resulted in significant advances in Alzheimer’s research.

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.