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Pitt stuns chancellor Nordenberg with scholarship fund, residence hall tribute

| Friday, Oct. 26, 2012, 1:30 p.m.
University of Pittsburgh chancellor Mark Nordenberg speaks about the school's move of it's sports from the Big East conference to the Atlantic Coast Conference at the Petersen Events Center on Sunday, Sept. 18, 2011. Sidney Davis | Tribune-Review

University of Pittsburgh trustees stunned Chancellor Mark A. Nordenberg when they announced Friday that donors committed more than $5.8 million to establish a scholarship fund in his honor and that the board named a new residence hall for him.

Pitt Trustee Sam S. Zacharias, who co-chaired the yearlong, secret fundraising campaign with board Chairman Stephen Tritch, said trustees wanted to recognize Nordenberg, now in his 17th year as chancellor, for strides Pitt has made under his leadership.

The residence hall under construction at Fifth Avenue and University Place will be 10 stories tall and have 559 beds.

Nordenberg, 64, joins at least two other former Pitt chancellors who are remembered in campus buildings named for them. Posvar Hall was named for the late Wesley Posvar, who served from 1967-91, and Litchfield Towers was named for the late Edward Litchfield, who served from 1951-65.

Tritch said the board's actions Friday were intended to serve as a lasting tribute to Nordenberg's leadership and dedication to Pitt students.

A tearful Nordenberg said the announcement left him stunned and honored.

“I had absolutely no idea,” Nordenberg said of the announcements that came moments after students ushered his family into the board meeting.

“This job has been a perfect job for me. To be clear, I haven't done it perfectly. ... But I can't imagine a more perfect job,” Nordenberg said as he held one of his twin grandsons, 18 months.

Zacharias said the goal is to raise $10 million for the academic scholarship. He said organizers limited initial solicitations to trustees and friends to keep the fund drive quiet. Now they'll reach out to the community.

Nordenberg, who came to Pitt in 1977 as a law professor, served as dean of the law school and as interim provost before being named interim chancellor in 1995 and chancellor in 1996.

The scholarship fund, which will underwrite four-year awards for highly motivated, academically talented students, would generate about $200,000 a year for scholarships at the $5 million level and twice that once it reaches $10 million, said Albert Novak, vice chancellor for institutional advancement.

Debra Erdley is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-320-7996 or derdley@tribweb.com.

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