Pitt-Bradford is reconnecting with some of its earliest alumni through the newly formed Alumni Emeritus Society.
Alumni who attended Pitt-Bradford during the 1960s (50 years ago or more) will be the inaugural inductees into the society at a brunch during the university's Alumni and Family Weekend.
The idea for the society began when Frank '64-'66 and Mary Margaret Cattoni '64-'66 Rizzo endowed a 1960s Emeritus Alumni Scholarship fund in honor of Pitt-Bradford's 50th anniversary.
“Frank and Mary wanted a way to rally 1960s alumni and get them involved,” said Lindsay Hilton Retchless '98, director of alumni relations, who began researching how other colleges connect with their graduates of more than 50 years.
In Pitt-Bradford's earliest days, after its founding in 1963, the staff was sparse. President Donald Swarts also served as the admissions officer and dean of academic affairs. Until the mid-1970s, Pitt-Bradford offered only the first two years of classwork toward a bachelor's degree, meaning that students would transfer and graduate from another campus, sometimes at Pitt's campus in Pittsburgh.
There was certainly no alumni office to keep track of those who attended during those early years.
“We wanted a way to engage those alumni because we don't know them very well,” Retchless said.
The Rizzos became involved with Pitt-Bradford a few years ago and have since become active volunteers.
Frank Rizzo said that for several years, he and his wife had attended reunion events at the Pittsburgh campus, but never saw folks they knew and didn't feel any more connected to the university. After attending an Alumni and Family Weekend at Pitt-Bradford, the Rizzos began reconnecting with some friends from their Pitt-Bradford days and meeting new Pitt-Bradford friends who were alumni volunteers.
Now he is leading the charge to reunite as many '60s alumni for the society's induction on Sept. 28. This summer, he started a Facebook group (www.facebook.com/groups/emeritusalumni), where he posts vintage clippings and photos and helps alumni connect with each other. The more than 50 members have lively conversations identifying people in the photos, telling stories from their days in Bradford and Pittsburgh, and reminiscing about places where they lived and partied (ahem, studied).
“I've loved reconnecting with people,” Rizzo said. “I'm hearing stories that I didn't even know happened.”
In addition to the Facebook group, Rizzo has been individually emailing classmates and tracking them down through any means possible, including a roommate he hadn't talked to in 50 years.
Retchless said, “The Emeritus Alumni have their very own, distinct version of Pitt-Bradford” from before the campus moved to its current site. In the beginning, the campus was run a bit more loosely (a veterinarian taught biology and industrial chemists taught chemistry), and the students might have raised a bit more ruckus (or perhaps telling those stories is the freedom 50-plus years affords).
“This was a transformative place for them,” she added, “and it remains a transformative place for our students today.
“They've really rallied around the 1960s scholarship to help students like themselves.”
The scholarship fund the Rizzos established has reached $39,725 since they kick-started it in 2016. It was awarded for the first time during the 2018-19 academic year.
This academic year, the recipient is Fawzia Yameogo, a sophomore biology major from Mechanicsburg who will attend the society's induction brunch to thank the alumni for her scholarship.
Rizzo said, “We'd like everybody to feel comfortable enough to come to the brunch. If they've ever thought about it, this would be the time to come.
Anyone who attended Pitt-Bradford between its opening in 1963 and 1969 is welcome to attend the brunch at 10 a.m. Sept. 28 in the Mukaiyama University Room of the Frame-Westerberg Commons. Reservations are requested by visiting www.upbalumni.org or calling Institutional Advancement at 814-362-5091.