2007 Fall

The McKeesport Kid

I had always been fascinated by birds but never thought about owning pigeons until Fred Zoerb and I began palling around together. We were neighborhood teenagers in McKeesport when one of Fred’s uncles, who raised homing pigeons, gave him a pair. We acquired a few more, and soon Fred and I lost interest in anything …

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Updating a Brandon Smith

Following in the footsteps of Brandon Smith would be a daunting task for most architects. He left his imprint throughout the region, designing in his lifetime (1889-1962) many Western Pennsylvania landmarks. While best known for institutions such as the Edgeworth Club, Fox Chapel Golf Club and Shady Side Academy, Smith was the architect of choice …

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It’s a Book Thing

Ten or 15 years ago, a story about Pittsburgh’s “independent” bookstores wouldn’t have made much sense. “When we opened in 1990, there was just the Borders in South Hills,” says Richard Goldman, co-owner of Mystery Lovers’ Bookshop. Now the Pittsburgh area supports 18 of what Goldman calls “the chain superstores,” doing an estimated 80 percent …

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Golden Eagles

Invisible superhighways. That’s one way to describe the rising air currents that will whisk raptors through central Pennsylvania during this season’s migration. Golden Eagles, attuned to the subtle relationships between topography and wind, will scan our state’s prominent ridges and deep valleys as they soar southward as they have for millennia. Golden Eagles are vaguely …

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Heinz CEO: Bill Johnson

Quick, name the second person to fly solo across the Atlantic. It’s not easy to follow greatness, whether genuine or self appointed. William R. Johnson, CEO of The H.J. Heinz Company since 1998, has had to do it twice in his life, first as the son of an NFL player and coach and then as …

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A Frame to Conjure With

A few years ago, if you had the good fortune to work as a porter at one of the major auction houses in New York or London, you might have had the greater good fortune to be handed a picture frame, discarded by one of the purchasers of the painting. It was one of the …

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The Bionic Entrepreneur?

For me, fall marks not only the return of autumn leaves, cider and football, but returning to my role as a college entrepreneurship instructor. Despite this being my third year teaching this subject, I’m still troubled by a gnawing, fundamental question: Can you actually teach someone to be an entrepreneur? Is it a trait you’re …

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Publisher’s letter – Fall 2007

I grew up on what had been an old apple orchard, and fall meant turning the crank of our oak-and-iron cider press. It meant picking up apples from the grass and quickly unhanding those whose undersides had rotted and were crawling with yellowjackets. After a strong rain, it meant the inevitable loss of old trees …

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Polluted air / Festival of Lights

In the stocks: Polluted air When we recall Pittsburgh’s old nickname, “The Smoky City,” we think of it as a pejorative description of a dirty, industrial place. But when Pittsburgh first got that appellation, in the still agrarian 19th century, it was a badge of honor. Smoke meant factories, and factories meant progress and wealth. …

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The gift of opportunity

In October, one of Pittsburgh’s children is coming home and throwing a big party. That child is the Carnegie Corp. of New York and the “party” is a two-day celebration of the most recent winners of the Carnegie Medal of Philanthropy. The biennial event, the Nobel Prize of philanthropy, has honored the titans of the …

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Thomas Hales: The Proof of the Proof

The message went out without fanfare on a quiet summer morning. Thomas Hales finally was done—or so it seemed. Near collapse, he e-mailed his colleagues announcing that he had achieved the impossible. After more than a decade of work, Hales had completed a proof of the Kepler conjecture, a centuries-old conundrum about how best to …

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Rich Engler, Music Promoter and Entrepreneur

I was born in New Kensington, Pa., and grew up in Creighton, across the river. My father was a glass worker at the Pittsburgh Plate Glass Company. My mother worked for the county. I studied art education at Youngstown State, then at Carnegie Mellon. I was also playing in a band and began to see …

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Andrew W. Mellon: Building a Banking Empire

The year was 1866. With monotonous regularity, an older man and a little boy boarded the train in East Liberty for the short run downtown. The older man, attired in a long-tailed frock coat and a high-starched wing collar, spoke to the boy about matters of consequence; he spoke to him as an adult. The …

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His Last Resort

I don’t want to be mayor of Pittsburgh. I want to change Pittsburgh forever, and I’m convinced the best way to do that is as mayor. There are, however, other ways to make our city better. You could work for an extraordinary politician who cares for this city like no other place on earth. You …

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Saunders, Gibson, Dietz, Perkins, Nollen, Astorga, Dayan, Suver, Wright

Thomas D. Saunders is the new president and CEO of the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy. Saunders was most recently in Gainesville, Fla., where he was community development director for the city for the past 10 years, directing planning, growth management, redevelopment, housing, historic preservation and neighborhood planning.Prior to that, he directed the Maryland Environmental Trust, a …

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McCullough, Chiodo, Boesel, Bernard, Moore, Wargo, Hansen, Prosser, Aiken

C. Hax McCullough Jr., 81 McCullough was a writer and a great advocate for Pittsburgh. His projects often included supporting the arts, and he wrote histories of the Pittsburgh Symphony, opera in Pittsburgh, West Penn Hospital, The Pittsburgh Golf Club and corporate histories.He had a love for music which began as a youngster in Point …

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The Pie Place

It’s a gift to be able to do one thing really well, and The Pie Place in the Norman Centre 2 in Bethel Park has that gift. The little shop is tucked in a strip mall dominated by Borders and Louis Anthony Jewelers. It’s been there for over four years, but many locals have never …

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Song of Greensburg

A thousand feet up the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains in the beautiful Laurel Highlands lies the city of Greensburg, an hour southeast of downtown Pittsburgh. A major business and cultural center, its 16,000 population doubles during work hours, giving it one of highest daytime-growth rates in the country.   You, like Ed McMahon, did …

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Getting It Right

Time flies even when you are not always having fun. That’s the lesson I take away from 18 months publishing indicators on pittsburghtoday.org and writing about them in this space. My ambivalence is a product of pride that we have developed a regional information system that can serve us well if we expand and sustain …

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A Flight of Fancy

A casual glance at Tom Erdner’s Gibsonia patio on this fine Sunday wouldn’t reveal anything unusual. But there are a few clues. For instance, on the table where he’s sitting, there’s a pen, note pad, watch, calculator and cell phone.Then there’s the serious look on Erdner’s face as he keeps looking back at the western …

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The China Syndrome

Annie Wang was 9 when her parents vanished behind the Bamboo Curtain. It was the start of China’s “Cultural Revolution,” a terrible time for anyone in that country with money or status. Communist Party Chairman Mao Tse-tung urged citizens to engage in “class struggle” and the overthrow of “capitalist roaders,” encouraging the political persecutions, betrayal, torture, …

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Bet the Farm

Selected by owners Jack and Dale Duff from a small field of candidates, they have been operating the venerable Blackberry Meadows Farm all summer under a lease/purchase agreement. With heads full of “green” theory and their own, seemingly endless renewable energy, the four entrepreneurs have passed the halfway mark in the growing season and are …

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