Jeff Sewald

Jeff is an award-winning independent filmmaker and writer who specializes in defining the cultural significance of American people, places, things and events.

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 …

Words of Wisdom Read More »

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, …

Esther L. Barazzone, Educator & Administrator Read More »

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 …

J. Kevin McMahon, Arts & Culture Executive Read More »

Maxwell King, Philanthropy Executive

I am Maxwell Evarts Perkins King, named after Maxwell Evarts Perkins, my grandfather, who was the editor at Scribner’s for Thomas Wolfe, Ernest Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald, among other authors. Even though my mother always told me, “Go to law school, Max” (many of her family members were lawyers), all she ever talked about …

Maxwell King, Philanthropy Executive Read More »

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 …

Patrick D. Gallagher, University of Pittsburgh Chancellor Read More »

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. …

Allan H. Meltzer, Economist, professor, author Read More »

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 …

Ted Pappas, Impresario Read More »

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 …

William E. Strickland Jr., Educator and Activist Read More »

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 …

Richard V. Piacentini, Botanist and Innovator Read More »

Elsie H. Hillman, Political and Civic Leader

Instrumental in the political campaigns of: Dwight Eisenhower, William Scranton, John Heinz, Gerald Ford, Richard Thornburgh, George H.W. Bush, Barbara Hafer, Tom Ridge and Arlen Specter Board member of many organizations through the decades, including: WQED Multimedia, the Hill House Association, the Urban League, Carlow University and the Hillman Family Foundations. Where does my story …

Elsie H. Hillman, Political and Civic Leader Read More »

Mark A. Nordenberg, Professor of Law & University Administrator

Minnesota is the ‘Land of 10,000 Lakes,’ and northern Minnesota, where I was born and raised, has more than its share. Because Duluth, my hometown, was built on a hill, we had a scenic view of Lake Superior from our home. To me, it was like an ocean. Duluth was a great place to be …

Mark A. Nordenberg, Professor of Law & University Administrator Read More »

Sala Udin, Community Organizer

My mother and father came to Pittsburgh during the great black migration from the South in the 1920s. They met and married here and took up residence in the lower Hill District. I was raised on Fullerton Street, which was the main drag leading to Wiley Avenue, the cultural heart of the lower Hill. From …

Sala Udin, Community Organizer Read More »

Jared L. Cohon, Academician

My grandfather’s name was Kogonovich. He arrived at Ellis Island from Poland in 1918 and didn’t speak a word of English. The immigration agent he encountered somehow believed he had called himself “Cohen,” and apparently didn’t know how to spell that, so he wrote “C-O-H-O-N,” a highly unusual spelling of a very Jewish name. Let’s …

Jared L. Cohon, Academician Read More »

David McCullough, Author, Narrator, Historian & Lecturer

When he was about 15 or so and was reading about writers and their lives, one of my sons turned to me one evening and said, “Dad, I don’t think you’re ever going to be a really great writer.” “Why is that?” I asked him. He said, “You had way too happy a childhood.” And …

David McCullough, Author, Narrator, Historian & Lecturer Read More »

Ed Rendell, Public Servant

I was born into a slightly upper-middle-class Jewish family in New York in 1944, and lived in Manhattan with my mother, father and older brother. My father was a converter in the textile industry. My mother was a designer whose family had a pretty successful sportswear business. At an early age, my dad ingrained in …

Ed Rendell, Public Servant Read More »

Edgar Snyder, Attorney

It all started back in 1977 with the U.S. Supreme Court case, Bates v. State Bar of Arizona. In that case, the Court held that lawyer advertising is commercial speech and as such is protected by the First Amendment. That decision totally upset the longstanding belief among lawyers that advertising their services somehow demeaned the …

Edgar Snyder, Attorney Read More »

Jacqueline C. Morby, Businesswoman & Private Equity Investor

Pittsburgh has changed dramatically since I first arrived here in 1988. It’s much more entrepreneurial now. There are more small companies and greater interest in financing them. We still have a problem, however. We don’t have a Microsoft. None of the technology companies that originated locally have blossomed into anything particularly huge, which is something …

Jacqueline C. Morby, Businesswoman & Private Equity Investor Read More »

Dan Rooney, Steelers Chairman and 30th United States Ambassador to Ireland

The Irish like to say ‘it’s a long way from Newry’—where my family comes from originally—‘to Phoenix Park,’ where I now live and work as the U.S. ambassador to Ireland. But believe me, it’s a much, much longer way to Phoenix Park from the North Side of Pittsburgh. My life in professional football was always …

Dan Rooney, Steelers Chairman and 30th United States Ambassador to Ireland Read More »

William S. Dietrich II, Businessman and Philanthropist

Once, Pittsburgh was the world capital of the steel industry and it was, as recently as 30 years ago, the third largest headquarters city in America. Back in the 1970s, when the mills began to shut down, we all sighed. “Well, there goes manufacturing. The muscles are gone. But at least the brains are still …

William S. Dietrich II, Businessman and Philanthropist Read More »

John Wetenhall, Ph.D., MBA

Very early one Sunday morning when I was in graduate school, I answered a phone call from a distinguished Stanford professor who summoned me in his gruff voice: “Get down to my office.” Albert Elsen, the great scholar on the sculpture of Auguste Rodin, had just been contacted by Raymond Nasher, a Dallas philanthropist and …

John Wetenhall, Ph.D., MBA Read More »

Arnold Palmer, Golfing Legend and Entrepreneur

I was born in 1929 and raised during the Great Depression in Latrobe, Pa. Life was pretty tough in those days, but thankfully, my mother, father, little sister and I were together a whole lot of the time. We played golf, skied and went to movies—things like that—but we were basically homebodies. I have many …

Arnold Palmer, Golfing Legend and Entrepreneur Read More »

David M. Matter

If there’s one thread that runs through my life, it’s the importance of mentorship. I was born in 1946, which makes me a baby-boomer—barely—and grew up in Carrick. Overall, I had a pretty normal upbringing.My first mentor was a high school teacher named Bob Hickey. I had him for German, and he became a dear friend …

David M. Matter Read More »