Black History Month Profile: Pitt Alum Alfred Moyé

Issue Date: 
February 4, 2013

To a casual observer, the impressive milestones on Alfred Moyé’s résumé may appear a bit disconnected. Early in his career, Moyé was a beloved chemistry professor at Pitt who then became the University’s dean of student affairs—only to move to Washington, D.C., to work in then-President Jimmy Carter’s administration. Later, Moyé landed in Silicon Valley at Hewlett-Packard (HP), where he forged important connections between the technology industry and universities.

But while the job descriptions are discrete and appear unrelated, Moyé has a common workplace denominator: his unique portfolio of personal and professional attributes. Among them are his innate personal warmth, a well-developed sense of people, a steel-trap mind, a willingness to serve, and a high level of personal integrity.

These attributes have been widely recognized. In 1996, Pitt’s Board of Trustees elected Moyé as a trustee and, in 2006, as an emeritus trustee. In addition, Moyé served as a trustee for his undergraduate alma mater, West Virginia Wesleyan College, until 2011. He has received five honorary doctorates, including one from West Virginia Wesleyan. Other honors include his election to the American Society for Engineering Education’s Academy of Fellows and receipt of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers’ Third Millennium Medal.

Moyé came to Pitt in 1963 to pursue a PhD in chemistry. On the advice of a fellow chemist, Moyé became a residence hall counselor—a position he held for two years. He was extremely well liked by the student residents, and while the post was seemingly unrelated to chemistry, the experience of connecting with students would serve Moyé well.

As a graduate student, Moyé taught chemistry recitations and laboratories, and he tutored in Pitt’s athletics department. His reputation for teaching chemistry to football players earned him the chemistry department’s attention after he graduated in 1968 with his Pitt doctoral degree, and he was hired to teach organic chemistry—despite the fact that his PhD is in inorganic chemistry. “I was brought up with the idea that you may not know where you’re going,” Moyé says, “but you keep moving forward. If you keep a positive direction in your life, somehow things do open up.”

Moyé’s research focus was boron hydride chemistry, an area heavily funded by the military at the time because the chemical compounds were strong candidates for rocket fuels. A number of Moyé’s papers were published in the Journal of Chemical Education. As a chemistry professor, Moyé focused on making organic chemistry relevant and interesting to students—and on writing the laboratory manual for the organic chemistry program, still in use some time after he left the University.

As a professor, Moyé’s knack for understanding students’ needs brought him immediate success. “The way we were teaching was boring to students,” Moyé recalls. “I wanted to make it more alive.” He modified the lesson plan to better engage his students, teaching them to extract and purify caffeine from coffee and separating a glass of gin into its core components using chromatography. The students responded, and Moyé was honored with—and surprised to receive—one of the first teaching awards granted by Pitt’s School of Arts and Sciences, the Pitt Arts and Sciences Outstanding Teaching Award.

Moyé had been teaching for four years and attained tenure when he was asked to serve as the dean of student affairs—and, later, vice chancellor for student affairs. He agreed, and he offered to continue teaching in the chemistry department.

Student Affairs was new territory for Moyé, but his ability to understand the needs of others brought him success. “If I felt there was something that needed to be done,” Moyé says, “I would go ahead and do it.” Moyé integrated the cheerleading squad and helped the marching band include more women and students from underrepresented groups.

Also during his tenure as vice chancellor for student affairs, Moyé took the lead in establishing Pitt’s Office of Veterans Affairs. As Moyé observed the number of Vietnam War veterans entering Pitt as students, he realized they needed an office on campus that understood the unique needs of veterans. The office later expanded into advocating for students with disabilities. The Office of Veterans Affairs was reestablished in 2009, affirming Moye’s judgment that such an office provided a valuable service to the University community. In addition, Moyé developed Pitt’s learning skills center and combined the career and placement centers to better serve students.

Moyé said that, among his accomplishments as vice chancellor, he is most proud of helping to reinstitute the University’s annual Honors Convocation. A Pitt tradition that celebrates the achievements of students and faculty, the ceremony had not been held in 10 years when Moyé, working closely with then-Provost Rhoten Smith, urged then-Chancellor Wesley Posvar to reinstate it. The convocation returned in 1977 and has been a Pitt tradition ever since.

It was in the course of Moyé’s work as vice chancellor—which took him to Washington, D.C., for conferences and meetings—that he came to the attention of members of President Jimmy Carter’s staff, and this led to his appointment as deputy commissioner of the Bureau of Higher and Continuing Education. “I had done nothing in politics before that except vote,” Moyé says. “To get that call was completely out of the blue for me.”

In 1984, Moyé began a 16-year career at HP. Appointed initially as HP’s engineering education manager, Moyé also designed internal training modules for the company’s engineers and helped HP cultivate relationships with universities. All three positions were linked, says Moyé, “but they were different in scope. I spent 16 years at HP, and I consider I had three different careers.” 

Moyé has been described by some as “the dean of corporate-university liaison businessmen.” During Moyé’s tenure at HP, the company matched his own generous contributions to Pitt, resulting in gifts of more than $1 million.

Moyé retired from HP in 2000, but he has remained busier than ever. He worked as a consultant to the company for about five years, and he has joined a number of boards. He also served on the board of directors of SeniorNet, an organization working to help seniors keep abreast of rapidly changing technologies. Moyé parlayed that experience into service on a panel advising AT&T on programs and services for the elderly and those with disabilities.

Moyé remains deeply connected to Pitt, serving on the Boards of Visitors for the Kenneth P. Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences and the School of Information Sciences, as well as on the Board of Trustees’ committees for academic affairs/library services and institutional advancement.

An advocate of physical fitness, Moyé maintains a regular fitness regimen. He has an appreciation for fine wine—his personal collection exceeds 900 bottles—and he enjoys cooking. A fan of symphonic music, opera, and theater, Moyé also maintains his interest in athletics that began during his time at Pitt—he holds season tickets for the San Francisco Giants and 49ers, and still roots for the Pitt Panthers.

In discussing his many accomplishments, Moyé pauses to give credit to others: his parents, about whom he says, “Not a day goes by but I don’t talk about the lessons they taught me”; and a number of his teachers and professors.

“Behind any success I’ve had,” Moyé says, “have been some outstanding teachers. I give a lot of credit to a lot of people along the way.”