Fall 2014

Sudden goodbye

In 1967, we arrived at our island cottage in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, and of course, the first thing we kids did was explore our distantly familiar summer home. On that particular day, we found a bat inert on the dining room floor. “Pick it up, and we’ll show Dad,” said my 14-year-old sister. I was …

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Nicholson, Bullock, Parker, Gee, Holmberg, Walker, Vignali

Robin Nicholson will become the third director of the Frick Art & Historical Center. A native of Edinburgh, Scotland, he comes to Pittsburgh from Richmond, Va., where he was deputy director for art and education at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts. Previously, he was director and curator of the corporate art collection of the …

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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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The old college try

Every year at this time, as college football arrives, I’m reminded of an old movie that pops up on the classic channels now and then—“The Male Animal.” The tale deals with the two principal functions of the American college: education and football. In that order. Usually. The movie, from the 1940s, is based on a …

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Apocalypse Pittsburgh

Pittsburghers have long boasted that, in the heat of the Cold War, our role as an industrial power made us the Russians’ No. 1 nuclear target. It was a counterweight to our role as a national punchline for being a sooty dump. Thomas Sweterlitsch is not a Pittsburgh native, but he must have absorbed this …

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Red-bellied woodpecker

A tree is a house. it’s not just an isolated organism, but also a host to forms of life from mammals to birds to insects to fungi. A tree is one element of a larger ecosystem and simultaneously a microcosm of it. And you can tell a lot about a neighborhood ecosystem based on its …

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Fall rising

An epiphany moment comes when a person bakes bread, waiting forever for its puffy belly to inch up above the bowl. Waiting and waiting until the time comes when it has doubled itself and the baker takes a light fist to its risen center, pushes, and the bread exhales all the air the yeast has …

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Chagrin Falls

Sometimes it’s nice to escape to a place with a slower, more relaxed pace—a quaint community that isn’t teeming with chain stores and traffic, where kids ride their bikes into town to have a cone and hang out with friends. There is a town, just this side of Cleveland, that fits the bill—Chagrin Falls, Ohio. …

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The Enduring Dollar

They don’t call it the lion’s share for nothing. Those sculpted felines at Dollar Bank’s Fourth Avenue building have grabbed the limelight. A crowd attended their unveiling last year, with substantial press coverage, because master carver Nicholas Fairplay had both restored the original lions, which were placed inside the Dollar Bank building, and replicated them …

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In the French manner

Turn onto the discreet drive on a pleasant street in Sewickley and suddenly you feel as if you’re in the French countryside. A long lawn, impeccably maintained and dotted with mature trees, leads to a French manor house that spans nearly the width of the property. It sits regally near the back, surrounded by gardens …

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Eurotrip revisited

Seven months after JFK was assassinated and four months after the Beatles played Ed Sullivan, 100,000 American students (I was one) became the first generation of middle-class American college kids who could afford to travel to Europe. That summer of ’64, thousands of us crossed the pond thanks to larger jets, cheap tickets and Arthur …

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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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The Awe of Night

For nearly three centuries, a scientific debate lingered about the brilliant rings rotating around Saturn: Were they solid discs or made of some other matter? The debate finally came to rest in Pittsburgh, of all places. Astronomer James Edward Keeler, using a spectrograph attached to a refracting telescope with a 13-inch lens, observed that the …

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Bike city

Courtney Ehrlichman makes the commute to her Carnegie Mellon University job with her young daughter on an Xtracycle fitted with a Hooptie. That’s a bicycle designed to haul cargo with a child carrier attached. And it’s part of the changing street scene in Pittsburgh. More people are biking in Pittsburgh, according to data and similar …

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Is Better Good Enough?

A standing-room-only audience has packed the Avalon Municipal Building on a rain-soaked April evening to hear Allegheny County Health Department officials explain the latest consent decree to correct air quality violations at the coke works across the river. It’s a tough crowd. Most live in the north boroughs near the Shenango, Inc. plant. They know …

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Working to Keep The Promise

It is 5:30 a.m. on a Thursday in early June—one of the last days of the 2013­–14 school year—and Joseph Graham is tired, but awake. It’s about an hour before most of his Allderdice High School classmates in Squirrel Hill have awoken, and Joseph is getting ready to start an hour-long, two-Port-Authority-bus trip across town …

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Rudy’s Bar and Grill

His real name is Frank, but most people call him Gus, except for those who call him Rudy, and a lot of folks call him Rudy. For 40 years, Frank Aiello has operated Rudy’s Bar and Grill in McKees Rocks. Frank has been loafing here even longer, since original owner Rudy Gerger took the young …

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Who’s Afraid of Obamacare?

In 1998, Bob McCafferty set out to start a business that would pay the bills and give him more free time to go camping. He bought a run-down funeral parlor dating to the 1850s. For the next several years, he spent nights restoring the building while holding down jobs as an archaeologist and bartender. He …

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Soaring majesty

It’s only recently that bald eagles have been able to call Pittsburgh home. For 200 years, obstacles such as habitat loss, pollution, persecution and pesticides have kept them away, but as the region’s environment improved, so did the chance of bald eagles successfully roosting here once again. Though a pair of bald eagles has nested …

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The Export Dilemma

As the Shale-driven production of natural gas has expanded in recent years, so too has the demand from much of the industry to unleash that resource on the world market. And that chorus of voices calling for the United States to use gas from fields like the Marcellus to tap into the world market has …

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High Tech + Higher Ed = ?

Editor’s note: For this special feature, we invited the presidents of the region’s leading colleges and universities to respond to the following: Technology is presenting unprecedented challenges and opportunities for higher education. While Internet-based learning threatens the existence of some traditional, campus-based institutions, for many others, emerging technology provides opportunities to enhance learning in ways …

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The sweet trouble of success

The hazards of good fortune in business are many: the physical toll of the added work, the mental toll of rethinking everything you’ve come to know, the psychic toll of raised expectations. They combine for a perfect storm that one feels guilty begrudging because the upsides of fame and fortune, while perhaps fleeting, seem so …

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A century of safety

It was June 1914 when John T. Ryan Sr. and George Deike, two federal mine rescue engineers horrified by the carnage they’d seen in coal mine explosions, formed a company dedicated to making the industry safer. Ryan and Deike enlisted the services of no less a luminary than Thomas Alva Edison to design an electric …

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Binai, Carlough, Maazel, Werner, Noll, Kimmel, Lovette, Mellon Scaife, McDevitt Rubin

Paul Binai, 81 A former curator of the Carnegie Museum of Art, Binai was a renowned painter whose work has been exhibited throughout the world. Binai was a quiet, erudite man who also served as curator at the Southern Alleghenies Museum of Art and the Detroit Institute of Art. His art was greatly influenced by …

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McConnells Mill State Park

In southwestern PA, it is a challenge to find remote and scenic hikes. But one is only about an hour’s drive north of Pittsburgh, just off of Rt. 422 in eastern Lawrence County, in McConnells Mill State Park. The focus of this park is Slippery Rock Creek and its 400-foot-deep gorge. While you can stop …

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