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Profiles

Ahmad Jamal, Jazz Master

I’ll bet that I’m the only musician ever to record a CD simply titled “Pittsburgh,” which is a tribute to my beloved hometown. It’s a “miracle city,” really. When it comes to industry, culture and the arts, Pittsburgh has contributed more to the world than most people can begin to imagine. Pittsburgh was once home …

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Looking Good

To flip through Hans Jonas’s album, which is indistinguishable on the outside from a family photo album, is to view Pittsburghers as if they were a family: a beloved aunt Sally Wiggin, a hardworking cousin Willie Stargell, and of course, everybody’s favorite neighbor, Fred Rogers. Behind the camera, behind these photographs, is Jonas himself. His …

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Christina Cassotis, Allegheny County Airport Authority

I grew up in Southern New Hampshire in essentially a suburb of Boston. My mother was a homemaker, as many women were back then, and my father was a commercial airline pilot for Pan American World Airways, having been a U.S. Marine fighter pilot during the Vietnam War. I’m the oldest of four kids: two …

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Rich Fitzgerald, Allegheny County Executive

I was born and raised in the Bloomfield-Garfield section of Pittsburgh, which is now called “Friendship.” I attended St. Lawrence O’Toole Grade School in Garfield, Central Catholic High and then Carnegie Mellon University in nearby Oakland, and have lived and raised my family in Squirrel Hill for the past 33 years. So, geographically speaking, I’ve …

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Jim Withers, M.D., Street Doctor

My father was a country doctor; my mom, a nurse. Their relationship was grounded in the values of service and compassion, and they included their children—me, for sure—in that vision. So I made house calls with my dad and, among other things, got to practice parallel parking while delivering Meals on Wheels with my mother, …

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Tunnels of Love

First, you had to pull the red wicker settee with its circus-striped cushions a few feet away from the wall. Then you put the army surplus table Mother sometimes used for the sewing machine next to that, in front of the closed-in fireplace; and if Father wasn’t using them for the work he brought home …

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Among the Trees

As Meg Cheever said, “The best park in Pittsburgh is the one you are in.” She founded the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy in 1996 at a time when Pittsburgh was a long way from claiming victory in stemming the tide of decline that still clung to the city. With a band of determined supporters, she stepped …

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The Death of a Homeless Man

Last week, I got the news that I knew one day would come. Joe Regoli had died. Back in 1988, I wrote a series about Pittsburgh’s homeless, based on my living on the streets for 14 days and nights, undercover, with long hair and a beard. I was 26, and the Pittsburgh Press series changed …

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Vivien Li, River Keeper

My parents came from educated families in China and Hong Kong and immigrated to the United States. My mother arrived in the early ’50s as an undergraduate while my father, who was 10 years her senior, was studying for a Ph.D. Back then, it was difficult for Asians to come here. The immigration laws were …

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Clint Hurdle, Baseball Impresario

I believe that all people inherently have at least one passion. And if that passion can be turned into a livelihood, life becomes special. I’ve had a passion for the game of baseball since I was 5 years old. And now, at the age of 58, instead of running to my backyard to play the …

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Words of Wisdom

“Reviewing the following excerpts from some of the 40 first–person profiles I created for the magazine over the past 10 years was an emotional experience for me. How many people get to choose from among the most prominent individuals in their hometown and spend time with them learning their life stories? Some have passed on …

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Esther L. Barazzone, Educator & Administrator

I grew up in Bluefield, W.Va., a town of about 16,000, which had no “wrong side” of the tracks—because it was all tracks, for trains moving coal out of southern West Virginia. I lived there with my mother, stepfather and three brothers. Three out of four of my grandparents were immigrants—from Italy, Belgium and Ireland—and, …

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J. Kevin McMahon, Arts & Culture Executive

It’s not a secret, but I actually was born in Pittsburgh. I don’t talk about it, not because I’m not proud of Pittsburgh; Pittsburgh is great. But in Pittsburgh, if you say you were born here, everybody expects you to know everything about it. When I was a little kid, my family moved, so I …

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Jeff Broadhurst

Eat’n Park started out back in 1949 as a very small restaurant on Saw Mill Run Boulevard. Larry Hatch started it, and believe it or not, on the first day, he opened at breakfast and closed before dinner because he was too busy. He couldn’t keep up. Those of us in the restaurant business wish …

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Patrick D. Gallagher, University of Pittsburgh Chancellor

I don’t recollect ever wanting to manage a large organization. But I’ve always enjoyed managing things. In fact, my management experience started when I was very young. As a junior in high school, I joined a volunteer organization called Amigos de las Americas [Friends of the Americas], which was a non-denominational, youth-based organization modeled after …

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Barbara Baker

2015 marks the 25th anniversary of Barbara Baker’s leadership as president and CEO of the Pittsburgh Zoo and PPG Aquarium. On this occasion, Pittsburgh Quarterly posed a series of questions to Baker, a doctor of veterinary medicine with an MBA, about her tenure and the future of the zoo. What brought you to Pittsburgh and …

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Allan H. Meltzer, Economist, professor, author

As a kid, I moved a lot around Boston, where I was born. My mother died when I was 5, after which I lived with my grandmother. When I was 9, my father remarried and we became suburbanites, moving to Westwood, Mass. Practically no Jews lived there other than me, my dad and my sisters. …

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Ted Pappas, Impresario

How did I find myself in Pittsburgh? That’s a complicated question. I was born in Tampa to Greek immigrant parents, so my first few years were spent in Florida surrounded by a very Greek community. (There are more Greeks there than you might think.) Then we moved to Gary, Ind., where my father worked as …

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Chuck Bunch

The early 1990s seemed like a halcyon period for PPG Industries, one of Pittsburgh’s most venerable and best-known companies. Its three business pillars—coatings, glass and chemicals—each was producing about one-third of the firm’s revenue, a tried-and-true formula that promised decades of success. Then came the revolution. Thanks in part to market forces that included globalization, …

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William E. Strickland Jr., Educator and Activist

I’m a North Side kid. I grew up in the Manchester section of Pittsburgh and graduated from Oliver High School, where I was lucky enough to meet a person named Frank Ross, who was my art teacher. In several important ways, Frank turned my life around dramatically. I was raised in a small row house …

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Too strong for fantasy

Marcia Davenport and Shirley Temple Black had one, and only one, common interest: Czechoslovakia. Their dynamic paths crossed once, and only once, there. But that was at the end of the story. In the beginning… Everyone knows Shirley, who recently passed away at 83. Hollywood’s most beloved child star later metamorphosed into a skilled diplomat …

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Richard V. Piacentini, Botanist and Innovator

I was born in New York City and grew up on Long Island, practically across the street from a several-thousand-acre state park in which we played all the time. I loved being in the woods as a kid. I was always interested in plants and animals—mostly plants, to be honest—during my early years. I used …

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