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An Awkward Introduction to Cyril Wecht

Cyril Wecht’s recent death took me back decades to summer of 1978 and Carnegie Mellon University’s tennis courts.  Two white guys dressed in tennis whites had finished playing and sat on the grass. In my early twenties and in law school, I was one of them.  The other guy, I’ll refer to as “Tom,”  was …

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To Keep Your Balance, You Must Keep Moving

My daughter Phelan was born in 2004. She knows Winona Ryder from the series Stranger Things. She thinks Johnny Depp’s Wino tattoo is because he has a drinking problem; who knows, not judging. Stranger Things is set in the 1980s. The kids in the show ride bikes with banana seats and handlebar tassels, just like …

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DeForrest, Singer, Diab, van Baarle, Dragga, Hembree, Rosenthal

Jasmin DeForrest has been named managing director of The Heinz Endowments’ Creativity Strategic Area. Previously, she was senior director for Arts and Culture at the Detroit-based Gilbert Family Foundation and has more than 20 years of experience in grantmaking, nonprofit leadership, sponsorship management, entrepreneurship and event production. The Detroit native was community sponsorships director for the …

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Quest for Cake

A birthday celebration calls for a birthday cake and gifts. As far as I’m concerned, forget about the gifts, but keep the cake. My love affair with birthday cakes began when I was four. Each morning on his way to work, my Uncle Eddie drove his two aunts and my mom to their jobs and …

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McGinnis, Bucci, LaDuke, Rescher, Simmons, Beck, Posvar, Reichblum, Donley, Rocco, Snyder, Rierson

Gerald “Jerry” McGinnis, 89A celebrated biomedical engineer, McGinnis turned a fledgling medical device company founded in his kitchen in 1976 into Respironics, a global empire that was later bought by Royal Phillips for $1.5 billion. He was the inventor of the first mass-produced breathing machine — a device now used worldwide for sleep apnea and …

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“Go to the People”

Inspired by childhood memories of accompanying his physician father and nurse mother on medical calls, Dr. Jim Withers began providing medical care to Pittsburgh’s homeless in 1992. Initially dressing as a homeless person and accompanied by a savvy formerly homeless man, “Dr. Jim” started making regular nightly rounds in alleys and under the city’s bridges. …

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What Do I Know? Guillermo Velazquez

My story begins in Mexico City. I am the youngest of eight children, and my father passed away from liver disease when I was 11. When someone in your life dies while you are still young, you don’t really understand what’s happening. All I knew was that I saw my father working, and then he …

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My Oldest Brother

Just before 6 a.m. on New Year’s Eve, I got in the car to drive down to Cincinnati, my hometown. I’ve done it 100 times at least since I moved to Pittsburgh 39 years ago. And I’ve done it for all manner of occasions. This time, it was to see my oldest brother. His heart …

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Jim Roddey: 1933-2024 — Pittsburgh’s Man For All Seasons

Jim Roddey, the first Allegheny County Executive, a man who came to Pittsburgh mid-career and became one of its greatest advocates and leaders, has passed away at the age of 91. The tributes already are coming from every corner of this region. “Pittsburgh didn’t deserve him, but we benefited from his leadership” was one.  Another: …

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Andy Russell, Businessman and Former Steeler

I grew up with a father who had come over on the boat from Scotland. We moved around a lot. My parents convinced me that every move presented an opportunity to meet new and different people. By the time I entered college in 1959, my father was running Monsanto in Europe.I got a B.S. in …

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The Oliver Building

As the Henry W. Oliver building was completed in terra cotta and granite in 1910, columnist M.E. Gable described the scene: “As you make the turn dipping into the throbbing heart of Pittsburgh, the upper reaches of the building burst upon your vision in all their beauty of architectural triumph. As you get nearer to it …

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“The Levy”

Maurice (pronounced Morris) Levy was a career-long math teacher in Pittsburgh schools. He was beloved for many reasons, including his sense of humor and his unusual way of addressing students. Rather than using their first names, he called each one “Mr.” or “Miss,” teaching his students lessons about respect they didn’t even know they were …

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What Do I Know? Chris DeCardy

I was born in Urbana, Illinois, and grew up in Champaign, its “sister city,” about three hours south of Chicago. I spent my entire childhood there as the only child of a single mother. My folks were divorced when I was very young and, although my dad was in my life, my primary childhood influence …

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Fighting Through Tears

Grisell Espinoza was in limbo in 2014, wondering whether to stay in Pittsburgh or return to her native Venezuela where political turmoil was getting worse. Her only friend in town, a fellow Venezuelan, helped her get work at a restaurant until she could find a job in her profession as a civil engineer. But as …

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Seven Questions for George Greer

Five years ago, the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust named its Cabaret at Theater Square after philanthropic leader George C. Greer. The longtime executive of the H.J. Heinz Company has been perhaps the least known most effective civic leader in Pittsburgh over the past 30 years, eschewing the limelight as he led transformation of the Eden Hall …

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Conway, Buford, Oshry, Morby, Moriarity, O’Reilly, Nutting, Ochester, Eberle, Courtney

Tom Conway, 71 International president of United Steelworkers since 2019, Conway was committed to making things in America and remained unwilling to accept that globalization was better. He tried to make changes in manufacturing that would lead to a cleaner environment and worker health and safety. A legendary negotiator who believed in the union ideal of “stronger …

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An Evening with Rosalynn Carter

It was December 9,1979.  The White House was decorated for Christmas, with its majestic, towering Christmas Tree, all ready for the annual lighting that day. What a great welcoming sight.  How could this be happening to us? We were there to film First Lady Rosalynn Carter.  She had agreed to do some public service commercials for …

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Turner, Loevner, Fisher, Benedum, Wishart, Savran, Harrell

Tracey Turner, 60 Turner was artistic director of I Dream A World, taught at Point Park University and was the director of Pittsburgh Playwrights Theatre Company’s Black and White Festival and various productions at the August Wilson Center for African American Culture. Turner was especially fond of Shakespeare, receiving praise for her portrayal of the traditionally …

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Machamer, Introcaso, Murphy, Botos, Lagattuta, Nelson, Frank

Peter Machamer, 80 A dedicated oenophile who penned a wine column for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette for 14 years, Machamer was a professor and chair of the Department of History and Philosophy of Science at Pitt for almost 40 years and the author of more than 100 publications and books. A Galileo Galilei and René Descartes scholar, …

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Hello Neighbor

Basel Knaineh and Maisaa Jamal Eddin fled their native Syria after Basel was imprisoned — for no reason and with no timeline, he says — at the start of the Syrian War in 2011. He spent a month in jail, frantic and bewildered, before being released as suddenly as he was detained. Desperate, he and …

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Jedlinski, Filippini-Fantoni, Riley, Rodriguez, Garvey, Sen

Jason Jedlinski, a veteran broadcasting and publishing executive, will become WQED’s next president and CEO. He arrives from Washington, D.C., where he was general manager of The Hill, launching a new streaming channel and setting audience records. He has spent nearly 25 years growing digital reach and engagement for The Wall Street Journal, USA TODAY and …

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All Aboard

Hulking steam engines, nearly a century old, await repairs in their original roundhouse in Rockhill Furnace, Pa. The crisp country air fades into the smell of an industrial past next to No. 14, a “snappy engine,” according to Linn Moedinger, a mechanical advisor at East Broad Top Railroad, who works on restoring the machines. “It’s …

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