Chancellor Mark A. Nordenberg Is 2014 Commencement Speaker

Issue Date: 
March 17, 2014

University of Pittsburgh Chancellor and Distinguished Service Professor of Law Mark A. Nordenberg will serve as the featured speaker at the University’s 2014 commencement ceremony, according to Board of Trustees Chairperson Stephen R. Tritch.  The ceremony will be held at 1 p.m. on Sunday, April 27, in the Petersen Events Center. 

Provost Patricia E. Beeson had recommended Chancellor Nordenberg to the Special Committee for Honors Convocation and Commencement Speakers, citing his 37 years of service to the University and his 19 years of remarkable leadership as chancellor. That group enthusiastically endorsed the provost’s recommendation.  “More than 141,000 students have graduated from the University of Pittsburgh since Mark Nordenberg became Chancellor in 1996,”  said Associate Chancellor Vijai P. Singh, who chairs the Special Committee. “Given his strong and sustained commitment to enhancing the overall student experience at Pitt, we agreed that he would be the ideal choice to deliver remarks at what will be his final commencement as Chancellor.”

Nordenberg, who will step down as chancellor on Aug. 1, has led the University through an extended period of exceptional progress. A team representing the Middle States Commission on Higher Education called Pitt “a world class research university” with an “unwavering commitment to excellence” in a recent re-accreditation report. That report also explicitly described the clear link between Pitt’s progress and the strength of its leadership team: “The University of Pittsburgh is an outstanding university with an extraordinarily talented and beloved leadership team. The connection between the University’s claim to genuine excellence and the stature of its leadership is deep; and its importance cannot be overstated.  This connection is appreciated in general throughout the University community.”  

Since the beginning of Nordenberg’s tenure as chancellor, Pitt has become a university-of-choice for large numbers of highly qualified students, which has driven both substantial growth in student body size and dramatic enhancements to student body strength; cultivated enviable levels of student achievement; enriched the student experience, inside and outside the classroom; nurtured citizenship, character, and responsibility; supported high levels of faculty accomplishment and impact; climbed into the very top ranks of the country’s leading universities in terms of research strength; built an inviting campus environment supportive of living, learning, and working; fostered significantly higher levels of athletic success; elevated engagement with the broader community; played a key role in invigorating and transforming the regional economy; and attracted historically high levels of philanthropic support.  

This progress, according to Nordenberg, is the product of determined efforts by thousands of members of the University community and reflects a culture of ambition and pride. According to the Middle States accreditation report, “there is a justified (though given our cynical times, still remarkable) sense of pride in [Pitt’s] achievements in every sector of the University community [and] there seems to be an ethos of appreciation which evokes humility in those of us who come to observe it.”

The University’s success has been bolstered through a series of unique partnerships that Nordenberg has helped to nurture.  These relationships also have added to the strength of Pitt’s home region. Pitt and UPMC have made Pittsburgh a globally respected center of world-class health care and pioneering biomedical research.  Pitt and Carnegie Mellon have built a mutually supportive relationship in instruction and research that is unique in the world of higher education.  And Pitt and the Pittsburgh Steelers have crafted what is regarded to be the strongest partnership between a professional sports franchise and an intercollegiate athletic program. 

During his time in office, Chancellor Nordenberg also has been very active in civic affairs.  He served as co-chair of a legislative commission that studied the problems facing Pennsylvania’s urban schools, chaired a working group that developed an action plan for regional workforce development, chaired a record-setting United Way campaign, chaired a committee that examined issues of leadership and governance in the Pittsburgh Public Schools, and chaired a citizen’s committee assessing the efficiency and effectiveness of City and County government. He also served as co-chair of the Governor’s education transition team and as a member of his Advisory Commission on Postsecondary Higher Education. Chancellor Nordenberg is a past chair of both the Pennsylvania Association of Colleges and Universities and the Pittsburgh Council on Higher Education and is a member of the executive committee of the Association of American Universities. Reflecting his role as a regional leader in higher education, he has been awarded honorary degrees by Carnegie Mellon University, the Community College of Allegheny County, LaRoche College, and Thiel College.   Among many other honors, he has been named a history-maker by the Senator John Heinz History Center and Pittsburgh’s person-of-the-year by Pittsburgh Magazine. Chancellor Nordenberg serves on the board of UPMC, is a member of the board and executive committee of the Allegheny Conference on Community Development, is a director of Bank of New York Mellon, and serves as an Honorary Consul for Great Britain.

Nordenberg came to the University of Pittsburgh to join the faculty of its School of Law in 1977. He subsequently served as Dean of Pitt’s School of Law and as Interim Provost of the University. In 1994, he was elevated to the special faculty rank of Distinguished Service Professor. In 1995, he was elected Interim Chancellor by the University’s Board of Trustees, and in 1996, following a national search, he was elected Chancellor.  He now is one of the longest-serving leaders of any major American research university.