Chancellor Mark A. Nordenberg: A Career Filled With Accomplishments, Community Involvement

Issue Date: 
July 2, 2013

Chancellor Mark Nordenberg first came to Pitt to join the faculty of its School of Law in 1977. He served as dean of the School of Law from 1985 to 1993 and was elevated to the special faculty rank of Distinguished Service Professor of Law in 1994. He served as Interim Provost of the University in 1993-94 and chaired the search committee for the senior vice chancellor for the health sciences in 1994-95. He was elected Interim Chancellor by the Pitt Board of Trustees in June of 1995 and, following a national search, was elected Chancellor in June of 1996.

During his time in office, Chancellor Nordenberg has been very active in civic affairs. A younger Mark A. Nordenberg in the 1970sHe served as cochair of a special legislative commission charged with studying 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 citizens’ committee that was appointed by Pittsburgh Mayor Luke Ravenstahl and then-Allegheny County Executive Dan Onorato and that was charged with exploring ways to enhance the efficiency and effectiveness of the City and County governments. He also served as cochair of Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett’s education transition team and as a member of the Governor’s 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 the leadership that he has provided within the higher education community in Western Pennsylvania, he has been awarded honorary degrees by Carnegie Mellon University, the Community College of Allegheny County, LaRoche College, and Thiel College. Chancellor Nordenberg serves on the board of UPMC, is a member of the board and executive committee of the Allegheny Conference on Community Development, and is a director of the Bank of New York Mellon.

Chancellor Nordenberg is particularly proud of the unique partnerships that he has helped to forge and that have added to the strength of Pitt and its home region. Three key examples are Pitt’s partnerships with UPMC, Carnegie Mellon University, and the Pittsburgh Steelers.  He has said that through their close working relationship, UPMC and Pitt have made Pittsburgh a globally respected center of world-class health care and pioneering biomedical research; that Carnegie Mellon and Pitt have a partnership that is unique in the world of higher education; and that the Pittsburgh Steelers and Pitt have crafted what is acknowledged to be the country’s best relationship between a professional sports franchise and an intercollegiate athletic program. 

Chancellor Nordenberg and outgoing Carnegie Mellon President Jared Cohon supported a number of highly successful research and educational initiatives involving the two universities. They also served as the founding cochairs of such key technology-based economic development initiatives as the Pittsburgh Digital Greenhouse, the Pittsburgh Life Sciences Greenhouse, the Pittsburgh Robotics Foundry, and the Technology Collaborative. For their joint efforts, they have been recognized as the corecipients of a number of awards, including Pittsburgher of the Year by Pittsburgh Magazine, the Kesher Award from the Edward and Rose Berman Hillel Jewish University Center, and the Community Impact Award from the Pittsburgh Area Jewish Committee.

Other honors received by Chancellor Nordenberg include recognition as a History Maker in Education by the Senator John Heinz History Center, the Exemplary Leader Award from the Johnson Institute for Responsible Leadership, the Legends in Leadership Award from the Community College of Allegheny County, the Spirit Award from the Homer S. Brown Law Association, the Distinguished Alumnus Award from Junior Achievement, the Humanitarian Award from Bnai Zion-Pittsburgh, the Chief Executive Leadership Award from the Council for the Advancement and Support of Education (Region 2), the Art Rooney Award from the Catholic Youth Association, the Nellie Award from Three Rivers Youth, and the Presidential Leadership Award from a consortium of organizations led by the Gordie Foundation and Outside the Classroom, recognizing his “success in promoting a vibrant intellectual and social campus climate that de-emphasizes the role of alcohol.”

In a surprise announcement at the meeting of the University’s Board of Trustees in June 2005, the late Pennsylvania Supreme Court Chief Justice Ralph J. Cappy, who then chaired the University’s Board of Trustees, announced the establishment of the endowed Chancellor Mark A. Nordenberg University Chair to honor Nordenberg’s first decade of service as Chancellor. The chair, the first to be named for a Pitt Chancellor, is supported by a $2.5 million endowment made possible by the generous donations of Trustees, leaders of the Pitt Alumni Association, and a small number of other Pitt alumni and friends.

At the Board of Trustees meeting in October 2012, Board Chair Stephen R. Tritch and Trustee Samuel S. Zacharias surprised Chancellor Nordenberg when they announced, on behalf of the Pitt Board, the naming of the Mark A. Nordenberg residence hall and the creation of the Mark A. Nordenberg Scholarship Fund for Pitt undergraduate students, commemorating what then was his 17-year record of distinguished service as Chancellor. At the time that announcement was made, Trustees and other friends of the University had contributed more than $5 million to create an endowment to support the scholarship program, which will aid the University’s efforts to recruit, enroll, retain, and graduate highly motivated and academically superior undergraduate students. Recipients of scholarships from the fund will be known as Nordenberg Scholars.

Chancellor Nordenberg was the initial recipient of the excellence-in-teaching award now given annually by the graduating class of Pitt’s School of Law. He also was an early recipient of the Chancellor’s Distinguished Teaching Award, which recognizes teaching excellence Universitywide. His area of specialty is civil litigation, and he has served on both the U.S. Advisory Committee on Civil Rules and the Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s Civil Procedural Rules Committee. Chancellor Nordenberg has said that his plans, upon stepping down as Chancellor, are to provide assistance to the Pitt Board and to his successor as requested, to resume teaching, and to remain active in civic initiatives directed to the advancement of the region.

Chancellor Nordenberg has been married to Nikki Pirillo Nordenberg, who earned her Ph.D. from Pitt, for more than 42 years. The Nordenbergs are parents to three adult children and are grandparents to three young grandsons. He is an honors graduate of North Allegheny High School, Thiel College, and the University of Wisconsin Law School.