Joyce scholar advanced field of technical writing
By Bill Vidonic
Published: Saturday, Oct. 6, 2012, 12:01 a.m.
Erwin R. Steinberg was an expert in two genres of the written word that could be considered polar opposites: James Joyce and technical writing.
“Nobody could figure out how he could be an expert in the most complicated and complex stylist of the 20th century, and at the same time improve plain language practices in the workplace of the 20th century,” said David Kaufer, professor of English at Carnegie Mellon University.
Erwin R. Steinberg of Mt. Lebanon, who taught at CMU for 60 years, died of pneumonia on Tuesday, Oct. 2, 2012, in St. Clair Hospital, Mt. Lebanon. He was 91.
Mr. Steinberg joined Carnegie Institute of Technology, which would become CMU, in 1946, where he “invented the field of technical writing,” Kaufer said.
He served as dean from 1960 to 1973 at Margaret Morrison Carnegie College, Carnegie Tech's school for women. Mr. Steinberg created a technical writing program “so that women could have a practical outlet for working, for staying creative and earning income after they graduated and often times got married,” Kaufer said.
Mr. Steinberg served as dean of CMU's College of Humanities and Social Sciences from 1965 to 1975. From 1979 to 1981, he was director of Carnegie Mellon's Communications Design Center, founded after a push by President Jimmy Carter in the late 1970s to make government documents understandable to the average citizen.
Kaufer said Mr. Steinberg created a master's program in professional writing and a doctorate in rhetoric.
From 1991 to 1996, Mr. Steinberg served as vice provost of education. A James Joyce scholar, he retired in 2007.
“He was a straight shooter, a no-nonsense guy,” Kaufer said. “Everybody who got to know him knew he had a sweet and generous heart, but on the surface he was very professional and very task-oriented.”
Alan Steinberg,a lawyer from Forest Hills, said his father encouraged him and his brother, Marc, now a sociology professor at Smith College in Northampton, Mass.
“He was a taskmaster, but it wasn't as if he had to keep on us or push hard. We just knew if we didn't try our best or do well, he would be unhappy. That certainly drove me,” Steinberg said.
In addition to his sons and daughter-in-law, Patty Mooney, Mr. Steinberg is survived by his wife, Beverly Steinberg of Mt. Lebanon; and grandson Jared Steinberg, also of Forest Hills.
Per Mr. Steinberg's wishes, services and interment will be private. Contributions can be made to Family Hospice and Palliative Care, 50 Moffett St., Pittsburgh, PA 15243.
Bill Vidonic is a staff writer for Trib Total Media.He can be reached at 412-380-5621or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.